Sunday night’s 68th Annual Tony Awards were all about Audra McDonald and James Monroe Iglehart, as one became the most decorated Broadway actress of all time with her win and the other saw his decision to surpass being a pro wrestler and a Harlem Globetrotter pay off with his first Tony win.
McDonald wowed Broadway audiences with her portrayal of Billie Holiday’s struggle with drug and alcohol addiction in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. McDonald had to not only imitate the singer’s alcohol-fueled performances but also had to emulate her signature husky voice.
“I get to the theater at about 6 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. I need that time. I don’t let anybody come in from a half-hour on. I go really deep within myself,” she told the Wall Street Journal about her process to prepare.
Her best lead actress win makes this her sixth Tony surpassing five-time winners Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris, CBS News reports.
The 43-year-old actress got her career off to a strong start having won three Tony Awards by the time she was 28 for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, and Ragtime.
McDonald would win her fourth Tony in 2004 for her performance as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. McDonald would take home her fifth Tony Award some eight years later for her portrayal as Bess in Broadway’s The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.
McDonald dedicated her win to Holiday, saying, “You deserve so much more than you were given on this planet.”
James Monroe Iglehart’s win, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his portrayal as the genie in Disney’s Aladdin, is pretty amazing for a man who once believed his future was in pro wrestling.
“I almost became a pro wrestler,” Iglehart, the 6-foot-tall, 295-pound, 39-year-old thespian told the Los Angeles Times. But that changed after he “… saw someone really get hit with a chair. And then I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that!'” The actor also toyed with the idea of becoming a Harlem Globetrotter before truly taking his passion for musical theater seriously.