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‘A Strange Loop’ wins Tony for best musical, ‘Lehman Trilogy’ for best play as Broadway celebrates its comeback

Michael R. Jackson (second from left) accepts the Tony Award for best new musical for "A Strange Loop."Charles Sykes/Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

“Broadway’s back, baby. And she’s waiting for you.”

Those were the words with which host Ariana DeBose closed Sunday night’s Tony Awards ceremony, a four-hour affair that had the flavor of a pandemic-battered industry giving itself a much-needed pep talk.

As expected, Michael R. Jackson’s “A Strange Loop,” a meta-musical about a Black gay writer struggling to create a musical about a Black gay writer, won for best new musical. And as expected, “The Lehman Trilogy,” a chronicle of the rise and fall of the Lehman Brothers financial empire written by Italian playwright Stefano Massini and adapted by Ben Power, won for best new play.


DeBose opened the ceremony by alluding to the “rollercoaster” many of the Broadway professionals assembled in Radio City Music Hall had been through after COVID-19 shuttered theaters for a year and a half. Then she framed the Tonys within the context of strides toward greater diversity made by Broadway.

Host Ariana DeBose performed at the 75th annual Tony AwardsCharles Sykes/Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

“I am so proud that the theater is becoming more reflective of the community who adores it, and in doing so, has gained new performers, new creatives, new fans,” she added. “It has shown us stories that have broadened our world and opened our hearts and our minds.”

While noting “we have not solved all our problems,” DeBose observed dryly that “the phrase ‘Great White Way’ is becoming more of a nickname as opposed to a how-to guide.”

Indeed, actors of color made up nearly half the nominees in the performance categories. Myles Frost, only 22 years old and making his Broadway debut, won the Tony for best lead actor in a musical for his uncanny portrayal of the late Michael Jackson in “MJ.” Joaquina Kalukango was named best lead actress in a musical for her performance as a strong-willed 19th-century bar owner in “Paradise Square.” Kalukango gave a powerfully emotional acceptance speech, saying: “I give thanks to all the nameless ancestors who have suffered. This song, this show gives power to that.”


Myles Frost and The cast of "MJ" performed at the 75th annual Tony Awards.SARA KRULWICH/NYT

And Phylicia Rashad, nearly two decades after she won a Tony for “A Raisin in the Sun,” was named best featured actress in a play for her performance in “Skeleton Crew” as a factory worker in a Detroit automotive stamping plant.

In addition to winning best musical for “A Strange Loop,” Jackson also won a Tony for best book — major wins, but the only two Tonys the show won of the 11 for which it was nominated.

A musical that fared very well was the gender-flipped revival of 1970′s “Company,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth. It won for best revival, and Patti LuPone earned her third Tony (this time for best featured actress in a musical) for her portrayal of jaded socialite Joanne. Matt Doyle won for best featured actor in a musical; Bunny Christie won for scenic design; and “Company” director Marianne Elliott won her third Tony.

Producer Chris Harper accepted the award for best musical revival for "Company".Charles Sykes/Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Elliott used the occasion to pay tribute to Sondheim, who died in November at 91. “Thank you first and foremost to Stephen Sondheim for trusting me to tell his story in a different way and put a woman front and center,” Elliott said.

In a major upset, Deirdre O’Connell won for best lead actress in a play for her portrayal of a kidnap victim in “Dana H.” over Mary-Louise Parker, who was favored for “How I Learned to Drive.” The best lead actor Tony went to Simon Russell Beale for “The Lehman Trilogy.”


For his portrayal of a money manager in Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out,” about a superstar baseball player who comes out as gay, Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family” won the Tony for best featured actor in a play. “Take Me Out” won for best revival of a play.

“Six,” a concert-like production in which the six wives of Henry VIII get their long-overdue say via pointed pop songs, won the Tony for best original score, by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Marlow is the first nonbinary composer-lyricist to win a Tony. “Six,” which had a pre-Broadway run three years ago at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater, also won for best costume design of a musical (Gabriella Slade).

The cast of "SIX" performed onstage at the 75th Annual Tony Awards.Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

In addition to Frost’s win, “MJ” was recognized with Tonys for Christopher Wheeldon (choreography), Natasha Katz (lighting design), and Gareth Owen (sound design).

Sam Mendes won for his direction of “The Lehman Trilogy,” while Es Devlin’s scenic design and Jon Clark’s lighting design on that play also earned Tonys. Other winners included Mikhail Fiksel, sound design of a play, for “Dana H.,” and Simon Hale, best orchestrations, “Girl From the North Country.”

Five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury, 96, received a special Tony Sunday night for lifetime achievement. It was accepted for Lansbury by Len Cariou, who played the title figure in “Sweeney Todd” opposite her Mrs. Lovett in 1979 on Broadway (for which she won one of her Tonys).


And the Tonys ushered in the latest EGOT winner: Jennifer Hudson, who has an Emmy, Grammy and Oscar, and joined that group Sunday when “A Strange Loop” won best musical — she’s one of the show’s dozens of producers.

The live ceremony at Radio City Music Hall marked the 75th anniversary of the Tonys, which are presented by the nonprofit American Theater Wing and the Broadway League, a trade association of theater owners and producers.

Jennifer Hudson, co-producer of "A Strange Loop."Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.