If you were hoping for a redux of a certain chaotic, feel-bad awards ceremony that took place in March on broadcast television, the Tony Awards proved very much the opposite. Instead of flying fists, you got whirling jazz hands, grateful tears and a show-stopping (and newly minted Oscar winner) Ariana DeBose, kicking off the CBS telecast — quite literally — with a snazzy opening number which blended the lyrics and scores of two random musicals at a time all while wearing a white-hot Michael Jackson-inspired sequined suit.
It was otherwise a fairly by-the-numbers ceremony with some notable firsts (first-ever non-binary winner Toby Marlow, who co-won the Best Score Tony for "Six", Jennifer Hudson became an EGOT winner at long last, as producer of Best Musical winner "A Strange Loop") but not too many jaw-dropping shockers. Here are some of the surprises and snubs of the 2022 Tony Awards ceremony.
SURPRISE: "A Strange Loop" wins Best Musical
A Pulitzer-Prize winner with glowing reviews and all the heat in the universe coming in as a surprise? Well, kinda. It only won one other award during the evening (author/composer Michael R. Jackson won Best Book of a Musical) and was expected to pick up at least a few more. Plus, its heady story of a black, queer theater usher with a crisis of the mind hardly plays to Peoria, who'd probably feel more comforted by the queens of "Six" or the tunes of Bob Dylan in "Girl From the North Country". But like Jackson himself, it rose from humble origins to become a major player, and even scored producer Jennifer Hudson a slot in the EGOT winners' circle.
SNUB: "Paradise Square"
Despite a much-predicted win by powerhouse lead Joaquina Kalukango — who gave the most emotional speech of the night, not to mention the most buzzed-about solo — and an impressive 10 total nominations, the musical drama about race relations in New York's Five Points in 1863 failed to light much of a fire to translate into wins.
SURPRISE: Phylicia Rashad
Rashad was considered a little bit of a long shot given that her show closed months ago, the women of "Clyde's" (Uzo Aduba and Kara Young) were heavily-touted, and she's, errr....controversial. So the stage vet surprised some by winning her second Tony for the play "Skeleton Crew", in which she played a world-weary auto-shop worker and union rep.
SNUBS: Face Masks
Considering Broadway audience members are required to wear masks until at least the end of June, it seemed incredibly puzzling that virtually no audience members were (but good on you, Ruthie Ann Miles of "All Rise"!). So, is festive attire the new COVID booster?
SURPRISE: Deirdre O'Connell
People fumbled with the name of the play (George Takei dubbed it "Diana H." just hours before in the Paramount+ segment when it won Best Sound Design of a Play), but there was no fumbling by Tony Shalhoub and Danny Burstein announcing the veteran actress (currently seen to great effect in the Amazon Prime series "Outer Range") as the victor of an extremely competitive field including Tony favorites LaChanze and Mary-Louise Parker.
In a performance that largely consisted of lip-synching to an audio track with pitch-perfect precision, O'Connell must have remained hugely memorable in the memories of voters as "Dana H." only lasted 25 performances on the Main Stem.
SURPRISE: Simon Russell Beale
Often considered one of the greatest British stage actors alive, Beale was considered an also-ran just by the sheer fact that he was also nominated in the same category as his estimable (and also tremendous) co-stars Adam Godley and Adrian Lester in the Tony-winning drama "The Lehman Trilogy"
SNUB: Hugh Jackman
He's one of the greatest showmen on Earth (and even has a movie title to prove it) and can charm the trombones of off most any human being on Earth, but his Harold Hill couldn't find Tony trouble in River City this year. And neither, for that matter, could "The Music Man". I guess he and the production will just have to settle for being a Broadway blockbuster.
Photo: Joan Marcus
SURPRISE: "Six" wins Best Score
While "A Strange Loop" collected many of the evening's top musical awards, including Best Musical and Best Book, the score was no match for this 90-minute pop confection that reimagined the wives of Henry VIII as a Spice Girls-style girl group.
SNUB: "Mr. Saturday Night"
Billy Crystal's musical got much more award-nomination love than his 1992 film-directing debut did, with a bevy of Tony nods, including Crystal in two categories. But much like his subject, the underappreciated-in-his-time Catskills comic Buddy Young Jr., the spotlight remained elusive. It was also the only new musical nominated to end up with no hardware.