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The Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway, were handed out Sunday night

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Every year, the Tony Awards honor the best Broadway productions for the past season. Now, going into the Tonys last night, a lot of people thought they knew what the winners would be - "Merrily We Roll Along" for the best revival of a musical, "Stereophonic" for the best new play, and "Hell's Kitchen" for best new musical.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (As characters, singing) New York - concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do.

MARTÍNEZ: Some of those are right, one completely wrong. Joining us now to talk Tonys is Jeff Lunden, who covers Broadway for NPR. Jeff, people who watched these awards pretty closely thought they had it all figured out. But who were the big winners?

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: Well, the biggest winner, A, was the play "Stereophonic" by David Adjmi, about a rock band a lot like Fleetwood Mac, recording an album. And it has music by Will Butler of Arcade Fire that the cast plays. So they played it on the broadcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MASQUERADE")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #2: (Singing) Can I take you to the masquerade?

LUNDEN: "Stereophonic" picked up five awards, including best play. The famous Stephen Sondheim flop, "Merrily We Roll Along," was turned into a hit this season and won four awards, including best revival. Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, won for best featured actor. Here's part of his speech.

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DANIEL RADCLIFFE: Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you both so much. Thank you for playing Sondheim in the car and just, you know, loving me.

MARTÍNEZ: Take that, Baltimore. All right, now, so, what was the surprise with the best musical?

LUNDEN: Well, it was a nail-biter until the very end of the ceremony. "Hell's Kitchen," the Alicia Keys musical, had 13 nominations, and "The Outsiders," based on the YA novel, had 12, and they both picked up some awards. But Shaina Taub's "Suffs," about 20th century suffragists, won the two big writing awards for book and score. So it was anyone's guess, but in the end, the Tony went to "The Outsiders."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TULSA '67").

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #3: (As characters, singing) This is Tulsa 1967...

MARTÍNEZ: All right, Jeff, so there are the awards, but also, there's the show. So what did you think about the show as you were watching it?

LUNDEN: Well, I thought it moved along really well, though it was maybe not as exciting or spontaneous as last year's show, when the writers' strike meant it was done without a script. The host Ariana DeBose did a good job and danced in a couple of numbers. And while some big actors, like Jeremy Strong and Sarah Paulson won big awards, it was some of the less well-known actors who won for featured parts, who were really charming, like Kecia Lewis, a Broadway vet who won for "Hell's Kitchen." Here's a bit of her acceptance speech.

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KECIA LEWIS: I took a short break from show business and raised a son as a single parent while trying to build a career. This moment is the one I dreamed of for most of those 40 years. So I say to everyone who can hear my voice, don't give up.

MARTÍNEZ: So speaking of not giving up, I mean, Broadway hasn't given up. It's been a slog since the COVID shutdown, and Broadway has been struggling to recover. Do you think this show will maybe lead to an increase in ticket sales?

LUNDEN: Well, that's certainly the hope. It'll be interesting to see what happens with ticket sales, not just with "The Outsiders," which has been selling out recently, but with shows that didn't win big prizes. A lot of these shows adapted their numbers to play for the cameras, and some even brought in stars to help add pizzaz. Alicia Keys and Jay-Z did "Empire State Of Mind," which is the finale of "Hell's Kitchen." So we'll see.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, that's Jeff Lunden, who covers Broadway for NPR. Jeff, thanks.

LUNDEN: Thanks, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jeff Lunden
Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.