For the most part, the 2023 Tony Awards, which aired live on CBS and Paramount+ on Sunday June 11, went as expected. Kimberly Akimbo, a new musical from composer Jeanine Tesori and lyricist/librettist David Lindsay-Abaire, was the top winner with five awards, including best musical.
Leopoldstadt was the play with the most wins – four, including best play.
Several big names from the recorded music world received came up short on Sunday, though these losses weren’t unexpected. Josh Groban lost best actor (musical) for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sara Bareilles lost best actress (musical) nod for Into the Woods. Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally lost best original score (music and/or lyrics) written for the theatre for Shucked.
Several more record veterans were nominated as producers of best musical contenders that came up short. Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Shellback and veteran music executive Barry Weiss were among the nominated producers of & Juliet. Mariah Carey was among the nominated producers of Some Like It Hot. Jason Owen, Gary Gersh and Sony Music Entertainment were among the nominated producers of Shucked.
For the first time, the winners for lead and featured actor in a musical are both gender non-conforming. J. Harrison Ghee, the lead actor winner for Some Like It Hot, identifies as nonbinary or pansexual. Alex Newell, the featured actor winner for Shucked, identifies as gender non-conforming.
The winners for best revival of a musical and best revival of a play had both lost when the original productions were nominated for best play and best musical. Parade was nominated as best musical in 1999, but lost to Fosse. Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog was nominated as best play in 2002, but lost to Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
Ariana DeBose hosted the Tonys for the second year in a row. The show aired from the historic United Palace in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss produced the show, with Weiss also serving as director.
Here are some of the more notable snubs and surprises of the 2023 Tonys.
Snub: ‘& Juliet’
The jukebox musical built around the hits of Max Martin went 0-9 on Tony night, which constituted the night’s biggest shut-out. The show was represented on the Tonys by a cast performance of Katy Perry’s 2013 smash “Roar,” which Martin co-wrote.
Six other shows that received five or more nods went home empty-handed. Ain’t No Mo’, A Doll’s House and Into the Woods each received six nods. Cost of Living, Fat Ham and Camelot each received five.
Surprise: Sean Hayes
Sean Hayes won best actor in a play for his portrayal of Oscar Levant in Good Night, Oscar, beating the expected winner, Stephen McKinley Henderson for Between Riverside and Crazy. This is Hayes’ first Tony Award. He has won two Primetime Emmys – one in 2000 for his breakout role as Jack McFarland on Will & Grace and one for hosting the 2011 Tonys.
Snub: Stephen Sondheim revivals
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Into the Woods were both nominated for best revival of a musical, but lost to Parade. A revival of another Sondheim show, Company, won in that category last year (and also in 2007). Sondheim died in November 2021 at age 91. Two other Sondheim shows have won in this category, a sign of his unequaled status. Into the Woods in 2002; Assassins in 2004.
Sweeney Todd did win two awards from its eight nominations, so it wasn’t entirely overlooked, though Into the Woods went 0-5 on the night.
Surprise: A star-studded singalong of ‘Sweet Caroline’
Will Swenson, star of the Neil Diamond musical A Beautiful Noise, led the audience through Diamond’s enduring 1969 smash “Sweet Carolina,” at one point saying, “Ladies and gentleman, this may be the greatest ‘Sweet Caroline’ singalong in history – Melissa Etheridge, Common and Barry Manilow.” Those three highly varied stars were indeed in the house to join in the singalong. Etheridge and Manilow later teamed to present the award for best actress in a musical.
Surprise: A pitch-perfect In Memoriam song
The Tonys announced last week that Joaquina Kalukango, last year’s Tony winner for best performance by a leading actress in a musical for Paradise Square, would be performing on the show, but they didn’t say what she’d be doing. She performed the song that accompanied the In Memoriam segment – one of the most fitting songs ever to grace this spot on any awards show – “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from The Phantom of the Opera.
The In Memoriam segment included many people whose work bridged the worlds of Broadway and music, including Harry Belafonte (who in 1954 became the first African American to win best featured actor in a musical), Lucy Simon, Cynthia Weil, Burt Bacharach, Angela Lansbury and Tina Turner, who was chyroned as “executive producer,” which was her role on Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2019.