2019 tony awards

The Highs and Lows of the 2019 Tony Awards

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

The 2019 Tony Awards have come to a close. There were winners, there were performances, and there dramatic red-carpet fashion choices. But which moments will we still be talking about next year when Broadway is taken over by YouTube stars? Below, see the best, worst, slightly confusing, and most delightful bits of the night.

High: Elaine May’s win for The Waverly Gallery.
Everything about her victory said “legend.” She was escorted to the stage by megaproducer Scott Rudin. She noted that she’d never received an award for her acting before. (The 87-year-old multitalent has been in show business since the 1950s.) She credited almost everyone involved with the production — Rudin, playwright Kenneth Lonergan, co-star Lucas Hedges — with her success. And then she spoiled the ending of the play by revealing her character’s fate. Like I said: legend. —Jen Chaney

Low: James Corden sang a song in a bathroom, but we did not see Judith Light get an award.
Judith Light received the 2019 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for humanitarian contributions to the theater community, but it happened during a commercial break, so no one watching on TV could see it. James Corden, however, sang a lengthy song from inside a bathroom stall. This must be a crime. —Kathryn VanArendonk

Low: James Corden asking Josh Groban and Sarah Bareilles during the bathroom number, “Will CBS get rid of hosts like the Oscars did?”
So many of the bits dragged that it was very tempting to shout, “Actually, they really should!” Also, Groban, you probably shouldn’t remind the audience that Big Little Lies is on opposite the Tonys. You were basically inviting people to switch over to HBO. —JC

High: The acceptance speech by Hadestown director Rachel Chavkin.
She was one of several Tony winners who called on Broadway colleagues to be more inclusive. Not trying harder to achieve gender and racial equity is, in Chavkin’s words, “a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be.” —JC

High: All the Hadestown love.
It was a huge night for Hadestown, which won seven awards including Best Director and Best New Musical. If the awards sweep was not enough to persuade you to just go get a ticket already, the performance of “Wait for Me,” featuring mesmerizing lamps swinging across the stage, was probably what tipped you over the edge. —KV

Low: Danny Burstein was stuck on top of a King Kong puppet for way too long.
In a segment meant to show off the remarkable, immense gorilla puppet being used in the musical King Kong, Danny Burstein got on top of Kong and then yelled “Woo!” several times as Kong was made to look like he was running down a long hallway, presumably to get to the Tony Awards? With each passing “Woo!,” everyone watching grew increasingly uncomfortable. There is no need for anyone to sit on top of a giant gorilla puppet pretending to crash an awards ceremony and yell “Woo” for more than five seconds, tops. —KV

High: Ali Stroker winning for Oklahoma!
Stroker won for her role as Ado Annie in the revival of Oklahoma!, becoming the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony and also delighting the many fans of The Glee Project. In her acceptance speech, Stroker talked about how important it is to see people with disabilities onstage and went on to note in her press appearance afterward how much work needs to be done in making backstage spaces more accessible. —KV

Low: The majority of the words the presenters were forced to say.
For example, while Christopher Jackson was presenting the Tony that ultimately went to Chavkin, the teleprompter prompted him to describe directing as “guiding collective creative elements to create a cohesive vision.” Which is a lot of artsy-sounding terms that don’t, collectively, mean very much. —JC

High: Cynthia Erivo singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
Although the Tonys audience displayed egregious awards-show etiquette by turning the “In Memoriam” segment into an applause popularity contest, the segment itself was saved by Erivo’s blow-your-hair-back performance of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” She started gently but by the end was sliding through key changes so effortlessly that somewhere far away, Beyoncé could feel a chill run down her spine. —KV

Low, but then high: James Corden trying to get the audience to fight each other.
In an effort to bolster Tony ratings by pumping up some intra-Broadway drama, Corden encouraged some of the Tonys audience members to yell at one another, reality-show style. It was a cute bit that did not need to go on for as long as it did; if the point is that everyone loves one another, then you don’t need to keep begging them to get into brawls. The bit was saved at the end, though, after Audra McDonald accused Laura Linney of flipping her the bird during a matinee performance of Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune. Linney confessed that it was her, and then Corden cut things off just as McDonald started to remove her earrings. Any bit that ends with Audra McDonald taking off her earrings before a fight is worthwhile. —KV

The Highs and Lows of the 2019 Tony Awards