Tony Awards 2023 live updates: ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ and ‘Leopoldstadt’ win big

Cast of Kimberly Akimbo at the 76th Annual Tony Awards.
(Michele Crowe / CBS)

The 2023 Tony Awards aired live Sunday, June 11, on CBS and Paramount+. Here’s what you need to know:

Full list of winners | Best musical nominees, ranked | Why the audience deserves a Tony

The musical “Some Like It Hot” led with 13 Tony nominations. “Kimberly Akimbo,” the critical pick for best musical, received 8. Tom Stoppard’s play “Leopoldstadt,” “Ain’t No Mo’” and the revival of “A Doll’s House” garnered six nods each.

May 2, 2023

How did the writers’ strike affect the Tonys?

Ariana DeBose at the 76th Tony awards live from the United Palace in New York City’s Washington Heights, Sunday, June 11.
Ariana DeBose at the 76th Tony Awards, live from the United Palace in New York City’s Washington Heights on Sunday.
(Michele Crowe / CBS)

“I am live and unscripted, you’re welcome,” said Tonys host Ariana DeBose from the stage Sunday night. “So to anyone who may have thought that last year was a bit unhinged, to them I say, darlings: buckle up.”

Because of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, there wasn’t an opening number by Lin-Manuel Miranda — or any pre-written witty banter by Ariana DeBose, who also hosted the ceremony last year — but the 76th Tony Awards aired live from United Palace in New York on Sunday.

As the first major awards show to be affected by the Hollywood strike, the ceremony was briefly canceled last month, only to be revived after a group of prominent playwrights — including Jeremy O. Harris and Tony Kushner — lobbied the WGA alongside the Tony Awards Management Committee for a waiver to proceed.

The Tonys are broadcast on CBS and streamed on Paramount+, both companies that the WGA is striking against. But members of the guild agreed not to picket as long as the show didn’t feature any scripted bits or commentary. Miranda is not a member of the WGA, but ceased writing his highly anticipated number for the Tonys in solidarity with striking writers.

Many of the playwrights with work honored at the Tonys are also WGA members who shore up their livelihoods by writing for film and TV, and that crossover led to the possibility that the Tonys could suffer collateral damage from the strike. As did the fact that this year’s Tonys are notably diverse, with two gender nonconforming actors who won awards, five nominated plays and play revivals by Black writers, and four Black nominees for best actor in a play.

Broadway — and theater at large — is still suffering fallout from the devastating COVID closures enacted during the height of the pandemic. Ticket sales and attendance have yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, and many critically acclaimed shows still lose money. The Tonys, which air early in nominated shows’ Broadway runs, shine a spotlight on winners and can boost interest and buzz vital to survival.


Without a script, the show relied heavily on the song-and-dance numbers from nominated shows including “Kimberly Akimbo” and “Some Like it Hot.” DeBose showed her support in her introductory remarks, and some winners have made a point of expressing their solidarity with the WGA.

“We are nothing without our writers, and I support the WGA in their struggle for a contract they deserve,” said Victoria Clark, who won the award for lead actress in a musical, for her role in “Kimberly Akimbo.”

“Sure, award shows are traditionally written by members of the WGA. So in order for this show to go on, a whole host of people had to come together in order to find a compromise, and we are all here,” said DeBose in her opening monologue. “So to every single person who had a hand in finding that compromise, I say a full-throated thank you ... I am unscripted, as well as every presenter who comes on this stage tonight. We’re just making it up as we go along. And that’s cool. Again, it’s a blessing to be here.”

— Jessica Gelt

The threat to this year’s Tonys underscored their sway over the industry. Some say making them the ‘be-all, end-all’ of shows’ survival is risky business.

May 25, 2023

What the Pasadena Playhouse Tony win means

Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theatre of California, has received the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theatre of California, has received the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
(Jeff Lorch )

Producing artistic director Danny Feldman accepted the Regional Theatre Tony Award for Pasadena Playhouse on Sunday in one of the most remarkable turnarounds for an American theater.


“We are proud of Pasadena Playhouse to be one of the oldest not-for-profit regional theaters in the country,” Feldman said from the United Palace stage. “Our regional theaters in America, they are at the heart of the American theater. I’m willing to bet that the majority of folks here in this room and watching at home, the majority of us all had formative experiences at regional theaters. And right now our theaters need us more than ever, so that they are here for the next generation.”

In 2010, the Playhouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. When Feldman took over the reins in 2016, the theater was once again in a state of financial peril, with only enough cash to operate a month at a time.

How did he bring the official State Theatre of California back from the brink? By grounding it in the local community, prioritizing artistic excellence and refusing to underestimate the intelligence and his discernment of his audience. Instead of caving to box office fears, Feldman made a commitment to theater as a public forum, a gathering place for collective reflection and a showcase for virtuosity.

The Playhouse launched one of its most ambitious initiatives this year, a 6 six-month long Sondheim Celebration that paid tribute to the late Broadway legend through a series of productions, concerts and community offerings. The lineup included deluxe revivals of “Sunday in the Park With George” and “A Little Night Music” that allowed Angelenos to experience Sondheim with full orchestras and diverse casts that made the greatness of this artist seem at once exalted and accessible.

Feldman has shown that nonprofit theaters can still dream big even when the headwinds are formidable, especially right now. “We need everyone to support, to buy tickets, to become subscribers and members to donate to our theater’s artists here in this room,” Feldman said while accepting the Tony. “Go back and do a show at a regional theater. This is a formative, important time.”

“We share this award with our entire beloved Los Angeles theater community,” Feldman added in his speech. “We love you.”

— Charles McNulty


Pasadena Playhouse’s producing artistic director, Danny Feldman, has proved that growth is still possible in a time of spiraling crisis for American theater.

