“The Boys in the Band” Wins Tony Award Five Decades After Debut

And other theatrically queer moments from the 2019 Tonys.

Presenter Ben Platt put it best: “For anyone at home who is a latecomer who is just now tuning in, yes, these are the Tony Awards, and you are, in fact, gay.”

A rainbow-colored floral arrival carpet, designed by Raul Avila with artistic director Anna Wintour to commemorate Pride Month, set the tone for the 73rd Annual Tony Awards, which were held Sunday night at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall and broadcast live on CBS.

James Corden hosted this year’s Tonys, honoring the best of the 2018-2019 Broadway season, and the Late Late Show host led a crowd-pleasing opening number about the thrill of live theater featuring the casts of all seven shows nominated for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival: Ain’t Too Proud, Tootsie, Oklahoma!, Beetlejuice, The Prom, Hadestown, and Kiss Me, Kate.

Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera based on ancient Greek myths, was the night’s big winner with eight awards, including Best Musical. But the big gay victory was Best Revival of a Play for The Boys in the Band, Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking drama about a group of gay men who gather for an intimate birthday celebration in 1960s pre-Stonewall Manhattan.

Crowley is officially a Tony winner himself per a new ruling from the Tony Awards Administration Committee that now allows living authors to be among the nominees for revivals. At 83, he is the oldest playwright to win the award.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to the original cast of nine brave men who did not listen to their agents when they were told their careers would be finished if they did this play,” Crowley said in his emotional acceptance speech, referencing its 1968 off-Broadway premiere. The Boys in the Band was also made into a 1970 movie with the play’s original cast.

Directed by Joe Mantello and co-produced by Ryan Murphy, the 50th anniversary Broadway production starred Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Tuc Watkins, and Michael Benjamin Washington. De Jesús was the only actor nominated for his performance.

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Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Tony Awards
The cast and creative team of The Boys in the Band

The revival, which played its final performance August 11, 2018 at Broadway’s Booth Theatre, recouped its $3.5 million investment in 11 weeks of performances. Murphy is now adapting the play for Netflix with the entire Broadway cast.

Boys competed for the Tony against the revival of another landmark gay play, Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, as well as All My Sons, Burn This, and The Waverly Gallery.
Bisexual Glee Project alum Ali Stroker won Best Featured Actress in a Musical for playing Ado Annie in the revival of Oklahoma!, making history as the first actor in a wheelchair to win a Tony. “This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation, or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” she said. “You are.”

The Prom, a ripped-from-the-headlines musical comedy about an Indiana lesbian whose prom is canceled after she’s forbidden to bring her girlfriend, failed to take home any Tonys. But the cast did perform at the ceremony, ending its number with a smooch between female leads Caitlin Kinnunen and Isabelle McCalla. This same number was performed during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, marking that event’s first televised LGBTQ kiss.

Santino Fontana may’ve won Best Actor in a Musical for playing a dude in a dress in Tootsie, but Stephanie J. Block snatched Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of a true queen, Cher, in The Cher Show, dedicating her award to “the goddess” herself. Gay designer Bob Mackie, who has collaborated with Cher since 1967, won Best Costume Design of a Musical.

Among the night’s other victories for gay veterans: Robert Horn won Best Book of a Musical for Tootsie, Sergio Trujillo won Best Choreography for Ain’t Too Proud, and André DeShields won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Hadestown.

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Taylor Mac

The ceremony also featured a powerful performance by Choir Boy, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s coming-of-age drama about a gay choir leader at an elite boarding school for black men, starring double nominee Jeremy Pope. “The bodies that uphold the great legacy of spirituals are often black and queer,” McCraney said while introducing the play. “When will we love all of them for who they are, not just what they can do?”

While introducing Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, non-binary playwright Taylor Mac got to show off an ornate frock designed by Machine Dazzle.

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Billy Porter

Speaking of looks, red carpet assassin Billy Porter presented the Tony Award for Excellence in Theater Education wearing a Celestino Couture suit-skirt combo made out of a curtain from Kinky Boots, which earned Porter a Tony in 2013. The look was reportedly designed to resemble female reproductive organs in support of women’s abortion rights.

