2024 Tony Award nominees share their favorite Tony moments

The nationwide broadcast of the annual ceremony is many people's introduction to Broadway, including numerous artists now up for the honors themselves.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

At age 12, I watched the cast of Newsies on Broadway perform on the Tony Awards from my living room in Connecticut, awed by the acrobatic, gravity-defying choreography unlike anything I'd ever seen. My birthday was approaching, so I asked my parents for Newsies tickets.

We all loved the show (my parents would only admit to me afterward that they were skeptical at first). Thus began a tradition that continued for years: watch the Tonys in June, pick which show's performance I liked best, make a family day trip out of seeing that show in July.

The annual nationwide broadcast of the Tony Awards is many people's introduction to theatre, especially those who live outside the New York City area. That includes tourists, future NYC residents like myself, and even future Tony honorees. They, too, were once kids (or even young adults) being moved by theatre for the first time.

New York Theatre Guide asked some of the 2024 Tony Award nominees about their favorite Tonys moment from years past, be it a standout performance, an inspiring acceptance speech, or memory of watching the awards with friends or family. Their varied answers prove that there's a Broadway show out there for everyone, and no one is ever too old or far away from New York to discover the magic of theatre.

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Jonathan Groff

Best Leading Actor in a Musical nominee for Merrily We Roll Along

I would record the Tonys on a VHS, and then I would bring them into school and show them to my fellow students in math class.

Probably the Tony performance I've watched the most is Sutton Foster doing "Forget About the Boy" [from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002]. I was in high school. I saw the show six times. The heat coming off her as [...] she's playing this character of moving to New York and wanting to make her dreams come true — I was just lit on fire by her and that performance.

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William Jackson Harper

Best Leading Actor in a Play nominee for Uncle Vanya

One that I remember from college, actually, that we all watched a lot was Brian Dennehy doing Death of a Salesman. I was like, "Wow, that's a crazy performance." And that was back in a time when I didn't get to see plays on Broadway, and also, I didn't live here. I was in New Mexico at the time. So that was something that opened up my eyes to how plays can feel in a Broadway house.

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Joshua Boone

Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee for The Outsiders

I didn't know about the Tonys 'till I got in college. I had done theatre my whole life, and I was like, "This is the NBA of theatre!"

In my experience learning [...] about Broadway and the Tony Awards, a lot of Lin-Manuel Miranda stuff has stuck out for me, and I had a lot of friends in Hamilton. That season and that awards show in particular, I was celebrating with that cast. I was at their Tony party and I watched the Tonys from there.

Sky Lakota-Lynch

Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee for The Outsiders

There's two moments: When Tituss Burgess's mic didn't turn on in Guys & Dolls and someone ran out and handed him a mic and he continued the performance and slayed with Mary Testa.

The second would be André De Shields's win and what he said. I was going through a really rough period of my life at that time, and what he said — "The elevator to success is broken" and "You should always be in a room with people whose eyes light up when you walk in" — I always took that with me, and I thank him for that.

Danya Taymor

Best Director of a Musical nominee for The Outsiders

I have a very powerful memory of when Alan Cumming was in Cabaret, and he did [...] the intro to the Tony Awards. I remember being like, "That's the sexiest thing I've ever seen."

Matt Hinkley

Best Orchestrations nominee for The Outsiders

The thing I remember from high school was not necessarily one performance on the Tonys, or even one year of the Tonys. It was the act of watching the Tonys and people that I was with [while] watching them. I stumbled into theatre in high school and discovered this community of creative, wild people, and to be able to drop in on that environment and that experience of collectively watching these things and see how much it inspired us all was pretty cool.

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Michael Greif

Best Director of a Musical nominee for Hell's Kitchen

There was one anniversary year where they actually did scenes from plays. [I was] watching that in my parents' bedroom, probably because everyone else in the house was watching something else.

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Adam Guettel

Best Original Score nominee for Days of Wine and Roses

My parents eschewed the Tonys — I don't know exactly why. I don't recall ever seeing them growing up. I knew they happened and that they were important, and I knew that [director/producer] Hal Prince's house had like 25 of them, like an army of soldiers spinning around, and I thought, "This is really accomplished person."

Brian d'Arcy James

Best Leading Actor in a Musical nominee for Days of Wine and Roses

I saw [...] the movie WarGames with Matthew Broderick, and I loved that movie. It was my first time seeing him. And then later that summer, I saw this thing called the Tony Awards, which I had never watched. And I said, "That's the guy from WarGames!" I was thinking, "What is he doing in that little box?"

That was the first time I knew about him or learned about [playwright] Neil Simon and Brighton Beach Memoirs [the play Broderick won a Tony for in 1983]. And I just started doing theatre in high school. Matthew Broderick, for me, was my gateway drug.

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Photo credit: Jonathan Groff in Merrily We Roll Along, Sky Lakota-Lynch and Joshua Boone in The Outsiders, and William Jackson Harper in Uncle Vanya. (Photos by Matthew Murphy and Marc J. Franklin)

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