Tony awards 2022: Company and The Lehman Trilogy lead big night for Brits

<span>Photograph: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP</span>
Photograph: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Broadway transfers of West End adaptations of The Lehman Trilogy and Company have dominated this year’s Tony awards, which were seen as a return to relative normal after Covid-impacted ceremonies.

Related: Tony awards 2022: Hugh Jackman, Angela Lansbury and MJ the Musical – in pictures

It was a big night for British talent in New York, with the Broadway transfer of The Lehman Trilogy winning best play, best director and best actor in a play. “This play was written as a hymn to the city of New York but, like the Lehman brothers themselves, our show started thousands of miles away,” said playwright Ben Power, who adapted the show from Italian novelist and playwright Stefano Massini. His version made its debut at London’s National Theatre in 2018.

The play’s director, Sam Mendes, picked up his second Tony award, using his speech to herald “a season of such rampant creativity and diversity” and thanked his colleagues for “keeping this show alive during some pretty dark days”. Simon Russell Beale was also named best actor in a play, saying he felt “a little sheepish” that he won over his two nominated co-stars, Adrian Lester and Adam Godley. The Lehman Trilogy also won for scenic design and lighting of a play.

The Broadway transfer of Company, which originated in London’s West End, was named best revival of a musical. Patti LuPone, who won an Olivier for the role, beat out A Strange Loop’s L Morgan Lee, who was the first openly transgender actor to receive a Tony nomination, for best featured actress in a musical.

LuPone thanked “all of the Covid safety people” and, in a reference to a viral video of an anti-mask attendee who screamed that she pays her salary, she thanked producer Chris Harper “who pays my salary”.

Matt Doyle was also named best featured actor in a musical for Company, which also won for scenic design and directing of a musical. The musical’s creator, Stephen Sondheim, who died last year, featured in the ceremony’s In Memoriam section.

Michael R. Jackson
A Strange Loop playwright Michael R Jackson. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Pulitzer-winning musical A Strange Loop was named best musical, having led the night with 11 nominations. Its writer, Michael R Jackson, also won best book. “I’m so speechless, I should have written down a speech,” he joked before stressing the importance not just of representation but also “doing the very best work we can do”. The show tells the story of a Black queer man writing about a musical about a Black queer man.

The Michael Jackson musical MJ saw wins for Myles Frost for best lead actor in a musical as well as for lighting, sound design and choreography. Joaquina Kalukango was also named best lead actress in a musical for Paradise Square. She thanked her parents for “sacrificing everything” and “all of the nameless ancestors who have suffered”.

West Side Story Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose was host and called the ceremony “the first Tony awards since Broadway got its groove back”. A more diverse season than ever before, with plays from seven Black playwrights, DeBose joked that the “great white way is becoming more of a nickname than a how-to guide”.

Phylicia Rashad, who was the first Black actor to win best actress in a play for A Raisin in the Sun in 2004, won best featured actress in a play for her role in Skeleton Crew.

Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out won for best revival of a play while Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson was named best featured actor in a play for his role, beating out co-stars Jesse Williams and Michael Oberholtzer.

Deirdre O’Connell was named best lead actress in a play for Dana H, a drama which saw her mime audio footage from playwright Lucas Hnath’s mother detailing a harrowing true story of kidnap. The show also won for sound design in a play.

Tony winner Joaquina Kalukango (R) embraces presenter Danielle Brooks (L) as she accepts the award for her role in Paradise Square.
Tony winner Joaquina Kalukango (R) embraces presenter Danielle Brooks (L) as she accepts the award for her role in Paradise Square. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Angela Lansbury was given the lifetime achievement award for her long and storied career on stage. The 96-year-old had previously won five Tony awards, for shows including Gypsy, Sweeney Todd and Blithe Spirit. She was unable to attend, but musical tribute was paid by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

Last year’s Tony awards were affected by the truncated season, with just a handful of eligible shows. This year, 34 productions were able to be nominated and 29 of them managed to score at least one nod.

The pandemic continues to affect Broadway box office, with the 2021-2022 season raking in around US$845m (£688m), compared with the historic high of $1.8bn of 2018-2019.

Attendees this year who were sitting in the orchestra section were not required to wear masks but PCR testing was mandatory. Those sitting further from the stage had to remain masked for the duration.