From Elphabas Presenting to Daniel Radcliffe Finally Winning an Acting Prize, Here Were the Biggest Surprises of the 2024 Tony Awards | Playbill

Tony Awards From Elphabas Presenting to Daniel Radcliffe Finally Winning an Acting Prize, Here Were the Biggest Surprises of the 2024 Tony Awards

This year's Tonys kept us guessing right till the end.

Another Tony Awards is in the books, with Stereophonic becoming the most Tony-winning show of the season and The Outsiders taking the highly coveted Best Musical title! This year's Tonys kept us guessing right up to the end, from some shocking losses to some buzzy presenter pairings.

Read on to find out what we think were the biggest surprises of the night.

The Outsiders producers Hank Unger, Michael Rego, and Matthew Rego Heather Gershonowitz

Nobody Sweeps

In most award years, one show usually sweeps—remember when Hamilton won 11? But in a show of how strong the competition was this year, it was anyone’s guess who would win Best Musical. While The Outsiders took home the top prize and three other categories, it was notable that Suffs was the musical that picked up Best Book and Best Score. The frontrunner, Hell's Kitchen, which came in with 13 nominations, ended up with two Tony Awards. But aside from Stereophonic, which led with five prizes, the wins were pretty evenly divided amongst the shows.

Daniel Radcliffe Heather Gershonowitz

Daniel Radcliffe Wins His First Major Award

Daniel Radcliffe won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his work as Charley Kringas in Merrily We Roll Along, but the biggest surprise here is less that he won than it is that it is his first major award win. Best known for his iconic portrayal of the titular boy wizard in the Harry Potter film franchise, Radcliffe has gone on to enjoy a successful career on stage and screen, with past Broadway appearances in titles like Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Though he’s always been great at selling tickets and was well received in his earlier performances, award wins—and even nominations!—have mostly eluded him. Luckily, the 2024 Tony Awards finally fixed that. Your turn, Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, and Oliviers! 

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Heather Gershonowitz

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Shouts Out Purlie Victorious

It wasn’t a surprise that Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins won Best Revival of a Play. It did, after all, have the second-most Tony nominations for a play. But in a show of generosity, during his acceptance speech for the prize, Jacobs-Jenkins dedicated a portion of his speech to the Broadway revival of Purlie Victorious, saying: "I really want to share my small part of this big award with ... [Purlie Victorious playwright] Ossie Davis, [and] his family, because the truth is without Ossie Davis, I wouldn't be here. Without Purlie Victorious, Appropriate would not be here. I know people come up here and say it all the time, but it's true. If you guys want this, we can figure out an arrangement of custody. He can haunt my bedroom. I don't care. Tell me the secrets." It goes to show you, just because it’s a competition doesn’t mean there isn’t camaraderie.

Maria Friedman and Sonia Friedman Heather Gershonowitz

Merrily We Roll Along Loses Directing Tony

Many had thought the Olivier- and now Tony–winning revival of Merrily We Roll Along's director, Maria Friedman, was a safe bet to take Best Direction of a Musical, but the category ended up going to The OutsidersDanya Taymor. Narratives can be very powerful when it comes to awards shows, and "fixing" one of Sondheim’s only unsuccessful musicals was thought to be a pretty unbeatable story. It helps, too, that Friedman was extremely close with Sondheim before his death in 2021. Not only had she appeared in London productions of Merrily over 30 years ago, she made him godfather to one of her children!

But don’t worry for Friedman too much. The production had a very successful Tony night, winning Best Revival of a Musical, Orchestrations for Jonathan Tunick, Featured Actor in a Musical for Daniel Radcliffe, and Leading Actor in a Musical for Jonathan Groff. And when lead producer (and Maria’s sister) Sonia Friedman accepted that Best Revival Tony, she brought Maria up to the mic to say some words and accept the award, too. Tony Award or not, Maria Friedman has definitively become the director that finally made Merrily We Roll Along a Broadway success.

Will Brill Heather Gershonowitz

Will Brill Emerges Victorious From a Stereophonic-Packed Category

It’s rare for a play to dominate one category, let alone three slots in the category. But that was the case for Stereophonic, where three actors in the production were nominated for Featured Performance by an Actor in a Play: Will Brill, Tom Pecinka, and Eli Gelb. No one in the category was a front-runner, since there was a chance that the three Stereophonic nods would have split the Tony votes (and Corey Stoll and Jim Parsons are also formidable actors). But out of the Stereophonic actors, Will Brill was the dark horse as a comedic performance in a sea of dramatic ones. Then again, perhaps the Tony Award voters needed a good laugh, and a good tug of the heart—and Brill’s portrayal of alcoholic bass player Reg more than delivered on both (his houseboats monologue is truly one for the ages).

Jonathan Tunick Heather Gershonowitz

Jonathan Tunick Gets His First Tony for a Sondheim Score

As he pointed out in his acceptance speech, Jonathan Tunick’s Tony win for his Merrily orchestrations was his first for a Stephen Sondheim score. Tunick was Sondheim’s most frequent orchestrator, but the Best Orchestrations category did not exist for most of the years they were working together on new musicals, including Merrily’s original Broadway outing in 1981. Tunick’s sole other Tony win was in 1997 for Maury Yeston’s Titanic.

But that’s not the only thing that makes Tunick’s Tony win notable. His work on the current Broadway revival is remarkably old. He orchestrated the original production in 1981 with a fairly large orchestra, and then re-orchestrated the score for a much smaller ensemble when Sondheim and Furth revised the musical in the 1990s. The Broadway revival uses an orchestration that finds middle ground between those two, notably adding some string players back into the mix. In this case, it took Tunick 43 years to get some recognition for his work on Merrily!

In a world in which this revival is already rewriting history as a huge Broadway success after the original production’s infamously short run, Tunick’s win is another full-circle cherry on top, hopefully helping heal some wounds from the musical’s premiere.

Are We Seeing Double?

Awards show presenters are always a good place to make fun pairings, and the 2024 Tony Awards were no exception. Best Musical, the most highly coveted award at Broadway’s top honors, was announced by Tony winners Cynthia Erivo and Idina Menzel. But both being Tony winners was not what made them a fun pairing. Menzel won a Tony Award creating the role of Elphaba in the original company of Broadway’s Wicked, while Erivo is poised to bring the green-skinned role to the silver screen when the first of a two-part film adaptation of the musical hits movie theatres this Thanksgiving. The onstage meeting may have been a nice way to pass the baton broomstick along, and we were here for it!

Empire State of Mind

Award shows are also a great way for friends to reconnect. For the theatre fans who may not be tapped into pop culture, Jay-Z joined Alicia Keys for a pre-recorded segment of "Empire State of Mind" in Hell's Kitchen's performance medley. The pair collaborated on the beloved 2009 single that has now reached the Broadway stage in Keys' bio-musical. Hopefully his performance has given the famed rapper the theatre bug and he can join Keys in creating a new Broadway musical. 

For more Tony Awards coverage, visit

Photos: 2024 Tony Award Winners

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