Tony Awards: ‘Moulin Rouge,’ ‘Inheritance,’ ‘Soldier’s Play’ Nab Top Prizes

The Tony Awards honoring the 2019-20 Broadway season were finally handed out Sunday night, with Moulin Rouge! The Musical named best musical, The Inheritance best play and A Soldier’s Play best revival of a play.

After a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 74th annual Tony Awards returned to the stage as part of a four-hour event airing across CBS and Paramount+.

“We’re a little late, but we are here!” host Audra McDonald said at the start of the first portion of the show, noting that she could see “half” of the audience’s faces due to their wearing masks, an acknowledgment of the COVID precautions in place for the night’s event. “It’s wonderful to see half of your beautiful faces,” she began. “Like every show on Broadway, our audience is vaxxed and masked. Masks have made re-opening of theaters a reality, after more than 560 nights in the dark. The lights are on and we’re back.” (Attendees were required to be vaccinated, as per New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate that proof of vaccination will be required to participate in indoor activities, including live performances and entertainment.)

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Audra McDonald
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Meanwhile, David Alan Grier and Danny Burstein won the first two awards of the night. Grier won for best performance by a featured actor in a play for A Soldier’s Play, while Burstein took the Tony for best performance by a featured actor in a musical for Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

At the end of his speech, Grier quipped, “To the other nominees: Tough bananas, I won!”

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David Alan Grier
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Burstein noted that he’d lost his wife of more than 20 years, fellow Broadway star Rebecca Luker, who died of complications of ALS in December. He thanked his peers for their support during that time. “You were all there for us,” from expressing their sympathy to bringing bagels. “It meant the world to us, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

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Danny Burstein
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Lois Smith, who turned 90 this year, won best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play for The Inheritance. She is now the oldest Tony winner of all time, breaking the record previously held by Cicely Tyson, who won at age 88. This marked Smith’s first Tony win for the role, which marked her return to Broadway after two decades.

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Lois Smith
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Meanwhile, Lauren Patten won best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical for Jagged Little Pill. She addressed the controversy surrounding her character, Jo, and the criticism around the handling of that character’s gender identity, for which producers have apologized.

“I want to thank my trans and nonbinary friends and colleagues who have engaged with me in difficult conversations that have joined me in dialogue about my character, Jo,” Patten said. “I believe that the future for the change we need to see on Broadway comes from these kinds of conversations that are full of honesty and empathy and respect for our shared humanity. And I am so excited to see the action that comes from them, and to see where that leads our future as theatre artists in this country.”

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Lauren Patten
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Also winning for Jagged Little Pill was Diablo Cody, who took the Tony for best book of a musical. In her speech, she called the win “overwhelming.”

Andrew Burnap, who beat out the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hiddleston and Blair Underwood for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play for The Inheritance, quipped upon taking the stage: “Oh my god. I just peed a little bit.”

Another humorous moment came next when presenters Bebe Neuwirth and Courtney B. Vance presented the award for best performance by an actor in a leading role, which had only one nominee: Aaron Tveit (Moulin Rouge! The Musical). However, they noted that Tveit had to earn at least 60 percent of the vote to actually win, and they teasingly implied that he might not actually win. Tveit good-naturedly laughed in the audience before, in fact, winning the award.

Winning best leading actress in a play was Mary-Louise Parker for The Sound Inside, while Adrienne Warren was named best leading actress in a musical for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. Both actresses paid tribute to family members in their speeches — Parker to her mother and Warren to her parents, who were shown sitting in the audience.

Warren wrapped up her speech by saying: “I really look forward to the day that the bodies and souls and spirits of those that are involved in these shows are celebrated and can enjoy the celebration with us. Those bodies, those souls, those spirits, they are what make Broadway. And the second we start working in this business through a lens of humanity and honoring those bodies and those souls and those spirits, the more the art will be transformative, the more the art will change lives, the more the art will change this world because the world has been screaming for us to change.”

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Adrienne Warren
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

One example of how the pandemic affected the telecast came up after the presentation of best orchestrations to Katie Kresek, Charlie Rosen, Matt Stine and Justin Levine for Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Presenter Wayne Brady noted that only two winners out of the four would be allowed on stage at one time, so the quartet was required to accept the honor in pairs. Kresek and Rosen waited while Stine and Levin gave their speeches before going onstage.

Both specials featured a slew of performances, including Jennifer Holliday singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” from Dreamgirls during the earlier telecast. Holliday, whose portrayal of Effie White earned her a Tony in 1982, received a standing ovation during her show-stopping performance on Sunday night. Parker and Burnap both referenced Holliday’s performance later on in their acceptance speeches, with Parker noting that she was “still crying” over it.

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Jennifer Holliday
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Following the two-hour special, The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! aired live from the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. The special celebrated the return to live theater, featured performances from the three Tony-nominated best musical contenders and also included the live presentation of three Tony Awards, including best play, best revival of a play and best musical.

