Only one African-American won a Tony Award despite a slew of nominations that included a historic double-nomination for actor Jeremy Pope (“Choir Boy,” and “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”) but it was only André De Shields that took home the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, “Hadestown.”
Here is what was shared on the red carpet at the 73rd annual Tony Awards held in New York City at Radio City Music Hall.
Oscar-winning actress, Regina King joked that she was attending the awards to “pick up acting pointers,” highlighting that “the best of the best was all around her.” A Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo, who burst onto West End and Broadway stages in “The Color Purple,” walked the red carpet for the 2019 Tony Awards in a svelte, figure-hugging, white gown designed by Chris Gelinas that was adorned with hundreds of ostrich feathers and hand dipped in lemon yellow dye. Erivo changed for her stage performance in an equally stunning, white gown also designed by Gelinas to pay tribute to those lost during the ceremony’s In Memoriam montage with her rendition of Elton John’s, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”
“I have a love for 40s vintage glamour,” said Erivo. “And I am inspired by Josephine Baker.” Looking around the carpet, spotting friends, while giving and receiving hugs, she stepped back, paused and smiled. Leaning closer, as if to whisper, she added this: “It’s an amazing honor to be a part of the theater community, the Broadway community. On the stage, you don’t have another chance to portray it again, so I and we leave it all on the stage. That’s one of the reasons being a part of this community is so special.” When asked what was next for the very busy Erivo, she shared that she’s preparing for a new album and a concert and will take some well-needed rest to spend “time with my family” before she starts doing press for the upcoming film “Harriet.”
Dominique Morisseau, nominated for Best Book of a Musical for “Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations,” started the evening on a high with 12 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for star, Derrick Baskin, but only took home Best Choreography.
At the award show, Morisseau was hopeful and determined to see a positive change in her community even in how her plays are marketed to the theater buying audiences.
“We make space for the people that may not be the traditional theater audience. Say amen and speak out loud if it’s in response to the show. I’ve been trying to change the culture that I think is on Broadway,” said Morisseau.
The Obie-winning playwright and MacArthur genius grant recipient was first introduced to The Temptations by her parents.
“What I love about telling their story right now is the contemporary relevance that it has,” adds Morisseau, “And I think Berry Gordy’s vision about using this group to cross all kinds of barriers – and then I think even the vision got beyond what he could’ve seen – that the Temptations were being used to help unify a divided nation. I – we’re in that same moment now.”
Although “Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations” was snubbed in multiple categories, the brilliant cast delivered an electrifying performance during the live ceremony, which included a medley of Temptations hits. The performance included songs such as “Just My Imagination,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” and naturally “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”
“I am thrilled to be nominated for a Tony Award of course but it’s important that the game changes faster than that,” says Morisseau. “We can’t wait for another 20 years for a woman of color to be a nominee as a writer—especially and I think that where we’ve seen a lot of slowness with representing and acknowledging your worth. I feel very good to be nominated and to stand here and to stand up for that but I hope that it won’t end with me.”
De Shields stepped into Broadway history in 1975, as the title character in “The Wiz.” He won his first Tony as Hermes, a Greek god, who serves as both narrator and travel guide in Hadestown.
Says De Shields, “I wasn’t going to leave Broadway until they gave me one of these [Tony Award] but there are so many other adventures that I want to have. There are so many other mountains, that I want to climb. I gaze at the stars and the stars gaze at me. Every decision I make is made as a triple Capricorn and that zodiac sign is of the goat who climbs the mountains. So, I [too] am looking for my next peek. I realized that the greater work that I want to achieve is ahead of me.”