Jonathan Groff Shouts Out Spring Awakening, Billy Porter Cheers for Kara Young, and Other Moments From the 2024 Tony Award Press Room | Playbill

Tony Awards Jonathan Groff Shouts Out Spring Awakening, Billy Porter Cheers for Kara Young, and Other Moments From the 2024 Tony Award Press Room

Join Playbill backstage as we interview the winners straight from the stage.

Kara Young Heather Gershonowitz

It's the Broadway Superbowl! The 77th Annual Tony Awards are held June 16 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. And Playbill is in the house. After the red carpet comes the Tony Awards ceremony, which is broadcast live in a two-part event, with The Tony Awards: Act One streaming free on Pluto TV's ET channel beginning at 6:30 PM ET and The 77th Annual Tony Awards on CBS beginning at 8 PM ET (learn how to watch it here).

As one-by-one, the winners are announced and accept their awards, they are then ushered backstage out of the Koch Theatre and across Lincoln Center plaza to the official Tony Awards press room. There, they are greeted by the press who are the first to talk to the newly minted winners. And Playbill is right there in the room (where it happens).

Join Playbill's Margaret Hall for a special live blog covering the comings and goings from the press room, with commentary, reports from backstage, and more. Reload this page as the evening progresses for the latest updates.

12:30 AM: And just like that, six hours after the press room opened for business, we have shut our doors and are headed to the afterparty! Congratulations to this years crop of illustrious winners and their equally deserving fellow nominees. Support art, support artists, and have faith in art's ability to transform the human heart. Goodnight!

12:16 AM: When handed her Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, Hell's Kitchen's Maleah Joy Moon's reaction was heartwarming. "This feels fake. This feels like a dream come true. And it feels like it's not real, but also the most real thing that's ever happened to me. It's joyful and unnerving and everything all at once."

Jonathan Groff Heather Gershonowitz

11:53 PM: Within seconds of walking into the room, Merrily We Roll Along's Jonathan Groff was in tears. Groff left the following message for his young self, who grew up deep in rural Pennsylvania. "The pure joy, inspiration, excitement, and passion for the arts is a superpower. Believe in it and follow it and trust it, it can change your life. It has. I wouldn't even need to tell him that, because I guess he did it."

Through throat choking sobs, Groff also explained why it was so important for him to mention Spring Awakening in his speech. "We did our Spring Awakening reunion two years ago, and we've all reconnected in November of 2021. And then in January of 2022, I got Merrily We Roll Along. And I watched Maria Friedman's production on YouTube, and Frank came out with the red folder. And over one shoulder was Charley, just exactly like Moritz. And the other shoulder was Mary, which is where Lea Michele was. And it was his memory of these friends. We recreate that in the same position. And so there's a lot of reflecting and remembering and appreciating of that Spring Awakening experience. That changed my life. It inspired me to come out of the closet when I was 23 years old, and found who I was at that time. That show changed my career and changed my life. And it felt essential to mention and everybody involved in that show, because it was so meaningful to me. The show invites us all to touch that part of ourselves, that we have inside of us that calls us to follow that spiritual pursuit of truth."

11:44 PM: As Merrily We Roll Along is about the fierce connection of friend families, so too has the developmental process been a family affair. When reflecting on the journey she and her sister Maria Friedman have gone on with the Sondheim-Furth musical, producer Sonia Friedman is overcome with emotion. "It's been one of the most extraordinarily emotional parts of our life. I feel so proud of her as her younger sister. Everything about Merrily is really about love. And that's what's carried this whole experience, and I think that's what's on that stage every day."

Will Brill Heather Gershonowitz

11:16 PM: After publicly thanking his therapist onstage, Stereophonic's Will Brill had a message of truth to share with any other artists who may struggle behind the scenes in the way both he and his character Reg struggle. "I think this is maybe a common thing for a lot of artists, because we're such front facing people. There's a lot of people pleasing that happens, and we sacrifice being honest a lot of the time for that sake. I think there's a tendency to cover up while we're going through. My advice, to anyone who is struggling, is to try to be honest with yourself and try to be honest with the people who love you, because they will continue to love you if they see you suffering. That was a really hard lesson for me to learn, and having this therapist was really integral in helping me through that. There's a lot of ways in which I parallel Reg, and without my therapist, I don't think I would have really been able to have fully go on this journey."

