Ariana DeBose Delivers Show-Stopping Mashup of Broadway Hits to Open Tony Awards 2022 — and References ‘West Side Story’

Ariana DeBose Delivers Show-Stopping Mashup of Broadway Hits to Open Tony Awards 2022
 Evan Agostini/AP/Shutterstock

She’s back on Broadway! Ariana DeBose, who got her start acting on the Great White Way, has since become a massive movie star — even winning an Oscar. Now, she’s returning to her theatrical roots as the host of the 75th annual Tony Awards.

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DeBose, 31, donned a dazzling all-white ensemble while opening the Sunday, June 12, awards show with a mashup of major Broadway hits. The So You Think You Can Dance alum even gave a shout-out to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who she starred alongside in the original cast of Hamilton, and sang West Side Story‘s “Somewhere” as footage from past Tony Awards played on a screen behind her. In the 2021 film adaptation, the ballad is performed by Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the original 1961 movie.

Last month, the American Theatre Wing announced that the West Side Story actress — who won Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG Award trophies for her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of the musical — would emcee the ceremony honoring Broadway’s brightest stars of the year.

Ariana DeBose Delivers Show-Stopping Mashup of Broadway Hits to Open Tony Awards 2022
Ariana DeBose performs at the 75th annual Tony Awards. Charles Sykes/AP/Shutterstock

“After the challenging last two years, there is no one better to bring the theater community together on this important night honoring the best of Broadway and share the joys of live performing once again than this extraordinarily talented artist,” CBS executive Jack Sussman said in a statement at the time.

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DeBose — who joins the ranks of past hosts including Neil Patrick Harris, James Corden, Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban and Leslie Odom Jr. — had been eagerly gearing up for her hosting debut.

“Ran into these two at rehearsal today. They’re cookin up something good for the @thetonyawards pre-show,” she gushed via Instagram earlier this week, sharing a snap with Tony Awards pre-show hosts Darren Criss and Julianne Hough.

Sunday’s ceremony marks the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown that the awards show returns to Radio City Music Hall. (Last year’s show was broadcast from the Winter Garden Theatre.)

“This is the first time we’re back at Radio City. The community is still coming out of what has been an extremely challenging time,” the Prom actress told The New York Times in an interview published on Thursday, June 9. “I do look at this as an opportunity to try and provide a real moment of celebration because I think it’s a gosh-darn feat and a triumph to have been able to make work at all and get to this moment in time.”

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She added: “I would like to throw up, if I’m honest. But I love a challenge. And I just feel like whatever we do is going to be fun.”

DeBose is a Tony Award nominee herself, earning a Best Featured Actress in a Musical nod in 2018 for her performance as Donna Summer in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. While the North Carolina native ultimately lost the category to Lindsay Mendez — who won for her role in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel — she was humbled by the recognition.

“From start to finish, the Tonys were a whirlwind,” the North Carolina native told PopMatters in August 2018. “You’re put on a different level for a moment in time that allows you to talk about things that are important to you. I was able to use my platform to talk about LGBTQ rights, to talk about what it means to be biracial, what it means to be one of the only biracial queer women to be nominated in that particular season. It gave us visibility.”

DeBose — who made her Broadway debut in 2012’s Bring It On: The Musical — has also appeared on stage in Motown the MusicalPippinHamilton: An American Musical and A Bronx Tale: The Musical.

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