Tony Awards: ‘The Outsiders’ wins best musical as Jeremy Strong, Daniel Radcliffe also nab trophies

NEW YORK — “The Outsiders,” a gritty adaptation of the classic young adult novel, became the essence of a Broadway insider on Sunday, winning the Tony Award for best new musical on a night when theater history was made for women as Broadway directors and score writers.

The musical, an adaptation of the beloved S.E. Hinton novel, is about rival gangs of haves and have-nots in 1960s Oklahoma. The win means Angelina Jolie, a producer, has landed her first Tony, too.

“Stereophonic,” the play about a Fleetwood Mac-like band recording an album over a turbulent and life-changing year, won best new play. It was written by David Adjmi, with songs by former Arcade Fire member Will Butler.

“Oh, no. My agent gave me a beta-blocker, but it’s not working,” Adjmi said. He added the play took 11 years to manifest.

“This was a very hard journey to get up here,” he said. “We need to fund the arts in America.”

Two special guests electrified the crowd — Jay-Z and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The latter, a producer of “Suffs,” presented the show.

“I have stood on a lot of stages, but this is very special,” Clinton said. “I know a little bit about how hard it is to make change.”

In the first musical presentation, Alicia Keys appeared at a piano as the cast of her semi-autobiographical musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” presented a medley of songs. She began singing her and Jay-Z’s 2009 smash “Empire State of Mind” before leaving the stage to join the rapper live on some interior steps to wild applause.

Later, newcomer Maleah Joi Moon won best leading actress for “Hell’s Kitchen,” brushing aside a challenge from veteran Kelli O’Hara. The 21-year-old New Jersey native, who plays a role loosely based on Keys’ life, dedicated her award to her parents.

Danya Taymor — whose aunt is Julie Taymor, the first woman to win a Tony Award for directing a musical — became the 11th woman to win the award, for “The Outsiders.”

“Thank you to the great women who have lifted me up,” she said.

Then Shaina Taub, only the second woman in Broadway history to write, compose and star in a Broadway musical, won for best score. Taub, the force behind “Suffs,” had already won for best book earlier in the night. Her musical is about the final years of the fight to allow women to vote, leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

“If you are inspired by the story of ‘Suffs,’ please make sure you and everyone you know have registered to vote and vote, vote, vote!” she said. Taub also said the win was for all the loud girls out there: “Go for it,” she urged.

Host Ariana DeBose kicked off the telecast from the Lincoln Center with an original, acrobatic number, followed by Jeremy Strong taking home the first big award of the night.

Strong, the “Succession” star, landed his first Tony for his work in the revival of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 political play “An Enemy of the People.” The award for best lead actor in a play will sit next to his Emmy, Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe.

Kara Young, the first Black performer to be nominated for a Tony three consecutive years in a row, won this time as best featured actress in a play for “Purlie Victorious,” the story of a Black preacher’s plan to reclaim his inheritance and win back his church from a plantation owner.

“Thank you to my ancestors,” she said, adding thanks to a list that included playwright Ossie Davis and his wife and co-star Ruby Dee, who originated her role.

“Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe cemented his stage career pivot by winning a featured actor in a musical Tony, his first trophy in five Broadway shows. He won for the revival of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical that goes backward in time.

“This is one of the best experiences of my life,” Radcliffe said. “I will never have it as good again.” He also thanked his parents for playing Sondheim in the car growing up.

The musical also was named best musical revival and earned Jonathan Groff his first Tony, for leading actor in a musical. Groff — previously nominated for “Spring Awakening” and “Hamilton” — said he used to watch the Tonys in Pennsylvania as a kid and thanked co-stars Lindsay Mendez and Radcliffe, both emotional in the audience.

Kecia Lewis, who plays a formidable piano teacher in “Hell’s Kitchen,” took home her first Tony, too. The 40-year veteran made her Broadway debut at 18 in the original company of “Dreamgirls.”

“This moment is the one I dreamed of for those 40 years,” she told the crowd. ”Don’t give up!”

“Appropriate,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ show centered on a family reunion in Arkansas, was named best play revival. Jacobs-Jenkins also thanked Davis, saying there would be no “Appropriate” without “Purlie Victorious.”

“Appropriate” star Sarah Paulson added a best leading actress in a play Tony to her Emmy, SAG and Golden Globes awards. Paulson said she was thrilled to be able to interrogate the human condition: “This is the heart and soul of what we do and I am so honored to be amongst you.”

Three-time Tony-honored Chita Rivera got a special tribute from Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Bebe Neuwirth. Images of her work in “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “West Side Story” were projected while dancers performed her hit numbers. DeBose, who won an Oscar in Rivera’s “West Side Story” role of Anita, joined in.

DeBose, a three-time host, also co-choreographed the opening number, the original song “This Party’s for You,” which had a disco vibe with hip-hop elements and multiple acrobatic lifts. The song was a cheer for those who sacrifice for their art and took a gentle swipe at other entertainment types: “You’ll learn that film and TV can make you rich and make you famous. But theater will make you better.”

The performances also included an intense, creepy version of “Willkommen” from the “Cabaret” revival led by Eddie Redmayne, Pete Townshend playing guitar to kick off “Pinball Wizard” for “The Who’s Tommy” and a complex, thrilling and messy rumble from “The Outsiders” that included falling water, buckets of dirt, various carpets and an onstage truck.

The best choreography award went to Justin Peck for “Illinoise,” the dance musical based on the Midwest-themed album by Sufjan Stevens. It had a pre-Broadway run over the winter at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

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