11:11 PM: When reflecting on how the audience reaction to Appropriate has changed in the decade since it was first produced, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' had the following to say. "I do think that in the last 10 years, there's been a evolution in our vocabulary and everyone's a shared concepts that we didn't have. Such as white fragility, such as critical race theory. That wasn't happening in 2014 when this appeared at the Signature Theatre. It's my big blessing that the world keeps turning."

11:07 PM: As gasps ricocheted through the room after The Outsiders won Best Musical, Sarah Paulson immediately deferred. "Oh god, I'm so sorry, I don't want to take away from this moment!" As the room began discussing the merits of each musical nominated this season, Paulson added, with a glimmer in her eye, "I love a dark horse."

Sarah Paulson and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Heather Gershonowitz

11:04 PM: Having just won her first Tony off of her first nomination, Appropriate star Sarah Paulson was floating on cloud nine. "I don't feel like I'm in my body right now. It's very hard to meet this moment in front of a lot of people, without feeling like I'm exposing myself. This is truly a childhood dream."

10:58 PM: Stereophonic's playwright, David Adjmi, delivered a tongue-in-cheek lament to his own process as director Daniel Aukin smiled only a few feet away. "I am a bit perverse, in terms of how I like to make things. It can be hard for my collaborators, but not because I want to make it hard. I just think that there's something about virtuosity on the stage, and demanding that for my collaborators that excites me. And I think it's the product of watching people like Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse when I was a kid, and seeing extreme virtuosity again and again in their perfectionism. I think there's something in me that wants to see how tough I can make it for myself. And everyone on this show, they all met the bar. And that is extremely satisfying."

10:25 PM: Stereophonic director Daniel Aukin underlined the importance of Off-Broadway producer Playwrights Horizons, as well as composer Will Butler's lived experience, in the show's journey to form a truly believable 1970s rock band. "It was only possible because we were being produced by a theatre that really understood the enormity of the task. They gave us six and a half weeks of rehearsal, because you can't teach that foundation, you have to find it. We did it gradually, and eventually [the actors] play the real gig, opening for Will's band, to forge a real experience. There's nothing like a live room full of strangers giving you the space to find something, and they gave that to us."

Kara Young Heather Gershonowitz

10:25 PM: As Kara Young entered the press room after several hours of backstage celebrations, the room erupted into cheers which nearly brought Young to tears. While her run since the pandemic shutdown, which has seen her Tony nominated every single season, is remarkably impressive, her career didn't begin in 2021. When asked to shine a spotlight on someone else doing the good work off of the Broadway stage, Young highlighted playwright NSangou Njikam with flowing cries. "I say this wholeheartedly. I am grateful to have worked with every playwright, every director, and every cast that I have been a part of my theatre career. But NSangou Njikam, who is the creator and star of Syncing Ink is someone who has worked incredibly hard. This play is like 10 years in the making. I first read the play in 2015. I just love him, and I respect the fact that Syncing Ink is a play that sets out to heal. It is his expression of all of our infiniteness. It deserves a spotlight."

10:17 PM: An Enemy of the People star Jeremy Strong finds fierce resonance in the plays message to the country in yet another charged election cycle. "This is a play about a person trying to communicate the truth, on its most fundamental level. The water is an allegory. It's a play about someone trying to tell the truth, which is under assault in our country, and in our world, in a lot of ways right now. It's also a play about denialism. What people will do to avoid an uncomfortable or inconvenient truth to protect their self interests. In our case in this country, what happens when what is poisonous is also prosperous, and what people will do to protect that well of prosperity. It has been a profound privilege to do this this year."

9:51 PM: Reflecting her 40-year career, Kecia Lewis shared her personal definition of endurance. "Endurance means listening to your own guidance within yourself, and listening to the guidance of those that you know have your best interests at heart. If there's any question whether they do or not, then that's not to be paid attention to, in my opinion. It means a lot of work, a lot of tears, a lot of wanting to give up, a lot of not knowing whether I had what it took to endure, and to just keep going."

Daniel Radcliffe Heather Gershonowitz

9:47 PM: When asked about his Merrily We Roll Along director Maria Freidman, Daniel Radcliffe waxed rhapsodic-"I cannot say enough about Maria. Maria. Maria can engender emotion in actors more than I've ever seen anyone else do. She made me cry with a note once; not in a terrible way! She has a direct line to the material, and in a show that is so much about friendship...She just highlights that love, and you feel it radiate from her."

