“West Side Story” star Ariana DeBose launched the 75th Tony Awards in style with a breathtaking mashup performance featuring tunes from classic Tony-winning musicals, including “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cabaret,” “Hair” and “Company.”
The former Tony nominee opened the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday night with an energetic performance, giving a “round of applause” to everyone on Broadway.
DeBose donned a stunning, all-white ensemble inspired by Michael Jackson, the subject of “MJ: The Musical,” which received 10 nominations heading into the evening.
“Let’s just say, for many of you it’s been a rollercoaster,” DeBose remarked in her opening monologue, noting how the coronavirus pandemic has upended the theater industry over the past two years.
“I am so proud that the theater is becoming more reflective of the community who adores it, and in doing so, has gained new performers, new creatives, new fans,” she continued. “It has shown us stories that have broadened our world and opened our hearts and our minds.”
“And while we have not solved all of our problems, I feel like the phrase ‘Great White Way’ is becoming more of a nickname as opposed to a how-to guide.”
Earlier this week, DeBose, who recently became the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award for her work as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake, took to Instagram to share her excitement leading up to her hosting debut.
“Ran into these two at rehearsal today. They’re cookin up something good for the @thetonyawards pre-show,” she wrote on Instagram alongside a photo with Tony Awards pre-show hosts Darren Criss and Julianne Hough.
Alongside DeBose’s powerful performance, the evening also featured performances from the casts of “A Strange Loop,” “Paradise Square,” “SIX,” “Company,” “Girl from the North Country,” “MJ,” “Mr. Saturday Night” and “Music Man.”
Bernadette Peters, Billy Porter, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the original cast of “Spring Awakening” also hit the stage with individual performances.
Watch the full opening performance below.