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Tony Awards 2019: ‘Boys in the Band,’ ‘The Cher Show’ pick up wins

‘Hadestown’ leads with triumphs for eight categories

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The cast of ‘The Boys in the Band’ at the 2019 Tony Awards. (Screenshot via YouTube)

“The Boys in the Band” received the award for Best Revival of a Play at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday making 83-year-old playwright Mart Crowley the oldest playwright to win the award.

The play tells the story of a group of gay friends who gather together to celebrate a friend’s birthday in pre-Stonewall New York City. It opened off-Broadway in 1968. For the play’s 50th anniversary, the production was revived in 2018 with co-producer Ryan Murphy and director Joe Mantello.

The openly gay revival cast included Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Tuc Watkins and Michael Benjamin Washington.

Murphy is also planning a film adaptation for Netflix featuring the Broadway cast.

Crowley dedicated the award to the original cast in his acceptance speech.

“I’d like to dedicate the award to the original cast of nine brave men, who did not listen to their agents when they were told that their careers would be finished if they did this play,” Crowley said. “They did it, and here I am.”

“Hadestown” was the big winner of the evening, which was hosted by James Corden, coming in with eight wins.

Bisexual actress Ali Stoker, also known for her work on “The Glee Project,” won Best Featured Actress in a Musical for portraying Ado Annie in the “Oklahoma!” revival.

Stephanie J. Block won Best Actress in a Musical for playing Cher in “The Cher Show.” Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie and longtime Cher collaborator also won Best Costume Design in a Musical for “The Cher Show.” Cher celebrated the multiple wins with an emotional tweet.

Gay winners continued to dominate the night with Robert Horn winning Best Book of a Musical for “Tootsie,” Sergio Trujillo winning Best Choreography for The Temptations musical “Ain’t Too Proud” and André DeShields winning Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Broadway hit “Hadestown.”

The Tonys included some starring looks including Billy Porter who rocked the rainbow-backdropped red carpet, which honored World Pride, with a Celestino Couture created from the velvet curtains of “Kinky Boots.” Porter won a Tony Award for starring in the musical in 2013. The outfit is reportedly meant to resemble women’s reproductive organs in a stand for abortion rights.

“The Prom” cast also performed and included the kiss that made history at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for being the first same-sex kiss to air on the televised parade.

Check out the list of winners below.

Best Play “Choir Boy” “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” “Ink” “The Ferryman” “What the Constitution Means to Me”

Best Musical “Ain’t Too Proud” “Beetlejuice” “Hadestown” “The Prom” “Tootsie”

Best Revival of a Play “All My Sons” “Burn This” “The Boys in the Band” “The Waverly Gallery” “Torch Song”

Best Revival of a Musical Kiss Me, Kate “Oklahoma!”

Best Book of a Musical “Ain’t Too Proud” by Dominique Morisseau “Beetlejuice” by Scott Brown and Anthony King “Hadestown” by Anaïs Mitchell “The Prom” by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin “Tootsie” by Robert Horn

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre “Be More Chill” by Joe Iconis “Beetlejuice” by Eddie Perfect “Hadestown” by Anaïs Mitchell “The Prom” by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Adam Guettel “Tootsie” by David Yazbek

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play Paddy Considine, “The Ferryman” Bryan Cranston, “Network” Jeff Daniels, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Adam Driver, “Burn This” Jeremy Pope, “Choir Boy”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play Annette Bening, “All My Sons” Laura Donnelly, “The Ferryman” Elaine May, “The Waverly Gallery” Laurie Metcalf, “Hillary and Clinton” Janet McTeer, “Bernhardt/Hamlet” Heidi Schreck, “What the Constitution Means to Me”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical Brooks Ashmanskas, “The Prom” Derrick Baskin, “Ain’t Too Proud” Alex Brightman, “Beetlejuice” Damon Daunno, “Oklahoma!” Santino Fontana, “Tootsie”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical Stephanie J. Block, “The Cher Show” Caitlin Kinnunen, “The Prom” Beth Leavel, “The Prom” Eva Noblezada, “Hadestown” Kelli O’Hara, “Kiss Me, Kate”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play Bertie Carvel, “Ink” Robin De Jesús, “The Boys in the Band” Gideon Glick, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Brandon Uranowitz, “Burn This” Benjamin Walker, “All My Sons”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play Fionnula Flanagan, “The Ferryman” Celia Keenan-Bolger, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Kristine Nielsen, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” Julie White, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” Ruth Wilson, “King Lear”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical André De Shields, “Hadestown” Andy Grotelueschen, “Tootsie” Patrick Page, “Hadestown” Jeremy Pope, “Ain’t Too Proud” Ephraim Sykes, “Ain’t Too Proud”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical Lilli Cooper, “Tootsie” Amber Gray, “Hadestown” Sarah Stiles, “Tootsie” Ali Stroker, “Oklahoma!” Mary Testa, “Oklahoma!”