9:34 PM: Special Tony Award winner Alex Edelman cut off his own speech, when Shaina Taub won Best Score for Suffs. "OH MY GOD! Sorry, sorry, I know I'm supposed to talk, but that's like my best friend. I can't believe she won both! Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow wow."

9:31 PM: When reflecting on Just For Us's extended journey to Broadway, Special Tony Recipient Alex Edelman shared one particularly heartwarming stop on the show's journey to New York. "I was doing a preview of the show during the World Cup in England, and England was playing Croatia, and there were eight people in the audience even though that they had sold 300 tickets. I've never told anybody this, genuinely, honest to god. This woman raised her hand, and I went, 'Do you want to take a break until the game's over?' And she said 'Yes please.' And the audience and I ran across the screen, watch the game, and then came back to finish the show."

Alex Edelman Heather Gershonowitz

9:17 PM: All tears in the winners circle as Daniel Radcliffe and Kecia Lewis took home top honors for their featured performances in Merrily We Roll Along and Hell's Kitchen, respectively. As the cohort celebrated Radcliffe's speech as one of the best of the night, and erupted in laughter at Kecia Lewis's phone troubles (we get it girl), a publicist stuck her head through the door, a wide smile on her face: "I love this community!"

8:59 PM: The room echoed with applause when Danya Taymor received the award for Best Direction of a Musical for her direction of The Outsiders, with exclamations of "Holy Moly!," "Oh my god!," and "THIS IS MY SUPER BOWL" audible from throughout the press corps.

8:43 PM: Upon Kara Young's win for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Purlie Victorious, the winners circle erupted into cheers as Billy Porter exclaimed "It's about damn time!"

Billy Porter Heather Gershonowitz

8:38 PM: Isabelle Stevenson Award recipient Billy Porter, on how his artistry fuels his activism: "I made the active choice, after about 10 years here in New York, to really make the focus of my work about making a difference, about making a change, about reaching people and changing the universe. The Toni Morrison quote really resonated with me, that as artists, we have the power to heal. We do. That's the reason why we're attacked so often. That's the reason why our funding is cut. They fear us, whoever they are. They fear us because we do have the power to change the world. Forever."

8:24 PM: After receiving the first Tony award for Hair and Wig Design for her work on Jaja's African Hair Braiding, Nikiya Mathis reflected on the turning point in her career that opened her up to a greater sense of self: "There was a show I did last year that was really traumatic for me. There were people working below me, and even in management, that weren't supporting me. I was the one black woman on the show, and there was a lot of microaggressions, and people thinking 'Who are you? How many Broadway musicals have you designed?' I would walk into that beautiful theatre every day, feeling like I was at war. They almost knocked me all the way down. And then there was a turning point where I said 'no more.' I went to the producer and said, 'Either this person goes or I go. I don't I don't need this.' Like, you know, you may need this for your life, but I have a real life, and real feelings, and I don't need Broadway to define me. I'm here because I have a purpose here. And when I made that change, when I stood up for myself and wasn't afraid anymore, all of a sudden there was an understanding and a knowing. So if anybody comes to me and says, 'Oh, you've only been on Broadway for this many years,' I will say 'Yes. And I'm great.' They thought that they were gonna break me, but they really built a diamond."

Nikiya Mathis Heather Gershonowitz

8:09 PM: After Cody Spencer's speech was cut off on the television broadcast following an excited expletive, he elaborated in the winners' circle: "I don't know what part of my speech got cut off! I was crying, and all my friends, people I love and trust, were staring at me and I couldn't believe it was happening. And I totally forgot I was on an award show. I'm really grateful to be standing here, receiving this. There's some hard work in this show to to make it happen. And we did something special, that I don't think you see going to every provincial show, I'm just really excited that I'm here for this. So thanks!"

7:52 PM: Excellence in Theatre Education award winner Cjay Hardy Philip paid tribute to her lifelong mentors in the winners room: "My mom is an amazing woman. She has been a mentor to me. She was a part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, my mom actually swept the floor around Dr. King's seat while they were planning the bus boycott. She was a community activist. She's a writer and a poet. She fought for her voter rights, and she is kind of a rock star to me. But I also was very fortunate, when I came to New York to pursue Broadway, I had Susan Stroman as a mentor. And when I did my last Broadway show, it was with Jack O'Brien. I told him today, working with him was a beautiful benediction. I am so grateful that I get to pass that on to the young people that I work with in Baltimore."

