2022 Tony Awards: Sondheim Tribute, Ariana DeBose’s Opener & More Must-See Moments

Ariana DeBose performs onstage at the 75th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 12, 2022 in New York City
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards

The 2022 Tony Awards were a glitzy night of celebration. Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose hosted the evening, which honored 75 years of Broadway history, and those that walked away victorious included A Strange Loop for Best Musical, The Lehman Trilogy for Best Play, Company for Best Revival of a Musical, and Take Me Out for Best Revival of a Play.

Patti LuPone won her third Tony for Company, and her fellow acting winners were Joaquina Kalukango (Lead Actress in a Musical for Paradise Square), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Featured Actor in a Play for Take Me Out), Phylicia Rashad (Featured Actress in a Play for Skeleton Crew), Matt Doyle (Featured Actor in a Musical for Company), Deirdre O’Connell (Lead Actress in a Play for Dana H.), and Simon Russell Beale (Lead Actor in a Play for The Lehman Trilogy).

From the high-energy opening number to Bernadette PetersStephen Sondheim tribute, here are the best moments from the 75th annual Tony Awards, in no particular order.

Ariana DeBose’s Opening Number

DeBose, a Tony nominee and Broadway veteran, excelled as this year’s host. She put her immaculate singing and dancing on display in an original song that included a medley of some of Broadway’s most famous tunes. One of the most fun moments was when she gave a shout-out to Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom she worked with on Hamilton and Bring It On: The Musical.

Some of the shows referenced in the Tonys opening number were WickedCabaretChicagoHairsprayThe WizThe Sound of Music, A Chorus Line, and more.

Bernadette Peters’ Stephen Sondheim Tribute

I mean… Peters singing a tribute to Sondheim. Need I say more? OK, I’ll say more. I cried my whole way through this! For those who don’t know, Peters and Sondheim were constant collaborators throughout their careers. Peters was in many of Sondheim’s original Broadway casts, taking on the iconic roles of the Witch in Into the Woods and Dot in Sunday In the Park with George.

Introduced by Miranda with a story about the letters Sondheim penned to friends, fans, and mentees, Peters honored her dear friend by singing “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods. At the end, she turned and blew a kiss to Sondheim’s photo projected behind her.

Joaquina Kalukango’s “Let It Burn” from Paradise Square & Best Actress Win

Any theater fan who watches “best Tonys performances” videos on YouTube should immediately add this to their list. Joaquina Kalukango blew the house down with her impassioned performance of “Let It Burn” from Paradise Square. The only thing that was better than her performance was her win.

Kalukango won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, and to cap it all off, her friends and fellow Tony winner Cynthia Erivo and nominee Danielle Brooks announced the category. Their emotional reactions and Kalukango’s Tony speech made for one of the most memorable moments of the night.

A Strange Loop Performs “Intermission Song”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical took home two of its 11 Tony nominations. It won for Best Musical and its creator, Michael R. Jackson, won Best Book of a Musical. Tony nominees Jaquel Spivey, L Morgan Lee, John-Andrew Morrison, and the rest of the cast took to the stage to perform A Strange Loop‘s opening number, which takes viewers into the main character, Usher’s, inner world as he tries to write a “big, black, and queer-ass American Broadway show.”

Spivey and his cast mates brought humor and mind-bending storytelling to the Tonys stage in this form-breaking musical that you simply must see.

MJ Performs “The Way You Make Me Feel” & “Smooth Criminal”

Led by Myles Frost as Michael Jackson, the cast of MJ was introduced by Jackson’s children, Paris and Prince Jackson. Frost’s take on the music icon and his moves was uncanny, and watching the performances of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Smooth Criminal,” it’s no wonder MJ won Best Choreography.

It also took home Best Lighting Design of a Musical, Best Sound Design of a Musical, and Frost won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, & The Music Man Cast Perform “76 Trombones”

If you haven’t been able to catch Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster tap-dancing their lives away in The Music Man on Broadway, the Tony Awards gave you your first chance. The two nominated stars and their fellow cast members delighted the audience with a performance of “76 Trombones” that was high energy and full of smiles.

Six: The Musical & an Ode to Broadway Swings, Understudies, Alternates, Captains, & Crew

Swings, understudies, alternates, and dance captains have been helping keep theater running ever since Broadway reopened. They are the reason the shows go on when cast members test positive for COVID-19, and DeBose made sure to honor their work during the Tony Awards, as well as honoring the hard-working Broadway crews.

“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,” DeBose said. “And let’s not forget the stage managers and the associates and the dance captains who rehearsed them to go on in a moment’s notice.”

Her point was proven when Six: The Musical performed its opening number, “Ex-Wives” (another high of the night — performance above). The actor playing Jane Seymour in this performance stepped in 12 hours before showtime. The show must go on, and swings and understudies help make that happen!

What was your favorite moment of the night? Sound off in the comments, below.