Tonys: Ali Stroker's Historic Win, Rachel Chavkin's Speech and 6 More Memorable Moments

9:02 PM 6/9/2019

by Allison Crist

Between the inspiring acceptance speeches and the elaborate musical performances, there's plenty of highlights from Sunday's show.

The 73rd annual Tony Awards brought Broadway's biggest stars together at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Sunday night. James Corden hosted the show for his second time, sprinkling in a number of humorous bits — from trying to improve ratings by starting drama between Ben Platt and Rachel Brosnahan to running into previous hosts Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban in the bathroom — throughout the evening. However, most of this year's standout moments came from the winners.

  • James Corden's Opening Musical Number

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    This year's host — making his return after first emceeing the 2016 Tonys — pulled out all the stops to kick off Broadway's biggest night. What started as James Corden sitting on a couch going through his television queue turned into a song and dance about the differences between live performances and binge-watching. 

  • Ali Stroker's Historic Win

    Ali Stroker is now the first actor who uses a wheelchair to ever win (and even be nominated for) a Tony Award. She won best featured actress in a musical for her portrayal of Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

    "This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are," Stroker said on stage after receiving a standing ovation from the audience. 

  • Rachel Chavkin's Historic Best Director Win and Acceptance Speech

    Hadestown's Rachel Chavkin took home the Tony for best director of a musical, making her only the 10th woman in the awards show's 73-year history to win in the category. She was also this year's sole female nominee in the category.

    "I wish I wasn't the only woman directing a musical on Broadway this season. There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of color that are ready to go," Chavkin said in her acceptance speech. "And we need to see that racial diversity and gender diversity reflected in our critical establishment, too. This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be."

  • AndrĂ© De Shields' First Tonys Win

    André De Shields, who has more than a dozen Broadway credits to his name after a 50-year acting career, won his first Tony Award on Sunday night: best featured actor in a musical.

    "Baltimore, Maryland are you in the house?," the Hadestown star said upon taking the stage to accept the Tony award. "I hope you're watching at home because I am making good on my promise that I would come to New York and become someone you'd be proud to call your native son."

    De Shields shared his three rules for longevity: "One, surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you. Two, slow is the fastest way to get where you want to go. Three, the top of every mountain is the bottom of another so keep climbing." 

  • Bryan Cranston Calls Out Trump Administration's Media Attacks

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    After winning the Tony for best leading actor in a play for his role in Network, Bryan Cranston dedicated the award to "all of the real journalists around the world," who "are in the line of fire with their pursuit of the truth."

    "The media is not the enemy of the people," Cranston said, seemingly hinting at comments the Trump administration has repeatedly made. "Demagoguery is the enemy of the people."

  • Jez Butterworth's Off-Script Shoutout to Laura Donnelly

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    Instead of using his time on the Tonys stage to introduce The Ferryman, playwright Jez Butterworth went off script to thank his partner Laura Donnelly, who's also the star of the show. She played the part while pregnant with their child.

    “I don’t care if you see my play or not, I’m just gonna talk," Butterworth said, encouraging anyone curious about The Ferryman to Google it.

    Butterworth also dedicated the Tony for best play to Donnelly and handed her the statuette on stage. 

  • Taylor Mac's 'Gary' Presentation

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    "Hello queens, I wrote a play!" the Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus playwright said when introducing the production onstage. Taylor Mac, whose chosen pronoun is judy, donned a gown designed by Machine Dazzle. The pink, purple, red, blue and yellow strips were combined with a metal shawl. Mac topped off the look with theatrical makeup and a colorful headpiece.

    "When mass shootings, immoral leadership and an escalation of revenge are everywhere, how can you cope? Spoiler alert: I don't have the answer," the playwright said on the Tonys stage. "But in the play, there's a maid, a midwife and a clown named Gary who decide their answer is to make the world a better place. And although that might sound naive or foolish, when those fools are played by the comedic genius of Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen and Julie White, you experience a better world being created in front of your very eyes."

  • 'The Cher Show' Cast Performs "Believe"

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    The Cher Show was not only nominated for three awards — costume design in a musical for Bob Mackie, lead actress in a musical for Stephanie J. Block, and lighting design in a musical for Kevin Adams — but the cast of the jukebox musical also took the 2019 Tonys stage to perform Cher's "Believe."

    All three of the actresses who play Cher in the Broadway production — Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks and Micaela Diamond — took part in the performance. 

    Shortly after, Block won best leading actress in a musical.