Tony awards 2024: Stereophonic, Merrily We Roll Along and The Outsiders win big

<span>Playwright David Adjmi (centre) and the cast and crew of Stereophonic accept the award for best play at the 2024 Tonys. Stereophonic was the most nominated play in the awards’ history with 13 nods.</span><span>Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters</span>
Playwright David Adjmi (centre) and the cast and crew of Stereophonic accept the award for best play at the 2024 Tonys. Stereophonic was the most nominated play in the awards’ history with 13 nods.Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The 77th annual Tony awards were dominated by major wins for shows Stereophonic, Merrily We Roll Along and The Outsiders as well as actors Jeremy Strong and Daniel Radcliffe.

Stereophonic, the most nominated play in Tonys history with 13 nods, picked up five awards including best play. It tells the story of a British-American rock band in the 1970s trying to make an album.

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Playwright David Adjmi spoke about how it took him 11 years to get it to the stage. “It’s really hard to make a career in the arts, we need to fund the arts in America,” he said on stage. The Guardian’s Gloria Oladipo called it “a triumphant example of what happens when art has the time to develop” in a five-star review.

A revival of Stephen Sondheim’s one-time flop musical Merrily We Roll Along picked up four awards. The show, which initially closed abruptly after release in 1981, won best revival of a musical, while stars Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff won for their performances.

Radcliffe thanked his parents for playing Sondheim in the car, and called the play “one of the best experiences of my life” while paying tribute to his cast and crew. “I will never have it this good again,” he said.

Groff, who has been nominated twice before, gave an emotional speech in which he said that “musical theatre is still saving my soul” and paid tribute to his parents for allowing him to be himself.

The Outsiders, based on SE Hinton’s novel and produced by Oscar winner Angelina Jolie, was named best musical and picked up three other awards. Danya Taymor, niece of famed director Julie Taymor, won for best direction in a year when women counted for the majority of directing nominees.

Emmy-winning Succession star Jeremy Strong won for lead actor in a play for his performance in An Enemy of the People, winning out against Liev Schreiber and William Jackson Harper. He called Henrik Ibsen’s cautionary environmental play “a cry from the heart” with “difficult truths that are staring us down right now”.

Hell’s Kitchen, loosely based on the life of Alicia Keys and featuring her music, picked up two awards for actors Maleah Joi Moon and Kecia Lewis. Keys also performed Empire State of Mind on stage with Jay-Z.

Darkly comic family drama Appropriate won for best revival of a play and best actress in a lead role for Sarah Paulson who beat out Jessica Lange and Rachel McAdams. She thanked playwright Branden Jacobs Jenkins for giving her a character who had a “hope to be seen” and spoke of why theatre is an important way of finding out what it means to be human. It also won for lighting design of a play.

Host Ariana DeBose paid tribute to an “ambitious Broadway season” with 36 new productions. “Headlines are frankly terrifying most of the time but theatre is a safe place for us all,” she said. She later made a joke about her viral Bafta rap from last year, claiming she is writing a three-hour musical based on it.

The night was filled with A-listers who have been behind the scenes this season with Oscar winner Jolie, Oscar nominee Taraji P Henson and Hillary Clinton all in attendance. Clinton, who received a standing ovation, talked about the importance of voting during her introduction to a song from suffragette musical Suffs.

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There was also a special tribute to Chita Rivera, who died in January aged 91, led by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald and Bebe Neuwirth. “The air shimmered when she went on stage,” Neuwirth said with McDonald calling her one of the “quintessential” voices on Broadway.

Nominated shows that came away empty-handed included The Notebook, Mary Jane, Days of Wine and Roses, Lempicka and Mother Play.

The 2023 ceremony took place during the writers’ strike which meant that DeBose, who also hosted last year, was left without a script for the night. Big winners last year included Tom Stoppard’s family drama Leopoldstadt and Jodie Comer.