The 69th Annual Tony Awards: A Historic Night for Women

By Bridget McCarthy ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Stage Editor

The cast of Fun Home with their Tony Award for Best Musical. Photo Credit: David Gordon/TheaterMania
The cast of Fun Home with their Tony Award for Best Musical. Photo Credit: David Gordon/TheaterMania
The 69th Annual Tony Awards proved to show female power, especially through the wins of heartfelt musical Fun Home. Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, the songwriters behind Fun Home, became the first women writing team to take home the Tony for Best Musical Score.
Fun Home as a full production also won the night’s biggest award, Best Musical, a positive feminist statement in itself. The musical, which is based on female writer Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel, features a queer woman protagonist based on Bechdel herself. The show escorts the audience through the girl’s complicated life as she finds herself and her sexuality within a complicated web of family ties, which reveal her and her father are more similar than she thought.
Marianne Elliton with her Tony Award for Best Director of a Play. Photo Credit: David Gordon/TheaterMania.com
Marianne Elliot with her Tony Award for Best Director of a Play. Photo Credit: David Gordon/TheaterMania

Catherine Zuber also took one home for the women after winning Costume Design of a Musical for The King and I revival at Lincoln Center Theater. Viewers were convinced the award was well-deserved after seeing Kelli O’Hara’s magnificent dress in the show’s featured number, with a petticoat so huge people took to Twitter to make jokes along the lines of “Kristin Chenoweth is practicing under O’Hara’s dress right now.” But all jokes aside, the costumes moved across the stage as characters of their own, a truly stunning sight.
Along with female success in the musical categories, the plays also saw similar victories with Marianne Elliot winning for Best Direction of a Play for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Bunny Christie along with Finn Ross won for Best Scenic Design also for Curious Incident, which highlighted a truly astonishing set made up of LED lights.
Although these wins are something to celebrate, the Tony’s still have a long ways to go. The historic win for Tesori and Kron occurred during a commercial break, giving the viewers at home no time to truly appreciate the gain. Also, after winning Best Musical Fun Home producer Kristin Caskey’s speech was interrupted to make time for a closing performance of, what other than Jersey Boys, a show with an extremely male-heavy cast.

Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori with their Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and Best Music and Lyrics. Photo Credit: David Gordon/TheaterMania
Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori with their Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and Best Music and Lyrics. Photo Credit: David Gordon/TheaterMania
It is no secret that the Tony Awards highlights its actors more than its behind-the-scenes creators, and its musicals over Broadway’s equally as important plays. Most design or creation awards took place on commercial breaks, and where each musical had a live number to perform, the plays only had a short, pre-filmed reel played before the winner was announced.
Of course, although there is always room for improvement, last night was a triumph nonetheless for females as well as the non-commercial side of theater. Instead of choosing high-grossing favorite An American in Paris for Best Musical, the more heartfelt show with a lesbian, female protagonist was chosen with Fun Home. These wins should be celebrated without cynicism, as long as Broadway-lovers recognize progression should be a constant. With the outcome of this ceremony, it will be interesting to see how the 70th Annual Tony Awards play out next year. Hopefully the community only continues to grow with winners across all demographics, genders, sexualities, and ethnicities, and that the best show is always chosen over the commercial favorite.
Only nine women have won a Tony for directing, but only one single woman has won an Oscar for the same category. The stage is showing strides in both its creators and productions, and hopefully the silver screen can take some notes from Broadway as the arts continue to include and celebrate artists beyond the white, heterosexual male.

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