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Sunday September 25th, 2022 12:17AM

Tonys Latest: Show starts; Ferguson wins 1st acting award

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on the Tony Awards (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

Host Ariana DeBose has kicked off the Tony Awards and Jesse Tyler Ferguson has won the first acting award of the night.

DeBose, wearing a sparkling white jumpsuit and wide-brimmed hat, danced and sang a song that mashed up shards of musical theater favorites, like “Chicago, “The Wiz,” “Evita,” “Rent,” “Hair,” “Cabaret,” “Hairspray” and “West Side Story,” the movie remake for which she won an Oscar.

Still panting while welcoming viewers, she told the crowd that this was the season “Broadway got it’s groove back.”

Moments later, Ferguson won the Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for his work in the revival of “Take Me Out.”

“I can't believe I get to do this for a living,” Ferguson said, thanking his mother and father for letting him move to New York City to pursue his acting dream.

Richard Greenberg’s play is an exploration of what happens when a Major League Baseball superstar comes out as gay, tracing the way it unsettles the team and unleashes toxic prejudices. Ferguson plays the superstar’s unathletic gay accountant.

Ferguson, a five-time Emmy-nominated star of TV’s “Modern Family,” has had previous roles on Broadway, including “On the Town,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Fully Committed.” This is his first Tony.

Ferguson beat out Alfie Allen from “Hangmen,” Chuck Cooper in “Trouble in Mind,” Ron Cephas Jones from “Clyde’s” and two of his “Take Me Out” co-stars — Jesse Williams and Michael Oberholtzer.

___

MORE ON THE TONYS

— Tony Awards begin with non-acting honors handed out

— List of Tony winners so far

— On Broadway, more visibility, yes, but also an unseen threat

— Pioneering Camille A. Brown creates a Broadway rainbow

— Tracy Letts on writing his play and then having to act in it

___

8 p.m.

Eleven Tony Awards were handed out Sunday before the main telecast, spreading trophies across seven shows.

“Six: The Musical” picked up awards for best score and costumes for a musical. The revival of “Company” nabbed best scenic design for a musical. Best orchestrations went to “Girl From the North Country.” And “The Lehman Trilogy” won for best scenic design of a play and lighting design of a play.

“The Skin of Our Teeth” won best costumes for a play, “MJ” won for choreography, best lighting of a musical and sound design of a musical and “Dana H.” won for sound design of a play.

The main event with host Ariana DeBose will start live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.

___

7:15 p.m.

Darren Criss and Julianne Hough have kicked off a one-hour Tony Award celebration at Radio City Music Hall, handing out mostly technical awards like best scenic and lighting design on Paramount+.

Hough and Criss opened their portion of the telecast with his original song, “Set the Stage,” celebrating the artists who keep theater alive.

The first award of the night — for best score — went to “Six: The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Marlow is the first out nonbinary composer-lyricist to win a Tony.

A total of eight design awards will be handed out along with best score, as well as the award for orchestrations and ending with choreography. The main event with host Ariana DeBose will start live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.

“A Strange Loop,” a theater meta-journey about a playwright writing a musical, goes into the telecast with a leading 11 Tony nominations. Right behind with 10 nominations each is “MJ,” a bio musical of the King of Pop, and “Paradise Square,” a musical about Irish immigrants and Black Americans jostling to survive in New York City around the time of the Civil War.

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6:30 p.m.

It has taken playwright Michael R. Jackson almost two decades to take his musical “A Strange Loop” to Broadway and he says the recognition is a sort of validation.

“It feels wonderful. It feels like a real validation of all the time, the blood, the sweat, the tears we put into this piece. I’ve worked on this musical for almost 20 years, and so to be here after having stuck to my guns feels like such a validation,” Jackson said on the Tony red carpet.

In the musical, we meet the character Usher, an unhappy playwright slumming as an usher at “The Lion King.” Usher is haunted by a Greek chorus of voices — his thoughts as well as homophobic family members — who pummel, undercut and berate him. Jackson said there’s a little Usher in him.

“Usher is a character that I’ve certainly created to sort of deal with some things that I was thinking about. But he’s grown so far beyond that and I’ve grown so far beyond that,” he said. “Watching every night feels really exciting because I’m watching a piece of art that I started from like a really formative time, sort of really become something bigger than any sort of personal experience that I was having.”

___

9 a.m.

Darren Criss’ favorite night of the year has arrived. It’s the Tony Awards. “I’ll never shut up about the Tonys. I love the Tonys,” he says.

Criss will not only be watching the Tonys on Sunday, he’ll also be working. He’s co-host with Julianne Hough of a one-hour pre-Tony celebration at Radio City Music Hall, and he’s even written an original song about the show that he’ll perform, revealing “a bit of my nerdy proclivities.”

Criss and Hough will be handing out creative arts Tonys on Paramount+ and then pass hosting duties to Ariana DeBose for the main three-hour telecast on CBS from the same stage, live coast to coast for the first time.

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