Best Scenic Design of a Play Miriam Buether, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Bunny Christie, “Ink” Rob Howell, “The Ferryman” Santo Loquasto, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” Jan Versweyveld, “Network”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini, “Ain’t Too Proud” Peter England, “King Kong” Rachel Hauck, “Hadestown” Laura Jellinek, “Oklahoma!” David Korins, “Beetlejuice”

Best Costume Design of a Play Rob Howell, “The Ferryman” Toni-Leslie James, “Bernhardt/Hamlet” Clint Ramos, “Torch Song” Ann Roth, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” Ann Roth, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Best Costume Design of a Musical Michael Krass, “Hadestown” William Ivey Long, “Beetlejuice” William Ivey Long, “Tootsie” Bob Mackie, “The Cher Show” Paul Tazewell, “Ain’t Too Proud”

Best Lighting Design of a Play Neil Austin, “Ink” Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” Peter Mumford, “The Ferryman” Jennifer Tipton, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden, “Network”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical Kevin Adams, “The Cher Show” Howell Binkley, “Ain’t Too Proud” Bradley King, “Hadestown” Peter Mumford, “King Kong” Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, “Beetlejuice”

Best Sound Design of a Play Adam Cork, “Ink” Scott Lehrer, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Fitz Patton, “Choir Boy” Nick Powell, “The Ferryman” Eric Sleichim, “Network”

Best Sound Design of a Musical Peter Hylenski, “Beetlejuice” Peter Hylenski, “King Kong” Steve Canyon Kennedy, “Ain’t Too Proud” Drew Levy, “Oklahoma!” Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz, “Hadestown”

Best Direction of a Play Rupert Goold, “Ink” Sam Mendes, “The Ferryman” Bartlett Sher, “To Kill a Mockingbird” Ivo van Hove, “Network” George C. Wolfe, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus”

Best Direction of a Musical Rachel Chavkin, “Hadestown” Scott Ellis, “Tootsie” Daniel Fish, “Oklahoma!” Des McAnuff, “Ain’t Too Proud” Casey Nicholaw, “The Prom”

Best Choreography Camille A. Brown, “Choir Boy” Warren Carlyle, “Kiss Me, Kate” Denis Jones, “Tootsie” David Neumann, “Hadestown” Sergio Trujillo, “Ain’t Too Proud”

Best Orchestrations Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, “Hadestown” Simon Hale, “Tootsie” Larry Hochman, “Kiss Me, Kate” Daniel Kluger, “Oklahoma!” Harold Wheeler, “Ain’t Too Proud”

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Movies

‘Cured’ beautifully chronicles fight for dignity

New doc revisits APA designation of homosexuality as a sickness

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Disguised as ‘Dr. H. Anonymous’ in an oversized tuxedo and distorted Nixon mask, Dr. John Fryer sent shock waves through the APA’s 1972 convention. (Photo by Kay Tobin; courtesy Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library)

At the 1970 American Psychiatric Association convention, in front of 10,000 professional members, LGBTQ activists had a single rejoinder to decades of APA designation of homosexuality as a sickness in need of treatment: “There is no ‘cure’ for that which is not a disease.” It marked the first direct clash with a psychiatric profession that had classified homosexuality as a mental disorder and advised everything from talk therapy to psychologically destructive shock therapy to “cure” homosexuality. 

