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Tony Awards 2019: Seven things to know, from bathroom humor to Elaine May’s first win at 87

Host James Corden at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. (Brendan McDermid)
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Last night at the Tony Awards, James Corden hosted for the second time and “Hadestown” dominated a hard-working but unsurprising ceremony. Laura Linney and Audra McDonald fake-fought in the aisles, making fun of how little actual drama the Tonys pack.

Here are seven things to know from the telecast.

A recap of the Tony Awards

1) James Corden probably missed “Hamilton” a lot.

Corden had “Hamilton” as fuel during his first stint in 2016, and with his Carpool Karaoke and “Crosswalk the Musical” bits, he has emerged as a genuine, even imaginative, Broadway enthusiast. Corden’s opening number paid tribute to live theater as he sang on his couch: “Trade the remote for the near/ Leave your couch and travel here.”

That led to a high-energy song and dance that set a generic, slightly high-strung tone for the night. Corden’s always good company, but inspiration was scarce, and his best bit came halfway through the show. Corden, fretting about his performance in the men’s room, sang “Michael in the Bathroom” from the teen angst musical “Be More Chill.”

The punchline: Last year’s co-hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles were hiding out there, too.

“You’re not by yourself, James,” Groban said, with Bareilles popping out of a stall a second later. (In the men’s room? “It’s 2019, James,” Bareilles said. “Get over it.”)

Linney and McDonald squabbling? That was a self-aware skit about how somebody had to do something to gin up Tonys interest.

The 73rd annual Tony Awards celebrated Broadway’s best performances of the year on June 9. (Video: REF:Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

2) “Hadestown” took eight awards, and looked like the night’s most interesting musical.

The night’s big winner was not, like so many Broadway musicals this season, spun off a movie title or jukebox collection. It’s a folk-jazz fable based on Greek myth, and with the cast performing a brooding ballad amid mist and swinging lights, it felt like a genuinely intriguing show. Brand names “Tootsie,” “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” and “Beetlejuice,” on the other hand, generally came across as frantic.

Complete list of Tony winners

3) Ali Stroker woke up the show twice.

Stroker became the first person who uses wheelchair to win a Tony. As Ado Annie in Daniel Fish’s darkly reimagined “Oklahoma!,” the ebullient Stroker instantly held the stage solo with her rocket energy and great country, croon-belt singing in “I Cain’t Say No.” That was about a half-hour before she won.

On June 9, Ali Stroker became the first wheelchair user to be nominated and win a Tony Award. Here’s what you need to know about her groundbreaking career. (Video: The Washington Post)

“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation or a challenge who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” she said.

4) “Hadestown” director Rachel Chavkin gave the night’s most galvanizing speech.

Chavkin used her moment to urge for more diversity: “[‘Hadestown’] is about whether you can keep faith when you are made to feel alone, and reminds us that that is how power structures try to maintain control, by making you feel like you’re walking alone in the darkness even when your partner is right there at your back. This is why I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway this season,” she said to rising cheers.

5) At 87, Elaine May won her first Tony.

The writer-director-comedy legend was named best actress for playing a woman losing her mental faculties in Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery.” “At the end of the play I die,” May said in an understated, witty speech. “My death was described onstage by Lucas Hedges. . . . He was so touching, that watching from the wings I thought, ‘I’m going to win that guy’s Tony!’ ”

6) Plays once again got left out of the fun.

In a new twist on the annual problem of how to represent the nominated best plays, playwrights were given a minute to “explain” their shows. “The Ferryman” author Jez Butterworth diverged from the plan right off the bat, instead using his time to pay tribute to his life partner (whose family experience inspired the drama, based on Northern Ireland’s Troubles).

On the other hand, “Moonlight” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy” got to perform a full scene — a musical scene that was one of the night’s knockouts. That further underscored how left out plays are on Tonys night.

7) Nobody went full DeNiro.

Last year, Robert DeNiro grabbed the night’s biggest roar with his profane two-word curse of President Trump. This year, no one mentioned the president’s name, but oblique critiques were common.

“We are living through difficult times, but we have to be hardy and we have to be tough,” said producer Eva Price, accepting a Tony for best revival of a musical for “Oklahoma!”

“Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” writer Taylor Mac, wearing a maximum glam outfit that included a towering headdress, explained the play this way: “It asks the question, how can one cope when it feels like you’re living in a sequel of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play? When mass shootings, immoral leadership and an escalation of revenge are everywhere, how can you cope?”

Here’s what celebrities wore at the 2019 Tony Awards

June 9, 2019 | Marisa Tomei. (Peter Foley/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)