Michael R. Jackson Credit: Linda Armstrong photo

Blacks came away seen at the 75th annual Tony Awards. While there were only five winners, the wins were huge. “A Strange Loop” won for best musical and best book of a musical! This meant that Michael R. Jackson came to the stage twice and he was glorious! His musical “A Strange Loop” is about a fat, gay Black man, writing a musical about a fat, gay Black man. The musical looks at the struggles and insecurities Jackson experienced growing up as, guess what—a fat, gay Black man. It has humor, wonderful songs and incredible singing. This is a musical with a great deal of heart. An elated Jackson reflecting on his journey shared, “I started this musical when I was 23 years old, I’m 41 now, I’m as old as hell. I wrote it at a time I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t know how I was going to move forward. I felt unseen, unheard, misunderstood and I just wanted to bring a little bit of a life raft for myself to just get through the day.” In the media room Jackson was asked about the musical’s impact on members of the LGBTQ community, as this musical makes sure that he as a gay, Black man is seen and also appeared to have that effect on members of the LGBTQ community, as they felt seen and recognized. Regarding how much his work means to others Jackson said, “It means a lot because when I started writing this piece I was writing it for ‘myself,’ at a time when I thought no one was listening to me or could see me. I continued to work on it for almost a 20-year period and got a group of collaborators of other people who also felt that way and then took that story to the stage and shared with audiences who also felt that way, this goes to the power of art and theater to bring people together and let everybody sort of in the secret that we’re not alone and there’s more that unites us than divides us.”

A theatrical treasure who walks in elegance and grace, Phylicia Rashad won the Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play, for Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew” produced by Manhattan Theatre Club. Rashad in her acceptance speech said, “You don’t come to this place alone. It’s the work of many people. Dominique Morisseau thank you for writing a play that only you could do and Ruben Santiago-Hudson for presenting with a work that was challenging. Thank you for casting the play and giving me wonderful actors. And thank you to the wonderful people who came to see it. It’s wonderful to be a part of this community with its fullness and to feel its love.” Talking later about acting, Rashad shared, “Acting is a very compassionate art. Acting is understanding.” She embodied Faye with such compassion. “Dominique Morisseau poured her love into this play, for the people that make things. Everything you see, you use and touch is the fruit of somebody’s labor. You don’t pick up a fork and realize someone made that, we don’t think about those people. Faye’s life was not easy, but this woman was intelligent, her choice of words leads you to know that and her heart was big and she was tough because life had taught her that she had to be tough. She was equally as gentle as she was tough. She was a complete human being. Every single night there would be something new about her. What I have learned about this craft is that I must continue to learn and grow,” Rashad shared.

Myles Frost made history at the 75th annual Tony Awards on Sunday at the age of 22; he became the youngest person to receive the Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical in the history of the Tonys! Anyone who has experienced Frost in “MJ” as Michael Jackson knows that he completely embodies the character and channels the creative spirit and energy of the late King of Pop. Frost delivers the character with love, respect and precision, in addition to the signature dance moves. A tearful Frost said, “I’m so honored and so blessed and so grateful…Mom I love you so, so much, without you there would be no me. You have taught me and shown me what a strong Black woman is…Dad, I love you…” In the media room he said, “I think Michael has been one of the pioneers of Black music culture. He inspired me and he inspires others, it’s something I see in the audience every night.”

Joaquina Kalukango so deservedly won the Tony for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical for her performance as Nelly in “Paradise Square.” The recognition couldn’t have been more appropriate! Kalukango is absolutely stunning, poignant and dazzling in her delivery as Nelly, a Black woman in an interracial marriage who owns a bar called Paradise Square. The musical tells a historic story about a community that once existed in lower Manhattan in which Irish immigrants and freed Blacks loved and married. A very emotional Kalukango said, “My name Joaquina means ‘established by God,’ so I have to give thanks to God who has kept me through this crazy journey.” She thanked her family, her teachers in high school, her producers, her company and all of the nameless ancestors who have suffered. “This show gives power to them. I honor them,” she shared. In the media room Kalukango was still emotional as she shared that she feels overwhelmed and completely grateful. There is so much love from our community and the people who come to see the show. We love sharing with the audiences.” To muster and bring the energy for every performance, she admits, “it’s been a challenge, because with this show you can’t not bring your all. You have to, to honor the people of the Five Points community. There are so many incredible shows on Broadway, please find the ones that get you excited and go out and support them!”

I’m so thrilled that Broadway is back and the excitement and joy of the Tony Awards demonstrated that beautifully!

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