After Stonewall, gay activists concluded that the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the APA would hold back the advancement of the gay rights movement. To secure equality, activists knew they had to debunk the idea that they are sick. 

The struggle to remove homosexuality from the APA’s definition of mental illness is beautifully chronicled in the forthcoming documentary “Cured” — beautifully because the filmmakers contrast erroneous characterizations of homosexuality by mid-century psychiatrists with mid-century photographs that bore witness to gay people’s actual nature. 

Getting the APA to change required more than storming conferences. Gay activists, for instance, pinpointed sympathetic young psychiatrists who could act to reform the APA from within and helped them win seats on the Board of Trustees. Meanwhile, the culture was changing. In the 1970s, gay visibility was growing, which boosted the campaign to end the sickness label. 

At its 1972 convention, the APA offered a platform to gay rights activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. The duo invited Dr. John Fryer to testify about what it was like to be a gay psychiatrist. Fearing damage to his reputation (he had previously lost a position for being gay), Fryer donned a mask and adopted the title H. Anonymous. Despite his cloaked persona, his testimony was, in the words of one attendee, a “game-changer.” 

Fryer spoke as a gay man with “real flesh and blood stand[ing] up before this organization and ask[ing] to be listened to” and evoked the great emotional toll of being forced to live in the closet — “this is the greatest loss: our honest humanity.” The tide was turning but the intransigent faction needed a few more kicks. Representing a new generation of psychiatrists, Dr. Charles Silverstein would lay down the gauntlet: The APA could either continue to promote “undocumented theories that have unjustly harmed a great number of people” or accept the genuine science that being gay was no illness. At the next year’s convention, in a final clash between opposing sides, Gay Activist Alliance member Ronald Gold pointed out the absurdity that a medical practice predicated on making sick people well was making “gay people sick.” The APA ended its mental illness classification in 1974. 

“Cured” represents a growing awareness of the history of “curing” homosexuality. Netflix recently premiered “Pray Away” about the so-called “ex-gays” who promoted conversion therapy, the destructive practice by fundamentalist Christian quacks. The film “Boy Erased” (2018) took a similar sledgehammer to conversion therapy. 

Precisely because of the long-term ill-effects of stigmatizing gay consciousness, the LGBTQ community has in recent years targeted conversion therapy. Twenty states have banned conversion therapy for minors, and an additional five states have enacted partial bans. 

Although thoroughly discredited by medical professionals, including the APA, conversion therapy continues to harm thousands of youths each year. While “Cured” is instructive for LGBTQ activists combatting conversion therapy nationwide, it has an even more important lesson. 

“There isn’t anything wrong with them, so there can’t be anything wrong with me,” is how one gay man remembers feeling upon entering a gay bar, witnessing convivial gay men and realizing it was time to ditch his homophobic shrink and embrace himself. 

It struck a deep chord with me because I had a similar epiphany as a young man. Feeling my way around my sexuality as a grad student in New York, it all finally came together one night at a Greenwich bar as I sat across from two gay men and chatted about traveling and career ambitions. I am doing nothing wrong, I thought. It made no sense to be afraid of living my life as a gay man.

Our determination to live openly remains a potent inspiration for those still struggling with acceptance, and the strongest rebuke of those who would seek to erase us. 

“Cured” premieres on PBS on Oct. 11. 

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Books

A bisexual coming-of-age tale with heart

‘Things We Couldn’t Say’ offers pleasant surprises

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(Book cover image courtesy of Scholastic)

‘Things We Couldn’t Say’
By Jay Coles
c.2021, Scholastic $18.99/320 pages

You’d like an explanation, please.

Why something is done or not, why permission is denied, you’d like to hear a simple reason. You’ve been asking “Why?” since you were two years old but now the older you get, the more urgent is the need to know – although, in the new book “Things We Couldn’t Say” by Jay Coles, there could be a dozen becauses.

Sometimes, mostly when he didn’t need it to happen, Giovanni Zucker’s birth mother took over his thoughts.

