By Lori Perkins
This was definitely the most unusual Tony Awards ceremony in the Broadway Theater awards 76 year history.
Taking place in a The United Palace Theater that was once the home of the theatrically religious performer, Rev. Ike, in Washington Heights, itself the inspiration for much of Lin Manuel Miranda’s theatrical pieces, the awards ceremony was allowed to take place under the condition that it have no script, as the TV and film Writers union is currently on strike. The three-hour ceremony was filled with no insider jokes, only performance and dancing and heart-felt speeches of gratitude and, as a result, actually ended on time.
But the most striking stand-out occurrence was that two nonbinary performers won Tonys in their categories for the first time in the show’s history. J. Harrison Ghee won lead actor in a musical for their performance as Jerry/Daphne in Casey Nicholaw’s Some Like It Hot, and Alex Newell won the featured actor in a musical award for their role as Lulu in Jack O’Brien’s “Shucked.”
In Ghee’s acceptance speak, they said, “My mother raised me to understand that the gifts God gave me were not about me. To use them to be effective in the world. For every trans, nonbinary, gender non-conforming human — whoever was told they couldn’t be, couldn’t be seen, this is for you. ‘Some Like It Hot’ and that ain’t bad.”
Newell said, “Thank you for seeing me Broadway. I should not be up here as a queer, non-binary, fat, Black, little baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone that thinks that they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
It was quite a night to remember!