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Broadway's highest honors were handed out at Radio City Music Hall

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The 75th Annual Tony Awards celebrated Broadway's first full season since the COVID shutdown. And as Jeff Lunden reports, voters spread the love around.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: About an hour into the broadcast, actress Marcia Gay Harden made a special shout-out to a group of workers in the back of the theater who helped Broadway reopen successfully.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS)

MARCIA GAY HARDEN: The Broadway League celebrates the crucial role played by the COVID safety managers.

(APPLAUSE)

HARDEN: One hundred and fifty of them are here tonight as guests of the Tonys. Let's hear it.

(CHEERING)

LUNDEN: Just keeping Broadway open this season was something of a miracle. The union-mandated COVID safety managers kept track of vaccination status and test results for casts and crews on Broadway shows. Host Ariana DeBose praised some other workers.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS)

ARIANA DEBOSE: I want to give a round of applause to some people who played a vital role in keeping Broadway shows open these past few months - the understudies, the swings and the standbys.

(APPLAUSE)

LUNDEN: One of the actors for the Tony-nominated musical "Six" was actually a sub filling in for a castmate who tested positive.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIX")

SIX ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST: (Singing) We're six. Whoa, whoa. We're six.

LUNDEN: "Six" took home a couple of awards, including best score. The Michael Jackson musical "MJ" took home four, but the big winner was "A Strange Loop." That meta show about a Black, queer usher writing a musical about a Black, queer usher writing a musical was awarded best musical.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTERMISSION SONG")

JAQUEL SPIVEY: (As Usher, singing) Big, Black and queer-ass American Broadway.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As Thoughts, singing) Big, Black and queer-ass American Broadway.

LUNDEN: And its author, Michael R. Jackson, also took home a Tony for his semi-autobiographical script.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS)

MICHAEL R JACKSON: I wrote it at a time when I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. I didn't know how to move forward. I felt unseen. I felt unheard. I felt misunderstood. And I just wanted to create a little bit of a life raft myself as a Black, gay man to try to just get through the day.

LUNDEN: The musical, which took home the most awards, five, was a gender-swapped version of Stephen Sondheim's 1970 show "Company."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMPANY")

COMPANY ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST: (Singing) Phone rings, door chimes, in comes company.

LUNDEN: It opened just two weeks after the composer-lyricist's death. In addition to best musical revival, director Marianne Elliott took home her third Tony and thanked Sondheim...

(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS)

MARIANNE ELLIOTT: ...For trusting me to tell his story in a different way and putting a woman front and center.

(APPLAUSE)

LUNDEN: Sondheim was also memorialized in the segment with Bernadette Peters.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS)

BERNADETTE PETERS: (Singing) Careful the things you say.

(APPLAUSE)

PETERS: (Singing) Children will listen.

LUNDEN: Other winners included "The Lehman Trilogy," an epic three-actor drama which took home five awards, including best play, and "Take Me Out," which won two awards, including best revival. Some familiar actors won Tonys, among them Patti LuPone, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Phylicia Rashad. But some lesser known actors, for, now collected major trophies, among them Myles Frost, the 22-year-old star of "MJ," and Joaquina Kalukango, the star of the musical "Paradise Square." Perhaps the most unique performance of the season was that of best actress Deirdre O'Connell in "Dana H." The play tells a harrowing story of a woman who was abducted. And O'Connell lip-synced to the woman's real voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 75TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS)

DANA HIGGINBOTHAM: Please let me standing here be a little sign to you from the universe to make the weird art.

(APPLAUSE)

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIX")

SIX ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST: (Singing) We're one of a kind, no category. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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