NEW YORK — “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie, won the best new musical crown at the Tony Awards on a Sunday night when Broadway looked back to honor shows shuttered by COVID-19, mourn its fallen and also look forward to welcoming audiences again.
The show about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” alongside the big hit “Lady Marmalade,” won 10 Tonys. The record is 12, won by “The Producers.”
Producer Carmen Pavlovic struck a philosophical note in her acceptance speech, sharing the award with all the shows that struggled in the past 18-month shutdown.
“It feels a little odd to me to be talking about one show as best musical. I feel that every show of last season deserves to be thought of as the best musical,” she said. “The shows that opened, the shows that closed not to return, the shows that nearly opened. And of course, the shows that paused and are fortunate enough to be reborn — best musical is all of those shows.”
“The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez was named the best new play and won three other awards, and Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” won best play revival and an acting award.
Lopez’s two-part, seven-hour epic uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. It also yielded wins for Andrew Burnap as best actor in a play, Stephen Daldry as best director, and Lois Smith as best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play.
Thomas Kirdahy, a producer, dedicated the award to his late husband, the playwright Terrence McNally. Lopez, the first Latino writer to win in the category, urged more plays to be produced from the Latin community. “We have so many stories inside us aching to come out. Let us tell you our stories,” he said.
The pandemic-delayed telecast kicked off with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from original Broadway cast members of “Hairspray!” Ali Stroker sang “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line.” Jennifer Holliday also took the stage to deliver an unforgettable rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical “Dreamgirls.”
The singers performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theatre. Host Audra McDonald got a standing ovation when she took the stage. “You can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a featured acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography in her Broadway debut, and Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical.
In a surprise to no one, Aaron Tveit won the award for best leading actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” That’s because he was the only person nominated in the category. He thanked a long list of people, including his parents, brother, agents, manager and the cast and crew. “We are so privileged to get to do this,” he said, tearing up. “Because what we do changes peoples’ lives.”
Burstein, who won for featured actor in a musical and had not won six previous times, thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death last year of his wife, Rebecca Luker. “You were there for us, whether you just sent a note or sent your love, sent your prayers — sent bagels — it meant the world to us, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
David Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in “A Soldier’s Play,” which dissects entrenched Black-white racism as well as internal divisions in the Black military community during World War II. “To my other nominees: Tough bananas, I won,” he said. On stage, the director, Kenny Leon recited the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, killed by police. “We will never, ever forget you.”
Adrienne Warren won the Tony for best leading actress in a musical for her electric turn as Tina Turner in “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren was considered the front-runner thanks to becoming a one-woman fireball of energy and exhilaration. She dedicated the win to three family members she lost while playing Turner — and thanked Turner herself.