Justin Peck Heather Gershonowitz

7:46 PM: Said choreographer Justin Peck when discussing his cavalcade of performers in Illinoise: "I never call my cast dancers. I think they are so much more than that; they're actors, they're storytellers, they're just speaking a language that happens to be dance, and that's always how I've thought about this show."

7:41 PM: George C. Wolfe shared the following advice for young artists: "Meet someone and connect with them. Come up with a vision, build a piece together. I worked with my friends before I worked with with those of a certain stature, and that's where I started to grow and to build competence. It allows you to exercise, and get in touch with your passion and your ferocity, and and then you're off to the races. If something scares, you do it."

7:35 PM: As set designer David Zinn was speaking in the winners' circle, his collaborator Ryan Rumery won Best Sound Design for a Play for his work on Stereophonic. Said Zinn: "What was tricky about the design was making a fully soundproof room upstairs. This is a show in which the sound is an enormous part of the character, and part of the show, and if that doesn't function correctly, then nothing functions correctly. So what you see on stage happened very quickly once we were able to figure out the technical needs of the upstage sound room." As Rumery made his way inside the winners room, Zinn couldn't resist one last zinger: "Don't tell him I said anything nice!"

David Zinn Heather Gershonowitz

7:34 PM: David Zinn elaborated on the challenges alluded to in his acceptance speech with the following in the winners' room: "My husband's been very ill over the last year. He's better now, and I'm happy to have him with me at the Tonys this year. But it's been...You know, I'm sure everybody in this room has had a time when their child or their parent or their partner has needed a lot more attention. And it has been this very strange, fulfilling artistic year, but it was also this crazy, sort of ping-pong game. I was lucky to be in the room with great friends and colleagues, who were able to both give me time to do my work, which gives me a lot of strength, but also gave me time to be with my husband."

7:28 PM: Designer Tom Scutt celebrated the diversity of identity that is interwoven in his Cabaret designs. "Coming out of the pandemic, I and the everybody else in the production had a burning desire to stand up and be the people that that we wanted to be. It was very, very important that our team was incredibly inclusive, and representative of the people that are in the story. Ultimately, Cabaret is kind of about freelance artists, and countercultural performance. Myself and Rebecca [Frecknell, the productions director] worked very hard to populate the team, the company, the cast, and the crew with those people. This production is a very big celebration of all the identities of people."

Shaina Taub Heather Gershonowitz

7:23 PM: In the winners' circle, Tony-winning book writer Shaina Taub had the following to say regarding Suffs transformation in the journey from Off-Broadway to Broadway: "One of the most substantive forms of change was the addition of a spoken book. I love sung-through musicals, and I thought Suffs was a sung-through musical. I really studied the books that I loved, from musicals like Ragtime, in order to embrace writing spoken dialogue. I hadn't really thought of myself as a playwright, but going through this process, I found that part of myself."

7:11 PM: Said Costume Designer Dede Ayite in the winners circle: "Growing up in Ghana, I always designed clothes. I went to school for set design, and after I graduated, in a moment of despair and really struggling, I did some deep soul searching and decided that if I was going to live this life and give it my all, I was going to do what spoke to my heart, and the thing that caused me to wake up every day and strive to do better was designing clothes. There's nothing like being in a fitting room with an actor finding a character, shaping it, and being a part of the team that transforms that actor in front of you. It is such a specific and special moment, and it gives me light every single day."

Dede Ayite Heather Gershonowitz

7:04 PM: From the winners' circle, Costume Designer Linda Cho's advice to early career female creatives at the start of their educational career: "Try everything. Do a little math, do a little science, do a little fine art. Try it all. You never know what's gonna stick. My undergrad is in psychology, and I thought I was going to do Pre-Med. Take tons of electives!"

When reflecting on her late mother's inability to see her succeed in a creative field before her passing, Cho had the following to say: "My mother was what you would describe as a tiger mom. And she said, 'You have two choices. You can be a doctor or a lawyer.' And for her, those were the most difficult jobs that she could think of, for her that was reaching for the stars. But ultimately, she just wanted me to be happy. Unfortunately, she never got to see a single show I designed. It has been over 200 at this point, and I know she'd be thrilled for me, and thrilled for how far we've come as women and people of color."

6:30 PM: Hello hello! Welcome to Playbill's 2024 Tony Awards Live Blog! I'm Margaret Hall, coming to you from the heart of the action here at Lincoln Center, where the festivities are about to begin. The stars have hit the blue carpet, the sun is shining, and there are 26 Tonys to be distributed before the night is out. Let's get cracking!

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