The 77th Tony Awards

To win a Tony is to reach the pinnacle of theatre; it is the direct equivalent of what an Emmy is to television, what an Oscar is to film. It is usually presented annually in New York City sometime in June by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League. The Tonys, otherwise known as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, recognise excellence in Broadway productions, honouring the best plays, musicals, performances, and technical achievements.

Tony criteria are pretty straightforward: all Broadway shows are eligible. Broadway shows are shows done in theatres with over 500 seats. A cut-off date in late April signifies the conclusion of a season; hence, any Broadway production opening after that qualifies for the next Tony Awards. So, for example, this year’s season ran from the 27th of April 2023 to the 25th of April 2024. The current list of 41 eligible Broadway houses has been determined by the Tony Awards Administration Committee. If a show is presented regularly at any of those theatres with a designated opening night on or before the cutoff date, and its producers invite the Administration committee and submit the necessary paperwork, that production is automatically in the running.

Each year, the Tony Awards Administration Committee selects approximately 50 professionals, who are assigned to the Tony Awards Nominating Committee. This group is expected to see every eligible Broadway show and meet shortly after the cutoff date to nominate artists and productions using secret ballots. Then, after the nominees are announced in early May, the procedure is left to voters. Around 800 New York theatre community members—actors, authors, directors, designers, managers, casting directors, and administrative staff—select the winners. An accounting firm that handles voting tabulates secret ballots to protect the results from being revealed until the ceremony. 

Highlights from the 77th Tonys

The audience at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, the venue for this year’s Tonys, held on Sunday, June 16 2024, was awestruck as Alicia Keys wrapped up the opening number by the Hell’s Kitchen cast by performing a special rendition of Empire State of Mind alongside collaborator Jay- Z (who joined virtually). 

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performing at the ceremony

The boy wizard, Daniel Radcliffe may have gained his name — and renown — as Harry Potter on television, but he’s also an established stage actor. On Sunday, he received his first Tony in five Broadway performances for best-featured actor in the musical Merrily We Roll Along. In his emotional acceptance speech, he said, “These incredible songs are just a gift to get to sing every night,” noting “This has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Daniel Radcliffe giving his acceptance speech.

Succession star, Jeremy Strong grabbed his first Tony on Sunday night too. The actor, who played unstable media tycoon Kendall Roy on television, won his first Tony for outstanding actor in a play for the revival of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 An Enemy of the People. While his Succession character, Kendall would certainly not have done this, Strong acknowledged Broadway’s unsung, unseen heroes.

Jeremy Strong with his award


Sarah Paulson, another first-time winner, earned Best Actress in a Lead Role, defeating Rachel McAdams and Jessica Lange. Paulson received an award for the revival of the darkly humorous drama Appropriate, which portrays a dysfunctional family contending over their recently deceased father’s estate. The 49-year-old Ratched actress is now halfway to EGOT status, having earned an Emmy in 2016 for her performance in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

Sarah Paulson reading her acceptance speech.                                            

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie earned her first Tony Award for producing The Outsiders, which won Best Musical and received three additional prizes out of 12 nominations. In her victory speech, director Danya Taymor mentioned actress Jolie as one of the “great women who have lifted me up“. The show later won the coveted Best Musical award, and Jolie appeared on stage. The play is based on SE Hinton’s novel and depicts a fight between two competing gangs of white Americans split by social level. It outperformed its musical competition Hell’s Kitchen, a semi-autobiographical depiction of Alicia Keys that earned 13 nominations and won two.

Angelina Jolie at the event     

Former United States First Lady, Secretary of State, and Senator, Hillary Clinton is a confessed theatre enthusiast, which is one of the reasons she received one of the night’s longest-standing ovations. But now she was making her debut as a producer, presenting Shaina Taub’s musical Suffs, which is about the suffragists of the early 20th century. Clinton winked and said, “I know a little bit about how hard it is to make change.” “We need to be reminded of how important it is to vote now that it is election year“, she continued.

Hilary Clinton at the event

The Tony Award for Best Play went to Stereophonic written by David Adjmi, it follows a fictional 1970s rock band. It was the biggest winner of the night having received five Tony Awards out of the 13 categories that it was nominated for. 

Cast of Stereophonic with their Tonys

Read the full list of winners here.

The Tony awards is the gold standard for theatre in the US, if we expect the theatre industry here in Nigeria to begin to have any semblance of growth, one of the first things stakeholders need to do is to come together and establish a prestigious singular award that confers the same excellence that is associated with winning a Tony award. 

Olokungbemi Gerald

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