[Baltimore Sun] Tony Awards 2024: ‘Outsiders’ and ‘Stereophonic’ are big winners, plus a long-awaited nod for Daniel Radcliffe

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“The Outsiders,” the stirring, coming-of-age musical based on the 1967 young adult novel by S.E. Hinton, won the Tony award for best musical Sunday night, even as Shaina Taub won best book and best score for “Suffs,” a musical about the struggle of the U.S. women’s suffrage movement, and perhaps enough for its multi-hyphenate creator to establish herself as one of Broadway’s leading auteurs.

The beautiful revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” coasted to a best revival Tony, as well as wins for two of its three stars, Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliffe. The formidable new David Adjmi drama “Stereophonic,” a long-in-gestation and closely observed drama about the making of a rock album, won for best new play. And “Appropriate,” a searing play about America’s tortured racial history by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and a drama with a history in Chicago, won for best revival of a play with its star, Sarah Paulson, winning for best actress in a play.

But in a season with a pack of new musicals of roughly comparable quality, many of the less prominent 2024 Tony Awards were spread out across multiple titles.

In the biggest surprise, and arguably injustice, of the night, the talented young “Outsiders” director Danya Taymor (who has worked often in Chicago) beat out Maria Friedman, widely seen as having solved the puzzle of “Merrily We Roll Along” for the first time in that show’s history. But the Tonys often celebrate youthful talent. Maleah Joi Moon, the young star of “Hell’s Kitchen,” beat out Maryann Plunkett, who gave of herself to an extraordinary degree in “The Notebook.”

Best actor in a play went to “Succession” star Jeremy Strong for his superb work in the contemporary revival of “An Enemy of the People.” Strong, whose awards night attire seemed consciously to reflect his Ibsonian character, gave all those he thanked his signature intense glare.

“I’m going to talk fast and try not to cry,” said Radcliffe of “Merrily,” as he improbably won his first ever major acting award, in this case for best supporting actor in a musical. The “Harry Potter” star said the project was one of the best experiences of his life, an emotion hardly surprising to anyone who has seen the show and one matched by a pumped-up Groff who called his fellow cast members his “soul mates.”

“People, stop texting me,” said Kecia Lewis, Tony winner for best supporting actress in a musical for her stellar work in the Alicia Keys jukebox musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” making an argument for old-school acceptance speeches written on notecards rather than phones. Lewis, Taub and several others referenced young theater people watching at home in the now-traditional Tony Awards encouragement to follow your dreams and never give up.

The now completed Broadway season featured 36 productions, with 14 new productions opening in the last two weeks of April alone. Several of the shows nominated in various categories were seen in Chicago before New York, including “The Notebook,” “Illinoise,” “The Who’s Tommy” and “Appropriate.”  The Tony broadcast, as is typical, featured numbers from new musicals and revivals; this year, they appeared filmed with rather more intimacy, a benefit perhaps of hosting the ceremony at Lincoln Center. Host Ariana DeBose appeared in an opening dance number designed to celebrated her third year as host, and later starred in a tribute to the dancer and Broadway star Chita Rivera, who died this year. DeBose did not indulge in the satirical jabs once traditional at pre-pandemic award shows, preferring to exude positivity. One new trend on Broadway is the rise of the celebrity producer, thus available to make nice with the industry and add some star quality to the Tony broadcast, a group that included Jennifer Hudson and Angelina Jolie at this year’s show.

Shaina Taub accepts the award for best original score for “Suffs” during the 77th Tony Awards on Sunday, June 16, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

David Adjmi, center, and members of the company of “Stereophonic” accept the award for best play during the 77th Tony Awards on June 16, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Jonathan Groff, from left, Lindsay Mendez, and Daniel Radcliffe perform “Old Friends” from “Merrily We Roll Along” during the 77th Tony Awards. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ariana DeBose, Audra McDonald and Bebe Neuwirth pay tribute to Chita Rivera during the 77th Tony Awards on Sunday, June 16, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Pete Townshend performs “Pinball Wizard” during the 77th Tony Awards in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Daniel Radcliffe accepts the award for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical for “Merrily We Roll Along” during the 77th Tony Awards on June 16, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The members of the company of “Stereophonic” perform during the 77th Tony Awards on Sunday, June 16, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

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Notably, the featured actor in a play category included all first-time nominees, a category won by Will Brill of “Stereophonic,” who emerged from the astonishingly talented ensemble of that work; Kara Young, superb in “Purlie Victorious,” beat out the formidable women of “Stereophonic,” who will no doubt be back.

Had her show won the big kahuna, Sunday’s Tony night would have belonged to one person, Taub, whose triumph in the best score and best book of a musical categories was far from assured and who got to hear Hillary Clinton, one of the show’s producers, praise her accomplishments from the stage, even as the former presidential candidate took the time to remind America to vote. How a show can win those Tonys are yet loose the biggest prize of all is something of a mystery, albeit hardly the first apparent illogicality in the history of the always entertaining Tony Awards.

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

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Winners of the 2024 Tony Awards

Presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing

Best musical: “The Outsiders”

Best play: “Stereophonic”

Leading actor in a play: Jeremy Strong, “An Enemy of the People”

Leading actress in a play: Sarah Paulson, “Appropriate”

Leading actor in a musical: Jonathan Groff, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Leading actress in a musical: Maleah Joi Moon, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Michael Rego, Matthew Rego, Hank Unger and members of the company of “The Outsiders” accept the award for best musical during the 77th Tony Awards on June 16, 2024, in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Featured actor in a play: Will Brill, “Stereophonic”

Featured actress in a play: Kara Young, “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch”

Featured actor in a musical: Daniel Radcliffe, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Featured actress in a musical: Kecia Lewis, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Direction of a play: Daniel Aukin, “Stereophonic”

Direction of a musical: Danya Taymor, “The Outsiders”

Choreography: Justin Peck, “Illinoise”

Orchestrations: Jonathan Tunick, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Book of a musical: Shaina Taub, “Suffs”

Original score: Shaina Taub, “Suffs”

Revival of a play: “Appropriate”

Revival of a musical: “Merrily We Roll Along”

Scenic design in a play: David Zinn, “Stereophonic”

Scenic design of a musical: Tom Scutt, “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”

Costume design of a play: Dede Ayite, “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding”

Costume design of a musical: Linda Cho, “The Great Gatsby”

Lighting design of a play: Jane Cox, “Appropriate”

Lighting design of a musical: Brian MacDevitt and Hana S. Kim, “The Outsiders”

Sound design of a play: Ryan Rumery, “Stereophonic”

Sound design of a musical: Cody Spencer, “The Outsiders”

 

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