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'Kimberly Akimbo' and non-binary actors reign supreme at Tony Awards 2023

The ceremony saw two non-binary actors win prizes for the first time.
The ceremony saw two non-binary actors win prizes for the first time. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Theo FarrantAP
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The musical "Kimberly Akimbo" emerged as the unexpected victor at the Tony Awards. J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell also became the first non-binary actors to win Tonys for acting.

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In a night filled with exceptional talent and groundbreaking achievements, the Tony Awards celebrated the triumphs of the Broadway stage.

As the Hollywood writers' strike posed challenges, the intimate and heartfelt musical "Kimberly Akimbo" emerged as the shining star, taking home the coveted musical crown. 

Furthermore, history was made as non-binary actors J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell claimed their well-deserved Tony Awards.

Find a full list of the winners at the end of this article.

Kimberly Akimbo wins big

AP Photo
David Stone and members of the company of "Kimberly Akimbo" accept the award for best musical at the 76th annual Tony Awards on 11 June 2023AP Photo

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire with captivating songs by Jeanine Tesori, "Kimberly Akimbo" tells the story of a teenager with a rare genetic disorder facing a life expectancy of 16. 

Navigating a dysfunctional family and a high school romance, the show's lead, Victoria Clark, added another Tony to her collection, having previously won for "The Light in the Piazza" in 2005. 

Producer David Stone acknowledged the magical storytelling of the writers, describing "Kimberly Akimbo" as a profound and joyous musical comedy that explores the fragility of life. 

The production garnered an impressive five awards, including Best Book and Best Score.

A historic night for inclusivity

AP Photo
Alex Newell accepts the award for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical for "Shucked" at the 76th annual Tony AwardsAP Photo

The Tony Awards reached a significant milestone when J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell became the first nonbinary individuals to win Tonys for acting. 

Last year, composer and writer Toby Marlow broke barriers as the first nonbinary Tony winner. 

Ghee, a remarkable talent known for their soulful voice and dance skills, took home the award for Leading Actor in a Musical for their portrayal in "Some Like It Hot," an adaptation of the classic cross-dressing comedy film. 

Expressing gratitude to the Broadway community, Ghee delivered a powerful message of inspiration, declaring that anyone can achieve greatness regardless of their identity. 

Newell, who mesmerised audiences with their signature number in "Shucked" as the independent whiskey distiller Lulu, won the award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. 

“Thank you for seeing me, Broadway. I should not be up here as a queer, nonbinary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone that thinks that they can't do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Newell said to standing ovation.

Jodie Comer flies the flag for Europe

AP Photo/Invision
Jodie Comer accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play for "Prima Facie" at the 76th annual Tony AwardsAP Photo/Invision

Jodie Comer, the three-time Emmy nominated British star of "Killing Eve,"won the award for Leading Actress in a Play for her Broadway debut in "Prima Facie." 

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The thought-provoking one-woman show, which made headlines last week when Comer stopped the performance due to breathing difficulties caused by New York's air crisis, sheds light on the failures of current laws in addressing sexual assault cases. 

Despite facing challenges, Comer's powerful portrayal and the show's impactful message resonated with audiences and earned her a well-deserved Tony Award.

Other notable winners

AP Photo
Tom Stoppard, center, and members of the company of "Leopoldstadt" accept the award for best play at the 76th annual Tony AwardsAP Photo

Another standout production, Tom Stoppard's "Leopoldstadt," which delves into Jewish identity through an intergenerational narrative, claimed the award for Best Play. 

The play also earned recognition for director Patrick Marber, featured actor Brandon Uranowitz, and Brigitte Reiffenstuel's exceptional costume design. 

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Sean Hayes, recognized for his powerful performance in "Good Night, Oscar," claimed the award for Lead Actor in a Play. 

“This has got to be the first time an Oscar won a Tony,” Hayes cracked on stage. 

Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Topdog/Underdog" triumphed as the Best Play Revival, showcasing its compelling exploration of sibling rivalry, inequality, and broken societal promises.

