Audra McDonald, LaChanze & Celia Rose Gooding Win at Broadway Black’s Inaugural Antonyo Awards

Michael Appler

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Six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald added to her trophy case on Friday night, picking up a win at the inaugural Antonyo Awards, a celebration of Black theater artists.

“Let’s celebrate with each other,” McDonald said, accepting her award for best actor in a play on Broadway before the virtual audience of theatergoers. “We have much to be proud of in our community, so let’s hold each other up and move forward.”

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Presented by the Broadway Black organization, the Antonyo Awards ceremony stepped into a Tony-less year to exalt the best of Black theater, virtually. “The Antonyo Awards seek to fill the gap between Black talent and public acknowledgement,” executive producer Drew Shade said during the show. “Not in competition but in the spirit of community and celebration, we uplift Black theater artists because our lives matter and our art matters.”

The award ceremony — which gave out expected prizes, like best actor, play, musical and revival trophies, as well as a few novel awards, like best quarantine content — featured a host of Broadway names and guests, including McDonald, Cynthia Erivo, Tituss Burgess, Alex Newell, LaChanze, and Chuck Cooper. “It’s like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Tony night and the NAACP Image Awards rolled into one,” quipped Michael Benjamin Washington, who won for best solo performance.

In recent weeks, the theater industry, like many others, has been compelled to see and address the systemic racism within its operation, and the Antonyo Awards, broadcast live, were driven by that spirit of change. “Toni Morrison once wrote, ‘Nobody was minding us, so we minded ourselves,’” said playwright Donja R. Love, who accepted a special Langston Hughes Award. “And this moment is a mighty minding of self.”

Since anti-racism protests have gripped the country, BIPOC theater makers have condemned power dynamics between white theater owners and Black artists, called out the tokenization of BIPOC actors on stage, and circulated a 16,000-member petition to install the Apollo Theater as a Broadway house. “There’s a movement afoot in our nation and the world, and it is doing what we strive to do in the theater,” said 16-time Broadway alum Cooper, who accepted an award for lifetime achievement. “That’s to promote empathy and to do so in a collaborative effort, and it is the social justice movement, the young people out in the streets around the world, who are the vanguard of this important, vital work.”

Notably, the ceremony was held on Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the official end of slavery in America 155 years ago. The holiday has always been about storytelling — about remembering the institution of slavery to keep alive the vital importance of freedom — so it was natural to honor Black theater, McDonald explained. “For Black artists, finding a home in musicals is essential,” she said. “Our stories are powerful. Our songs are glorious, and our people are unstoppable. The magic of telling stories is a legacy that we, as Black people, must protect fiercely.”

With that resolve, the ceremony matched the painful recognition of continued inequality with the cheerful exaltation of free expression. Sasha Allen sang the “Black National Anthem,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Medleys of milestone Black musicals were performed and favorite monologues from Black plays were read. A Black vaudeville-style tap battle played out over Zoom and Shireen Pimentel, “West Side Story’scurrent Maria, gave a commencement address for Black youth.

For her lead role in Kenny Leon’s all-Black “Much Ado About Nothing,” Danielle Brooks took home an award for best actor in a play off-Broadway. “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” won best musical, and its star, Adrienne Warren took home best musical actor. Best Play went to “BLKS” and the Public Theater’s production of “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” took home best revival.

“Black resilience is what pushes pop culture, art culture, and American culture forward in a country that does not want us to be resilient,” summed “Jagged Little Pill’s” Celia Rose Gooding, accepting her award for best featured actor in a musical, while her mother, Tony-award winner LaChanze also took home a trophy for best actor in an off-Broadway musical.

“As a Black woman it is so hard to find spaces that celebrate you as the most authentic version of yourself,” she said, adding off-air, “Antonyos at the Apollo?!? YES PLEASE.”

Watch the full ceremony in the video above and see below for the full list of winners:

Best Musical
“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”

Best Play
“BLKS” by Aziza Barnes

Best Revival
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”

Best Actor in a Musical on Broadway
Adrienne Warren, “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”

Best Actor in a Play on Broadway
Audra McDonald, “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”

Best Actor in a Musical Off-Broadway
LaChanze, “The Secret Life of Bees”

Best Actor in a Play Off-Broadway
Danielle Brooks, “Much Ado About Nothing”

Best Featured Actor in a Musical on Broadway
Celia Rose Gooding, “Jagged Little Pill”

Best Featured Actor in a Play on Broadway
Chalia La Tour, “Slave Play”

Best Featured Actor in a Musical Off-Broadway
Jasmine Cephas Jones, “Cyrano”

Best Featured Actor in a Play Off-Broadway
Okwui Okpokwasili, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf”

Best Solo Performance
Michael Benjamin Washington, “Fires in the Mirror”

Best Book
Michael R. Jackson, “A Strange Loop”

Best Original Score
“The Secret of Life Bees”

Best Director
Lileana Blain-Cruz, “Anatomy of A Suicide”

Best Choreography
Camille A. Brown, “For Colored Girls Who Have Committed Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”

Best Lighting Design
Allen Lee Hughes, “A Soldiers Play”

Best Scenic Design
Lawrence E. Moten III, “Native Son”

Best Sound
Rucyl Frison, “Anatomy of a Suicide”

Best Costumes
Toni-Leslie James, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”

Best Hair & Wig Design
Nikiya Mathis, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”

Best Orchestrations
“Skinfolk: An American Show”

Best Quarantine Content
Daniel J. Watts, The Jam IG Live

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