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Brits Dominate at the Tonys — and There's More to Come

The year's winningest plays debuted across the pond, and next season's likely will have, too.

A scene from A Christmas Carol on Broadway
(© Joan Marcus)

The awards power of British theater producers on Broadway was cemented once more last night in a classy Tonys ceremony stocked with nominees that originated in the United Kingdom.

Producer Sonia Friedman continues her indomitable form. Three years in a row, this producing powerhouse has taken the Best New Play prize for one of her productions: Matthew López's The Inheritance, which was first seen at the Young VIc before transferring to the West End and, subsequently, Broadway, earned the prize last night; the statue will sit nicely alongside her Best Play Tonys for Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman (2019) and Jack Thorne's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2018).

As for The Inheritance, the huge drama picked up four prizes, including Best Director for Stephen Daldry. It was an important moment when López recognized that he was the first Latinx playwright to win a Tony Award for Best Play, and how severely underrepresented the community was on Broadway. Change, he stressed, must happen.

Few would have predicted that the Old Vic's Yuletide staple – Thorne's version of A Christmas Carol – would emerge so decisively victorious among the play design categories, picking up five wins from five nominations, though Matthew Warchus' visually and aurally magnificent production has all the technical chops to bring home the bacon. It was nice to see a Best Original Score win go to a play for the first time ever (Christopher Nightingale doing Dickens proud with an atmospheric festive fever dream). You do wonder if the producers made a mistake deciding not to reopen it on Broadway this holiday season; instead, it will play the West Coast, with Bradley Whitford as Scrooge in Los Angeles and other cities, and Francois Battiste as Scrooge in San Francisco.

Andrew Burnap and the cast of The Inheritance
(© Matthew Murphy)

With winners inevitably come losers: sweetheart of screen, stage and Marvel fandom Tom Hiddleston didn't take home a prize for his turn in Jamie Lloyd's revival of Betrayal, with Lloyd himself also losing out to Daldry. For Andrew Burnap to take the top Actor prize for The Inheritance was certainly a surprise, especially opposite actors like Hiddleston, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tom Sturridge (the latter two starred in British-born plays Sea Wall/A Life by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne).

On the musical side, the Brits had less of a sturdy night, not helped by the fact that a lot of homegrown productions — Six, Marianne Elliott's revised Company, and the revival of Caroline, or Change — had the openings disrupted, and Girl From the North Country, the last show to open prior to the shutdown, didn't qualify because it hadn't invited voters. These shows now fall into what will inevitably be a traffic jam of an upcoming season, but at least Adrienne Warren of Tina didn't have to go against Caroline's Sharon D. Clarke like she did at the Oliviers. Warren took it this year; Clarke has her eyes on the prize in June 2022 for sure.

With feminist Tudor queens, the Lehman brothers, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella (which he said in recent interviews is hoping for a 2022 New York birth), and more chomping at the bit while waiting in the awards wings, the British invasion of Broadway looks set to continue apace. And what else is next? Everybody's Talking About Jamie premieres in Los Angeles in January, while & Juliet and Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt head to Toronto next year. A Delorean, may be the only way to find out.

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