It wasn’t as though she was the only thing he had to think about. Gio was an important part of the basketball team at Ben Davis High School; in fact, when he thought about college, he hoped for a basketball scholarship. He had classes to study for, two best friends he wanted to hang out with, a little brother who was his reason to get up in the morning, and a father who was always pushing for help at the church he ran. As for his romantic life, there wasn’t much to report: Gio dated girls and he’d dated guys and he was kinda feeling like he liked guys more.

So no, he didn’t want to think about his birth mother. The woman who walked out on the family when Gio was a little kid didn’t deserve his consideration at all. There was just no time for the first woman who broke his heart.

It was nice to have distractions from his thoughts. Gio’s best friends had his back. He knew pretty much everybody in his Indianapolis neighborhood. And the guy who moved across the street, a fellow b-baller named David, was becoming a good friend.

A very good friend. David was bisexual, too.

But just as their relationship was beginning, the unthinkable happened: Gio’s birth mother reached out, emailed him, wanted to meet with him, and he was torn. She said she had “reasons” for abandoning him all those years ago, and her truth was not what he’d imagined.

There are a lot of pleasant surprises inside “Things We Couldn’t Say.”

From the start, author Jay Coles gives his main character a great support system, and that’s a uniquely good thing. Gio enjoys the company of people who want the best for him, and it’s refreshing that even the ones who are villains do heroic things.

Everyone in this book, in fact, has heart, and that softens the drama that Coles adds – which leads to another nice surprise: there’s no overload of screeching drama here. Overwrought teen conflict is all but absent; even potential angsts that Gio might notice in his urban neighborhood are mentioned but not belabored. This helps keep readers focused on a fine, relatable, and very realistic coming-of-age story line.

This book is aimed at readers ages 12-and-up, but beware that there are a few gently explicit, but responsibly written, pages that might not be appropriate for kids in the lower target range. For older kids and adults, though, “Things We Couldn’t Say” offers plenty of reasons to love it.

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Television

Father & Trans son musical duo make history on NBC’s ‘The Voice’

“I do have a special connection to the concept of a Blind Audition where the only thing that matters is the art and who the person is inside”

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Jim and Sasha Allen performing on NBC's The Voice, Sept. 21, 2021 (Screenshot via NBC)

BURBANK – The unique folksy blend of the voices in a sweet rendition of the John Denver classic song “Leaving on a Jet Plane” this week on NBC’s The Voice, caused celebrity judges Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande to mash their buttons and turn their chairs around and face the performance.

Unbeknownst to the entire panel of judges, which also includes John Legend and Blake Shelton, they were witnessing a bit of history for the reality musical talent search television show. On stage was 57-year-old music teacher Jim Allen and his son Sasha- the moment was groundbreaking as the 19-year-old teen singer is a Trans male.

In the pre-performance video profile, the younger Allen reflected “I do have a special connection to the concept of a Blind Audition, where the only thing that matters is the art and who the person is inside.” Allen went on to detail more of his background; “I was born female, and I never felt comfortable, and it ate away at me the more I grew up.”

The pair from Newtown, Connecticut have an obvious deep bond. Referring to his kid, the elder Allen said: ““It’s a parent’s job to listen to your child, even when it’s hard to understand them,” he then added. “And that brought forth extreme sadness at not having understood what he had been going through for years. […] While it is such a big and extraordinary thing to absorb, there are fundamental things that don’t change about a person. And it’s nice to be at that point where, you know, it’s not a big deal.”

Jim and Sasha Allen (Screenshot via NBC)

“I remember at night just laying in bed and thinking, ‘If I could just wake up as a completely different person, I would do it. I would give up everything I have to be able to live in peace and live comfortably without being tormented internally.’ I used to write in notebooks, ‘I feel like a boy. I want this so bad.’ And I’d shred it up into such tiny pieces, because I was so scared for anybody to know,” the younger Allen shared.

“The only way to feel like me was to transition to male. I dealt with a lot of hateful comments, whether it was from my classmates or from teachers. I wouldn’t have been able to get through high school without music and without art to express what I was going through,” he said.

Duo Jim and Sasha Allen Sing John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” | The Voice Blind Auditions 2021:

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