Ariana DeBose told audience members to “buckle up” after warning them that the 2023 Tony Awards were to be completely unscripted.
The Oscar-winning actress opened the 76th annual event in New York on Sunday by acknowledging the “compromises” made amid the ongoing Hollywood writers strike.
The strike, involving over 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) had previously threatened to derail the show.
The WGA had agreed to a waiver for the show at the last minute, so that its members would not picket the event and allow the broadcast on US network CBS to go ahead.
Following a high-energy dance routine, DeBose told audiences: “I’m sure some of you caught that I opened the number by opening a script – blank pages.
“There’s a very good reason for that. Our siblings over at the WGA are currently on strike in pursuit of a fair deal.
“(And) I’m sure for some of you at home you’re thinking, ‘Okay, what does that have to do with the Tony Awards?’ I’m going to tell you, thanks for asking.
“Award shows are traditionally written by members of the WGA, so in order for this show to go on, a whole host of people had to come together in order to find a compromise.
“And we are all here. So to every single person who had a hand in finding that compromise. I say a full-throated thank you.”
She continued: “So now you’re asking, ‘what’s the compromise?’ Well, we don’t have a script you guys. I am live and unscripted. You’re welcome.
“So to anyone who may have thought that last year was a bit unhinged. To them I say ‘darlings, buckle up’.”
The 76th annual Tony Awards, which celebrates the best in Broadway theatre, took place on Sunday in New York
Killing Eve star Jodie Comer is among this year’s nominees, after receiving her first Tony nod for her performance in Suzie Miller’s one-woman play, Prima Facie.
The actress faces competition from Oscar-winning actress Jessica Chastain in the category, as well as Jessica Hecht and Audra McDonald.
Prima Facie had received four nominations total, including for best scenic design, best lighting design and best sound in a play, but lost out in all three categories to Life Of Pi.
Elsewhere Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson lost out in the category for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play to Brandon Uranowitz.
Lifetime Achievement In The Theatre awards were also presented to actor Joel Grey and composer John Kander.
Accepting the accolade, Kander said: “This is a very big deal.
“When your own community honours you it’s very humbling and a little bit scary,” he said.
“I am grateful to music which has invaded me early on from the time I was a baby, and stayed my friend, through my entire life, and has promised to stick with me to the end.”
Grey, who won a Tony and an Oscar for his performance in Cabaret, was presented with his award by his daughter, actress Jennifer Grey, who described him as her “hero”.
He also thanked the community who, he said, had “made this whole ride more magnificent than even I could have imagined”.