The Oscar-winner and former Tony-nominee took the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday night to perform a special song, directed at all the nominees -- cast and crews who make Broadway come to life each ear.
"And so tonight, for you I want to start by singing...," DeBose, who was dressed in a sparkling white jumpsuit and white top hat sang out. "To every team, every cast, in present future and past, tonight at last, this is a round of applause. For the last 75 years, You kept it alive here, cheers! High five. 'Cause you know the show, would never go on if we didn't all come together as one."
Following the rousing track, DeBose jumped into a mash-up of some of the biggest Broadway shows over the last 75 years, including Chicago, Cabaret, Bye Bye Birdie and more.
Once again giving a "round of applause" to nominees, past and present, a video montage of winners from years past and their iconic speeches then flashed across the screen as the West Side Story alum continued to honor some of the stage's most memorable performances, including the Oscar-winner's very own.
DeBose's powerful performance was met with a standing ovation from the crowd before she began her opening monologue.
"Thank you all. Well, welcome to the 75th annual Tony awards! This night is about all of you," DeBose told the crowd. "The people who make these nominated shows happen, and a celebration of the very best of the past season. And what a season it has been! For many of you, it's been a roller-coaster, with starts and stops, dramatic twists and turns, and companies being reunited after nearly two years apart."
She continued, "I am so proud to be hosting the first Tony awards since Broadway got its groove back, and I'm so proud that the theatre is becoming more reflective of the community who adores it. In doing so, it has gained new performers, new creative teams, and new fans."
DeBose noted that the changes in Broadway reflect the beginning of an end to the "great white way," bringing a more culturally diverse and gender-inclusive set of players to Broadway.
"It has shown us stories that have broadened our world and opened our hearts and minds. While we have not solved all of our problems, I feel like the phrase 'great white way' is becoming more of a nickname than a 'how to' guide," DeBose said before listing the 2022 nominees that are changing the face of the Tony Awards. "And here's why: This season featured new shows written by seven black playwrights. Yeah! It brought us a gender-flipped production of Company.
"And tonight, Lynn Nottage is the only playwright ever to be nominated for both best play and best book of a musical in the same season," she continued. "Yes. L. Morgan Lee is the first openly transgender performer to be nominated for a Tony, and she won't be the last. Scenic designer Adam Rigg is the first out-gender nominee. Composer Toby Marlow is the first non-binary winner. Wow. And last but certainly not least, both Lena Horne and James Earl Jones are having theaters renamed for them."
"So, yes, major steps toward inclusion!" DeBose added. "Tonight, we are also celebrating 75 years of the Tony awards with some special reunions, tributes, and unforgettable performances."
Making her mark as the emcee, DeBose follows a long line of notable hosts including last year’s Audra McDonald as well as James Corden, Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, Hugh Jackman, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Unfolding over four hours live coast to coast, the evening first kicked off with the one-hour special, The Tony Awards: Act One hosted by Darren Criss and Julianne Hough, before DeBose took over to honor the best of Broadway’s past 2021-2022 season.
The 2022 Tony Awards will air live from the Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 12 beginning at 8 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast live on both CBS and Paramount+.