Hosted by multiple Tony award winner Audra McDonald, she referenced the Winter Garden Theater, where the award show was held in 1975 Tony’s when The Wiz, won seven awards. In her monologue, she noted how little has changed since then and challenged the industry to be more inclusive.
“For the past 46 years, there has been too little change,” she said. “But I’m hopeful we are finally ready to commit to the change that will bring more awareness, action, and accountability that will make our industry more inclusive and equitable for all.”
Warren won for Best Leading Actress in a musical for Tina—The Tina Turner Musical. In her acceptance speech, she spoke about the transforming power of the arts.
“I really look forward to the day that the bodies and souls and spirits of those that are involved in these shows are celebrated and can enjoy the celebration with us,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Those bodies, those souls, those spirits, they are what make Broadway. And the second we start working in this business through a lens of humanity and honoring those bodies and those souls and those spirits, the more the art will be transformative, the more the art will change lives, the more the art will change this world because the world has been screaming for us to change.”
After being nominated three times, David Alan Grier won for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for his performance in A Soldier’s Play.
“Audra, I finally won one of these, too!” he said about McDonald, who has six Tonys.
Filled with emotion, Grier spoke about the genius of Douglas Turner-Ward, director of the original play, who came to see the show before its Broadway run and before his passing earlier this year.
“This man’s passion, his commitment, every word he uttered,” Grier said of Turner-Ward, “was teaching and science of theater.”
He also thanked the Roundabout Theater as well as Kenny Leon, who directed the latest adaptation of the play.
“I don’t know if I was the first call or the last call (for casting in the role), but I’m just glad you called baby!” he exclaimed.
At the end of his speech, he said, “To the other nominees: Tough bananas, I won!”
In addition to Grier, A Soldier’s Play won for Best Revival of a Play. Accepting the award, Leon evoked the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“We will never, ever forget you,” he exclaimed.
Echoing the sentiments of McDonald, Leon spoke about the need for the theatre world to be more diverse.
“No diss to Shakespeare, no diss to Ibsen, to Chekhov, to Shaw—they’re all at the table,” he said. “But the table’s got to be bigger.”