April 5, 2023

Two nonbinary actors make Tonys history

J. Harrison Ghee as Jerry/Daphne in “Some Like It Hot," left, and Alex Newell as Lulu in “Shucked."
J. Harrison Ghee as Jerry/Daphne in “Some Like It Hot,” left, and Alex Newell as Lulu in “Shucked.”
(Marc J. Franklin; Mathew Murphy )

The ceremony made history with the first two openly nonbinary actors to win Tony Awards.

Alex Newell, who won the award for supporting actor in a musical, is featured in “Shucked,” a pop-country comedy set in a small town whose crop of corn has mysteriously gone awry. They play Lulu, a local whiskey distiller who encourages their naive cousin to seek help outside their rural roots but is then suspicious of the Floridian urbanite who claims he can fix everything.

“I have wanted this my entire life,” said Newell in their acceptance speech. “Thank you for seeing me, Broadway. I should not be up here, as a queer, nonbinary, fat, Black baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone that thinks that they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face [and tell you] that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

J. Harrison Ghee, who won the award for lead actor in a musical, stars in the tap-filled adaptation of “Some Like It Hot,” the 1959 hit comedy in which two musicians, after witnessing a murder, attempt to escape town as members of an all-female swing band touring the country. They play Jerry, who initially adopts the name Daphne as a disguise, but comes to embrace a sense of self that touches on both identities.

“For every trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming human, whoever was told you couldn’t be, you couldn’t be seen, this is for you,” said Ghee in their acceptance speech. Ghee also thanked the musical’s producers and writers “for letting me lead, for letting me bring myself to the work, for letting me be representation, letting lives be seen. Thank you for the humanity.”

— Ashley Lee


Why Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt” win is a gamechanger

Tom Stoppard stands in front of a window looking out toward the San Francisco skyline.
Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt” won for best play.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Tom Stoppard first won a Tony Award in 1968 for “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” his existential comedy that made two subsidiary characters in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” the main act. In winning the 2023 best play award for “Leopoldstadt,” his fifth award, Stoppard breaks the record he shared with Terrence McNally, who won four competitive Tonys in the best play and best book of a musical categories. “Leopoldstadt” took home four total awards at the Tonys Sunday night, including best direction and costume design.

“I’m teeming with emotions, which a chatbox wouldn’t begin to understand,” Stoppard said in his acceptance speech.

McNally received a special Tony for lifetime achievement as well in 2019, the year before he died. At 85, Stoppard is still scaling the peaks of his craft. “Leopoldstadt” may not be his most ambitious work. That distinction goes to “The Coast of Utopia,” his by turns daunting and dazzling Tony-winning trilogy about the philosophical debates among a group of nomadic 19th century Russian writers, intellectuals and revolutionaries.

Born in what was then Czechoslovakia, Stoppard grew up in England after his family fled the Nazis and his father was tragically killed in the war. Renowned for his high-flown wit and wordplay, he has long been considered, along with Harold Pinter, David Hare and Caryl Churchill, one of the leading figures in postwar British drama.

No subject is too abstruse for his fiendishly playful comic imagination. But the critique of Stoppard has been that his brainy comedies are emotionally undernourished. That certainly isn’t the case with “The Real Thing,” his play about marriage and infidelity that won the Tony in 1984. Nor is it true of “Arcadia” and “ The Invention of Love,” which some assumed at the time were late works in Stoppard’s illustrious oeuvre.


“Leopoldstadt,” about a prominent Jewish family in Vienna that was exterminated in the Holocaust, is one of Stoppard’s most haunting works. The story isn’t autobiographical, but it parallels what happened to his European family who didn’t manage to escape Hitler’s murderous campaign.

Breathtaking in scope, the play bears all the hallmarks of Stoppard’s conversational brilliance while sharing the grief he long kept separate from his sparkling dramas.

— Charles McNulty

Broadway audiences deserve a Tony Award this year for helping to make shows like “Leopoldstadt,” “Parade” and “Fat Ham” not just excellent productions but unforgettable shared events.

June 6, 2023

Who won and who got snubbed?

Richard Parker (Andrew Wilson, Scarlet Wildernik, Fred Davis) and Pi (Hiran Abeysekera) in "Life of Pi" on Broadway.
(Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

As most critics predicted, “Kimberly Akimbo” took home the award for best musical. Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire’s heartfelt and humorous musical, about a bright New Jersey teen looking for happiness while grappling with her rare aging condition, also won for its book, score, lead actress Victoria Clark and featured actress Bonnie Milligan.

Producer David Stone called the show “a magic trick, a musical comedy about the fragility of life that is so appealing and so profoundly joyous that it is almost impossible.”


In addition to winning best play, “Leopoldstadt” also won for its direction, costume design and for the performance of featured actor Brandon Uranowitz. “Anyone who’s watching who is a parent, when your child tells you who they are, believe them,” said Uranowitz in his acceptance speech. “Protect, celebrate and water that truth because an authentic life is a limitless life. And I’m standing here because my parents did that for me growing up.”

The evening’s winners also included Jodie Comer, Sean Hayes, Miriam Silverman and Bonnie Milligan, as well as “Parade” for best revival of a musical and “Topdog/Underdog” for best revival of a play. Click here for the full list of winners.

The innovative puppetry in “Life of Pi” was snubbed in the costume design category, after winning multiple awards for its design when running in the U.K. Thankfully, it still won the awards for scenic design and lighting design — and rightfully so. Those hyperreal projections? The changing configurations of that lifeboat? The mechanism that makes that show-stopping storm moment possible? (You’ll know what we mean after you see the show.)

— Ashley Lee