Tonys: ‘Once on This Island’ won, but Black nominees didn’t fare as well

Linda Armstrong | 6/14/2018, 12:01 p.m.
One sadly consistent thing at the 72nd annual Tony Awards, which recognize excellence in Broadway theater, was that no Black ...

One sadly consistent thing at the 72nd annual Tony Awards, which recognize excellence in Broadway theater, was that no Black actor who was nominated won. The Tony did not go to Denzel Washington for “The Iceman Cometh,” Condola Rashad for “Saint Joan” (which also closed Sunday, June 10), Lauren Ridloff for “Children of a Lesser God,” Hailey Kilgore for “Once on This Island,” Joshua Henry for “Carousel,” LaChanze and Ariana DeBose for “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” Brian Tyree Henry for “Lobby Hero” or director George C. Wolfe for “The Iceman Cometh.” It was so disappointing that none of these stellar performers got the chance to stand up and make their way to the stage. These actors were brilliant in their respective roles. Well, all I can say is bravo for your passionate, energized, exciting and entertaining performances.

One positive thing that can be said for this year’s Tonys as far as performers of color are concerned, is that “Once on This Island,” a fantastic show, won for best musical revival. (Of the 22 members of the cast, 21 are African-Americans.) This superb cast consists of Tamyra Gray, Quentin Earl Darrington, Alex Newell, Phillip Boykin, Courtney Carter, Darlesia Cearcy, Rodrick Covington, Emerson Davis, Alysha Deslorieux, Tyler Hardwick, Cassondra James, David Jennings, Grasan Kingsberry, Kenita R. Miller, Isaac Powell, T. Oliver Reid, Ximone Rose, Anthony Wayne, Aurelia Williams, Mia Williamson, Hailey Kilgore and Lea Salonga.

Hispanic-Americans were recognized at the Tony’s this year, as Chita Rivera was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Rivera has thrilled audiences with her singing and dancing for decades, whether in movies or on the Broadway stage. A performer since 1950, she is the first Hispanic woman and first Latino-American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor.

“When I was told I was going to receive this wonderful honor I said, ‘Does that mean that it’s over, that it’s finished?’” Rivera said. “It absolutely does not.”

She thanked her parents, Julio and Catherine. She added, “How I wish my mother was here to see that her decision to put me in ballet class because I broke up the furniture in the house was correct. I thank the great choreographers I was privileged to learn from, like Jack Cole, Michael Kidd, Peter Gernaro and Bob Fosse—just some of the little ones.”

John Leguizamo was given a special Tony for the shows he has written and performed on and off Broadway, including “Mambo Mouth,” “Spic-O-Rama,” “Ghetto Klown,” “Freak,” “Sexoholic…a Love Story” and his latest, “Latin History for Morons.” He gave an acceptance speech that was funny, moving and honest.

“I’m an immigrant and I’m not an animal,” he said. “This award means a lot to me because it validates my work in the theater, because in order for me to make it in theater, I had to create my own parts. … All you have to do is to write a great freaking story, and if you write it they will come. And if you write it for Latin people and people of color they will come. … Latin people are the least represented. …My hope is that someday our stories won’t be the exception, but the rule. … That I will live to see a Broadway with our stories written by us, for us and for all…”