Tonys: Jessie Mueller Wins Best Lead Actress in a Musical

Jessie Mueller performing with Carole King at Sunday's Tony Awards
Jessie Mueller performing with Carole King at Sunday's Tony Awards
 CBS

Jessie Mueller won the Tony for lead actress in a musical on Sunday for her starring role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

"I have to thank God because without him, nothing is possible," said Mueller upon accepting the award at Radio City Music Hall.

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Mueller plays the famed singer-songwriter in Beautiful, which depicts the emergence in the 1960s of Carole King and Gerry Goffin as a legendary pop songwriting team, alongside their best friends and fellow tunesmiths Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Prior to the Tonys, Mueller had also nabbed the Drama Desk Award for her starring role. Even reviewers who were mixed on the musical's merits overall were unanimous in their praise for Mueller's performance.

The winning actress sang "I Feel the Earth Move" from the show during the Tonys telecast, with King herself joining the ensemble onstage. Mueller previously had been nominated for a featured actress Tony in 2012 for her Broadway debut in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

At The Hollywood Reporter's first-ever Tonys Actress roundtable, Mueller recently shared what she first thought when she heard about the new musical. "That seems like the most un-Broadway Broadway thing you could ever do ... it's the story of a woman who never wanted to become a star, and she did, and I find that fascinating."

She also previously told THR that she changed her vocal approach to evoke that essential "Carole-ness," and also had to learn to play piano. Of taking the lead in the bio-musical, she said, "If the only thing that comes out of this is people opening their eyes to celebrating uniqueness in women, rather than how beautiful their hair is, then I think that’s such a wonderful thing. Carole King made an iconic groundbreaking album out of a lot of vulnerability; she was one of the first women to be brave enough to say, 'Look at what happened to me.' And millions of women, even to this day, say, 'Oh, my God, that happened to me too!"

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In total, Beautiful nabbed seven Tony nominations, including best musical, lead actress (Mueller), book of a musical (Douglas McGrath), featured actor (Jarrod Spector), featured actress (Anika Larsen), sound design (Brian Ronan) and orchestrations (Steve Sidwell). The production officially opened in January at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre and has grossed a robust $25 million to date.

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