Solidarity on stage

AP Photo
Miriam Silverman accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play for "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window" at the 76th annual Tony AwardsAP Photo

Throughout the ceremony, presenters and winners used their platforms to address social issues and advocate for inclusivity and acceptance. 

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Winners demonstrated their support for the striking writers either at the podium or on the red carpet with pins. 

Miriam Silverman, who won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play for “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” ended her speech with: “My parents raised me to believe in the power of labour and workers being compensated and treated fairly. We stand with the WGA in solidarity!”

Bonnie Milligan, who won for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “Kimberly Akimbo,” also had a message to the audience: “I want to tell everybody that doesn’t maybe look like what the world is telling you what you should look like — whether you’re not pretty enough, you’re not fit enough, your identity is not right, who you love isn’t right — that doesn’t matter." 

“’Cause just guess what?” she continued, brandishing her award. “It’s right, and you belong.”

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The telecast, hosted by Ariana DeBose, featured performances from all the nominated musicals and Will Swenson - starring on Broadway in a Neil Diamond musical - led the audience in a vigorous rendition of "Sweet Caroline." 

Lea Michele of “Glee” and now “Funny Girl” fame also performed a soaring version of “Don't Rain on My Parade.

Here's the full list of winners at the Tony Awards 2023:

Best New Play:

"Ain't No Mo'"

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"Between Riverside and Crazy"

"Cost of Living"

"Fat Ham"

"Leopoldstadt" - WINNER

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Best New Musical:

"& Juliet"

"Kimberly Akimbo" - WINNER

"New York, New York"

"Shucked"

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"Some Like It Hot"

Best Play Revival:

"A Doll's House"

"The Piano Lesson"

"The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window"

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"Topdog/Underdog" - WINNER

Best Musical Revival:

"Camelot"

"Into the Woods"

"Parade" - WINNER

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"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Best Book of a Musical:

"& Juliet"

"Kimberly Akimbo" - WINNER

"New York, New York"

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"Shucked"

"Some Like It Hot"

Best Leading Actress in a Play:

Jessica Chastain, "A Doll's House"

Jodie Comer, "Prima Facie" - WINNER

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Jessica Hecht, "Summer, 1976"

Audra McDonald, "Ohio State Murders"

Best Leading Actor in a Play:

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, "Topdog/Underdog"

Corey Hawkins, "Topdog/Underdog"

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Sean Hayes, "Good Night, Oscar" - WINNER

Stephen McKinley Henderson, "Between Riverside and Crazy"

Wendell Pierce, "Death of a Salesman"

Best Leading Actress in a Musical:

Annaleigh Ashford, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

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Sara Bareilles, "Into the Woods"

Victoria Clark, "Kimberly Akimbo" - WINNER

Lorna Courtney, "& Juliet"

Micaela Diamond, "Parade"

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Best Leading Actor in a Musical:

Christian Borle, "Some Like It Hot"

J. Harrison Ghee, "Some Like It Hot" - WINNER

Josh Groban, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Brian D'Arcy James, "Into the Woods"

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Ben Platt, "Parade"

Colton Ryan, "New York, New York"

Best Featured Actor in a Play:

Jordan E. Cooper, "Ain't No Mo'"

Samuel L. Jackson, "The Piano Lesson"

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Arian Moayed, "A Doll's House"

Brandon Uranowitz, "Leopoldstadt" - WINNER

David Zayas, "Cost of Living"

Best Featured Actress in a Play:

Nikki Crawford, "Fat Ham"

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Crystal Lucas-Perry, "Ain't No Mo'"

Miriam Silverman, "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window" - WINNER

Katy Sullivan, "Cost of Living"

Kara Young, "Cost of Living"

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Best Featured Actor in a Musical:

Kevin Cahoon, "Shucked"

Justin Cooley, "Kimberly Akimbo"

Kevin Del Aguila, "Some Like It Hot"

Jordan Donica, "Camelot"

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Alex Newell, "Shucked" - WINNER

Best Featured Actress in a Musical:

Julia Lester, "Into the Woods"

Ruthie Ann Miles, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Bonnie Milligan, "Kimberly Akimbo" - WINNER

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NaTasha Yvette Williams, "Some Like It Hot"

Betsy Wolf

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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