Tony nominee Ariana DeBose kicked off the 94th Annual Academy Awards with a win for Best Supporting Actress, for her performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. The win follows a string of awards successes for DeBose's performance, which has also been honored with Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Awards, among others.
This is a momentous and full-circle moment, following Rita Moreno's win in the same category playing the same role in the 1961 film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents musical.
While accepting her award, DeBose thanked her predecessor. "I'm so grateful. Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much."
She continued: "Lastly, imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus. Look into her eyes, you'll see an openly queer woman of color and Afro Latina, who found her strength and life through art, and that's what I believe we're here to celebrate. To anybody who's ever questioned your identity or find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us."
Encanto, featuring original music by Hamilton writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, won the Oscar for Animated Feature Film recognizing the director-writer duo Jared Bush and Byron Howard, and producers Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer, as winners.
The coming-of-age drama CODA won big at the ceremony, taking home three Oscars including Best Picture, Best Writing of an Adapted Screenplay for Siân Heder, and Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur.
Kotsur became the first Deaf man to take home an acting award at the award show. The new Oscar winner specifically thanked the Deaf theatres that gave him his start in his acceptance speech, referring to such companies as California's Deaf West Theatre, where Kotsur has starred in productions of Spring Awakening, Cyrano, and Big River. Kotsur starred in the latter in its 2003 Broadway transfer as well.
Theatre fans can reportedly look forward to a stage musical adaptation of CODA, co-produced by Deaf West.
Olivier winner Kenneth Branagh was awarded Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for his work on the drama Befast. The actor and filmmaker starred in the revival of Look Back in Anger, The Crucible Theatre's Richard III, and the West End revival of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov. He served as the director for the 2016 West End production of Romeo and Juliet and Broadway's The Play What I Wrote in 2003.
Will Smith, who was a producer on the Tony nominated musical Fela! and its 2012 revival, won Best Leading Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard.
Winning Best Actress in a Leading Role for her title role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye is Jessica Chastain. The actor was last seen on the West End stage in the 2020 revival of A Doll's House, following her Broadway debut as Catherine Sloper in the 2012 revival of The Heiress.