Host Leslie Odom Jr. kicked it off with a performance in front of the theater that then transitioned to inside. Other performers included David Byrne, who did “Burning Down the House” from American Utopia; the Moulin Rouge cast, who performed “Lady Marmalade”; John Legend, who performed “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” from the Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud; and Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who reunited to perform “For Good” from Wicked.

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Leslie Odom, Jr.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

The Inheritance was named best play, while Moulin Rouge was named best musical and A Soldier’s Play went home with the award for best revival of a play at the ceremony.

In accepting the award for Inheritance, playwright Matthew Lopez noted that this is the 74th annual Tony Awards, yet he just set a record as the very first Latin winner of this category in the history of the awards. He called on the industry to give more opportunities to people of color.

A full list of winners follows.

Best Play

Grand Horizons

The Inheritance (WINNER)

Sea Wall/A Life

Slave Play

The Sound Inside

Best Musical

Jagged Little Pill

Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Best Revival of a Play

Betrayal

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

A Soldier’s Play (WINNER)

Best Book of a Musical

Jagged Little Pill, Diablo Cody (WINNER)

Moulin Rouge! The Musical, John Logan

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

A Christmas Carol, Music: Christopher Nightingale (WINNER)

The Inheritance, Music: Paul Englishby

The Rose Tattoo, Music: Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb

Slave Play, Music: Lindsay Jones

The Sound Inside, Music: Daniel Kluger

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Ian Barford, Linda Vista

Andrew Burnap, The Inheritance (WINNER)


Jake Gyllenhaal, Sea Wall/A Life


Tom Hiddleston, Betrayal


Tom Sturridge, Sea Wall/A Life


Blair Underwood, A Soldier’s Play

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Joaquina Kalukango, Slave Play


Laura Linney, My Name is Lucy Barton


Audra McDonald, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Mary-Louise Parker, The Sound Inside (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Aaron Tveit, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)

*From The Tony Awards Rules: If the Tony Awards Nominating Committee has determined that if there is only one nominee in a category listed, such category shall be submitted to the Tony Voters which may, by the affirmative vote of sixty (60%) percent of the total ballots cast, grant an Award in that category.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Karen Olivo, Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Elizabeth Stanley, Jagged Little Pill

Adrienne Warren, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Ato Blankson-Wood, Slave Play


James Cusati-Moyer, Slave Play

David Alan Grier, A Soldier’s Play (WINNER)


John Benjamin Hickey, The Inheritance


Paul Hilton, The Inheritance

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Jane Alexander, Grand Horizons


Chalia La Tour, Slave Play


Annie McNamara, Slave Play

Lois Smith, The Inheritance (WINNER)


Cora Vander Broek, Linda Vista

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)


Derek Klena, Jagged Little Pill


Sean Allan Krill, Jagged Little Pill


Sahr Ngaujah, Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Daniel J. Watts, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Kathryn Gallagher, Jagged Little Pill


Celia Rose Gooding, Jagged Little Pill


Robyn Hurder, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Lauren Patten, Jagged Little Pill (WINNER)


Myra Lucretia Taylor, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Bob Crowley, The Inheritance


Soutra Gilmour, Betrayal

Rob Howell, A Christmas Carol (WINNER)


Derek McLane, A Soldier’s Play


Clint Ramos, Slave Play

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Riccardo Hernández and Lucy Mackinnon, Jagged Little Pill

Derek McLane, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)


Mark Thompson and Jeff Sugg, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Best Costume Design of a Play

Dede Ayite, Slave Play


Dede Ayite, A Soldier’s Play


Bob Crowley, The Inheritance

Rob Howell, A Christmas Carol (WINNER)


Clint Ramos, The Rose Tattoo

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Emily Rebholz, Jagged Little Pill


Mark Thompson, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Catherine Zuber, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Jiyoun Chang, Slave Play


Jon Clark, The Inheritance


Heather Gilbert, The Sound Inside


Allen Lee Hughes, A Soldier’s Play

Hugh Vanstone, A Christmas Carol (WINNER)

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Bruno Poet, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Justin Townsend, Jagged Little Pill

Justin Townsend, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)

Best Sound Design of a Play

Paul Arditti & Christopher Reid, The Inheritance

Simon Baker, A Christmas Carol (WINNER)


Lindsay Jones, Slave Play


Daniel Kluger, Sea Wall/A Life


Daniel Kluger, The Sound Inside

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Jonathan Deans, Jagged Little Pill

Peter Hylenski, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)


Nevin Steinberg, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Best Direction of a Play

David Cromer, The Sound Inside

Stephen Daldry, The Inheritance (WINNER)


Kenny Leon, A Soldier’s Play


Jamie Lloyd, Betrayal


Robert O’Hara, Slave Play

Best Direction of a Musical

Phyllida Lloyd, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Diane Paulus, Jagged Little Pill

Alex Timbers, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)

Best Choreography

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Jagged Little Pill

Sonya Tayeh, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)


Anthony Van Laast, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Best Orchestrations

Tom Kitt, Jagged Little Pill

Katie Kresek, Charlie Rosen, Matt Stine and Justin Levine, Moulin Rouge! The Musical (WINNER)


Ethan Popp, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Hilary Lewis and Abbey White contributed to this report.

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