Jonathan Groff at the 2024 Tony Awards
Jonathan Groff at the 2024 Tony Awards

The 77th Tony Awards took place in New York City last night and queer actors won two of the biggest acting awards. 

Jonathan Groff (Looking, Mindhunter) won ‘Best Actor in a Musical’ for his performance in Merrily We Roll Along. Sarah Paulson took Best Actress in a Lead Role for her part in the play Appropriate.

A jubilant Groff gave one of the evening’s most emotional acceptance speeches. He began by thanking his parents. They were sitting in the audience. 

“Thank you for letting me dress up as Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to them. “For letting me act out scenes from I Love Lucy on my tenth birthday. Thank you for always allowing my freak flag to fly without ever making me feel weird about it.

“Even if they didn’t always understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of flanning the flame of a young person’s passion without judgment.”

That line prompted a round of applause.

“I walk through life with an open heart because you let me know that I could,” Groff continued, getting choked up.

He went on to thank other key figures in his life, including teachers and people he’d previously worked with in his career, including those who inspired him to come out of the closet when he was 23. 

He went on to pay tribute to the crew and cast of Merrily We Roll Along, highlighting co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez. Groff called them “more than old friends … You are soulmates, and I’m looking forward to watching each other change for the rest of our lives.”

Watch the whole speech below.

Daniel Radcliffe and Sarah Paulson

Merrily… co-star Daniel Radcliffe also won his first Tony Award. The former Harry Potter star also paid tribute to his castmates, which prompted more tears from Groff in the audience. 

Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, Ratched) beat fellow nominees, including Jessica Lange and Rachel McAdams, to win her award. In her acceptance speech, Paulson thanked her partner, Holland Taylor, “for loving me.”

Sarah Paulson and Elle Fanning in "Appropriate."
Sarah Paulson and Elle Fanning in “Appropriate.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Lifetime achievement awards for theater titans

Writers and directors George C. Wolfe, 69, and director Jack O’Brien, 84, who are both gay, shared the 2024 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theater. 

Accepting his award, O’Brien said, “There is a fragile web of belief we chase each night in these houses. It’s the only real magic accorded to us…. But when it works, it can change lives. It changed mine. And here you all are.”

In another well-received speech, Wolfe said, “I’d like to thank my parents who…told me I had a responsibility to honor the culture that I come from and to join other cultures and connect with them, so that I can learn very early on: it didn’t need to look like you to be about you.”

Maleah Joi Moon

Maleah Joi Moon (left) and Chris Lee in "Hell's Kitchen."
Maleah Joi Moon (left) and Chris Lee in “Hell’s Kitchen.” Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

Other highlights included Maleah Joi Moon, who identifies as queer, won Best Actress in a musical for Hell’s Kitchen.

The event was hosted by Ariana DeBose for the third year in a row. Here’s her opening number.

The other big winners on the night included Succession’s Jeremy Strong (Best Actor in a Lead Role for An Enemy of the People); Stereophonic (Best Play); and The Outsiders (Best Musical). 

Lastly, although not winning any awards, a highlight of the red carpet was theater producer Jordan Roth, 48.

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