Dazzling in a bright white topcoat and pants, Tony Awards host Ariana DeBose trumpeted progress on Broadway in a high-energy opening number and monologue. See video of the musical portion above.
The West Side Story Oscar winner rattled off a number of “firsts” for this year’s Tonys, which featured a field with a large number of Black and LGBTQ+ nominees. A Strange Loop‘s L. Morgan Lee made history as the first openly trans Tony-nominated performer, while Six composer Toby Marlow and The Skin of Our Teeth costume designer Montana Levi Blanco became the first non-cisgender Tony winners. Plus, James Earl Jones and Lena Horne are having Broadway theaters named for them.
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Summing up, DeBose declared, “‘The Great White Way’ is becoming more of a nickname as opposed to a how-to guide.”
The host also hailed Broadway’s ability to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, describing the period as a “roller coaster, with starts, stops, twists and turns, companies being reunited after nearly two years apart.”
The opening musical number blended motifs, lines and references to several cherished Broadway favorites from across the decades, among them Evita, The Wiz, Chicago, Rent, Dreamgirls and The Sound of Music. It also didn’t waste the chance to work in a few bars from “Somewhere,” a signature number from West Side Story.
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Contrasting with DeBose’s beacon-of-white attire, an ensemble of dancers clad all in black surrounded her, at times hoisting her above their heads. At every elevation, she showed off the versatility and verve that enabled her to break out as a cast member of Hamilton and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, yodeling at one point and joyously calling out to the back row of the venue: “Radio City!!”
As the singing and dancing unfolded, the screen at the back of the stage showed clips of Tony acceptance speeches from a host of luminaries, among them Audra McDonald, André De Shields and A Chorus Line‘s Michael Bennett.
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