2022 Tony Award winners react: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Patti LuPone, Phylicia Rashad, and more
Read what this year's first-time and repeat winners had to say about being honored this year.
Even before a single winner was announced, the 2022 Tony Awards were historic. It's the ceremony's 75th year. It's the first fully in-person ceremony since before the pandemic, and it's back at Radio City Music Hall. And so many actors, writers, designers, and more made history just by being nominated. In a rarity, each of the eight acting categories had at least two nominees of color, and multiple creators of the shows in the Best Play and Best Musical categories represent marginalized genders and ethnicities.
Of note is Myles Frost, who at 22, became the youngest individual to win the Best Leading Actor in a Musical category. (The three young boys who alternated the title role of Billy Elliot won together in 2009.) He plays pop icon Michael Jackson in MJ The Musical.
"I wanted to be the Michael Jackson of everything I did," said Frost, who was still in college when he landed the role. "This is just the beginning for me."
Speaking of Jacksons, Michael R. Jackson, the A Strange Loop creator, already has Pulitzer and Drama Desk Awards under his belt for his meta-musical. Now, he's won Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical at the Tonys. To know that his semi-autobiographical show, about a Black, queer musical writer, is inspiring others "means a lot, especially because when I started writing this piece I was writing it for my 'self' at a time where I felt no one could see me.
"That I was able to continue to work on something over an almost 20-year period and with a group of other people who often also felt that way... spoke to the power of art and theatre to bring people together, to let everybody in on a secret that we're not alone and that there is more that unites us than divides us."
Toby Marlow, another trailblazer, is the first out nonbinary nominee and winner in any category, and they won Best Original Score for the fan-favorite Six alongside Lucy Moss. The two wrote the musical when they were in college at Cambridge University, and the show's popularity all but exploded, earning a global fanbase before even making it to Broadway and getting awards recognition. "I hope that Six can show that [young people] are worth taking a chance on ... it's about investing in those younger, less likely, less experienced people."
In a similar vein, Jesse Tyler Ferguson won the Best Featured Actor in a Play award for playing Mason Marzac in the revival of Take Me Out — an award Denis O'Hare won for playing the same role in the original 2002 production. Ferguson is a stage and screen veteran unlike Marlow and Moss, but his win — for his performance in the role of a gay accountant who supports a pro baseball player's coming-out journey — is a win for the visibility of LGBT stories on stage.
"One line I kept thinking about when I got this nomination, and I think about now, is, 'Don't diminish it, it would be too ungrateful.' It just reminds me to take these moments and really appreciate them, big and small," Ferguson said. " It means a lot to me. I saw this play as a young gay man 20 years ago, and it meant so much to me. So to know that there's a whole new group of people, a new group of kids, that are part of that community and are seeing Mason Marzac and falling in love with him, it is really profound."
(Speaking of profundity, Ferguson's co-star and fellow nominee Michael Oberholtzer quipped that his greatest takeaway from Take Me Out was, "If you're going to lose [the Tony], lose to Jesse Tyler Ferguson!")
The Best Musical Revival winner, Company, is making a whole new generation see a time-honored story in a new way. When Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's musical premiered in 1970, its commitment-hesitant main character was a man. Now, under the direction of now-three-time Tony winner Marianne Elliott (Best Direction of a Musical), the main character is a woman contending with societal pressure to settle down.
"Thank you, first and foremost, to Stephen Sondheim for trusting me to tell his story in a different way and putting a woman front and center," she said in her acceptance speech. Elliott, of note, represents 3 of the 11 all-time Best Direction wins that have gone to a woman. "I really never imagined that I'd ever do a show on Broadway. I came to New York when I was 20. And I was having quite a bad time. And I flew to New York on the day that I should have graduated. And I was on my own.
"I've always struggled with insecurities and vulnerabilities and I never imagined I could be a director because I thought all directors were men, which they were when I first started out. So I suppose it just shows that you just have to keep going," Elliott continued.
Minutes before, Patti LuPone accepted her third Tony Award, for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, for playing Joanne in Company. And shortly after, Matt Doyle won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for playing Jamie (a gender-swapped, gay male version of Amy, who sings the famous number "Not Getting Married Today").
"I'm the next bride!" he exclaimed in his speech. He later said, "[Sondheim] loved the line 'I'm the next bride,' which is why I said it tonight on stage. Especially coming from the perspective of a gay man now, when this right [gay marriage] wasn't even a right that we had in the last revival in 2006, it was so important to him that that was joyful and celebrated."
Another groundbreaking aspect of the 2022 Tony Awards is the representation of experimental, downtown work among the nominees. For Dominique Morisseau's Skeleton Crew, which premiered off Broadway in 2016, Phylicia Rashad took home the Best Featured Actress in a Play award (her second Tony) for her role in the Broadway production. "Just when I thought I had done everything I wanted to do, along came Faye," said Rashad in her acceptance speech of the working-class auto plant employee she played, another role that shines a light on overlooked groups like Ferguson's.
She later added, "Everything that we use and touch every single day is the fruit of somebody's labor... but often we don't think about those people."
Another Off-Broadway upstart is Dana H., a one-woman thriller about a harrowing experience in the real titular woman's life. Best Leading Actress in a Play Tony winner Deirdre O'Connell lip-synced audio of the real Dana's interviews on the topic, and Mikhail Fiksel made that possible with his Tony-winning sound design.
"I would love for this little prize to be a token for every person who is wondering, 'Should I be trying to make something that could work on Broadway where they could win me a Tony Award, or should I be making the weird art that is haunting me, that frightens me, that I don't know how to make and I don't know if anyone in the world will understand?'" O'Connell said in her speech. "Please let me stand in here as a sign from the universe to make the weird art."
"I'm really grateful that this kind of work that is not necessarily flashy or has spectacle to it, and yet embraces virtuosity in such a unique way, that it got attention and that it was a successful run... I am very hopeful that more works like this, specifically for nontraditional Broadway audiences, will come," Fiksel said.
This piece will be updated live as more winners' reactions come in.
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