Among the special Tony Awards, presented during the Creative Arts Awards portion of the ceremony, legendary gay playwright Terrence McNally was honored for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. Judith Light received the Isabelle Stevenson Award, honoring her tireless tireless advocacy for LGBTQ rights and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

There were 34 shows, including 21 plays and 13 musicals, eligible for Tonys this season.

Read the full list of nominees with winners denoted by asterisks below.

Best Play
Choir Boy
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
*The Ferryman
What the Constitution Means to Me

Best Musical
Ain’t Too Proud
The Prom

Best Revival of a Play
All My Sons
Burn This
*The Boys in the Band
The Waverly Gallery
Torch Song

Best Revival of a Musical
Kiss Me, Kate

Best Book of a Musical
Ain’t Too Proud, Dominique Morisseau
Beetlejuice, Scott Brown and Anthony King
Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell
The Prom, Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin
*Tootsie, Robert Horn

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Be More Chill, Joe Iconis
Beetlejuice, Eddie Perfect
*Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell
The Prom, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin
To Kill a Mockingbird, Adam Guettel
Tootsie, David Yazbek

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Paddy Considine, The Ferryman
*Bryan Cranston, Network
Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird
Adam Driver, Burn This
Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Annette Bening, All My Sons
Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman
*Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery
Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton
Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet
Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud
Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice
Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!
*Santino Fontana, Tootsie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
*Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom
Beth Leavel, The Prom
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
*Bertie Carvel, Ink
Robin De Jesús, The Boys in the Band
Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird
Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This
Benjamin Walker, All My Sons

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman
*Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird
Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ruth Wilson, King Lear

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
*André De Shields, Hadestown
Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie
Patrick Page, Hadestown
Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud
Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Lilli Cooper, Tootsie
Amber Gray, Hadestown
Sarah Stiles, Tootsie
*Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!
Mary Testa, Oklahoma!

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Miriam Buether, To Kill a Mockingbird
Bunny Christie, Ink
*Rob Howell, The Ferryman
Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Jan Versweyveld, Network

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini, Ain’t Too Proud
Peter England, King Kong
*Rachel Hauck, Hadestown
Laura Jellinek, Oklahoma!
David Korins, Beetlejuice

Best Costume Design of a Play
*Rob Howell, The Ferryman
Toni-Leslie James, Bernhardt/Hamlet
Clint Ramos, Torch Song
Ann Roth, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Michael Krass, Hadestown
William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice
William Ivey Long, Tootsie
*Bob Mackie, The Cher Show
Paul Tazewell, Ain’t Too Proud

Best Lighting Design of a Play
*Neil Austin, Ink
Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Peter Mumford, The Ferryman
Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird
Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden, Network

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, The Cher Show
Howell Binkley, Ain’t Too Proud
*Bradley King, Hadestown
Peter Mumford, King Kong
Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

Best Sound Design of a Play
Adam Cork, Ink
Scott Lehrer, To Kill a Mockingbird
*Fitz Patton, Choir Boy
Nick Powell, The Ferryman
Eric Sleichim, Network

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, Beetlejuice
Peter Hylenski, King Kong
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Ain’t Too Proud
Drew Levy, Oklahoma!
*Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz, Hadestown

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, Ink
*Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Ivo van Hove, Network
George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Best Direction of a Musical
*Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!
Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud
Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

Best Choreography
Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy
Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate
Denis Jones, Tootsie
David Neumann, Hadestown
*Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud

Best Orchestrations
*Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown
Simon Hale, Tootsie
Larry Hochman, Kiss Me, Kate
Daniel Kluger, Oklahoma!
Harold Wheeler, Ain’t Too Proud

Non-Competitive Honorees:

Special Tony Awards
Marin Mazzie
Sonny Tilders and Creature Technology Company, King Kong
Jason Michael Webb, Choir Boy

Special Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Rosemary Harris
Terrence McNally
Harold Wheeler

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Judith Light

Find more photos and acceptance speeches here.

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.