Dayton connections win Tony Award for Best Musical

WSU grad and West Milton native win for bold Black queer musical ‘A Strange Loop’.

Wright State University graduate Joey Monda and West Milton native Jimmy Wilson are newly minted Tony Award winners. They are among the producers of Michael R. Jackson’s groundbreaking musical “A Strange Loop,” which won Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical at the 75th annual ceremony Sunday at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

“A Strange Loop,” which premiered off-Broadway in 2019 and won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is a bold, fierce and moving exploration of Black identity, introspection, truth-telling, and the debatable appeal of Tyler Perry. The story centers on the complexities of Usher, a Black, queer writer, writing a musical about a Black, queer writer writing a musical about a Black, queer writer.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Wilson, associate producer with Barbara Whitman Productions, is grateful to win the Tony for producing on Broadway for the first time after years of juggling various jobs within the industry. Wilson’s next Broadway-bound project is “Good Night, Oscar,” a new play by Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe Doug Wright (“I Am My Own Wife”). Emmy winner Sean Hayes (“Will & Grace”) stars as legendary character actor, pianist and radio/TV personality Oscar Levant.

“Every single person in and out of the Lyceum Theatre that touches ‘A Strange Loop’ takes a bit of this prize,” said Wilson, a Milton-Union High School graduate. “We’ve worked so hard. The immense happiness and joy I felt when I heard Michael’s name for Best Book was definitely one of the greatest feelings of all time. Michael is beautifully talented and indescribable.”

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Monda, a Youngstown native, is a producer with Sing Out, Louise! Productions who previously won Tonys for “Hadestown” (Best Musical, 2019) and “The Inheritance” (Best Play, 2021). He regards his third Tony as another example of Broadway’s willingness to embrace diversity, inclusivity and risk.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of the Broadway community,” said Monda, “It is absolutely thrilling for me that the Tony Awards have recognized the same qualities I have seen in remarkable shows like ‘Hadestown,’ ‘The Inheritance,’ and now ‘A Strange Loop.’ All three of these shows were written by writers making their Broadway debuts and are written by either women or people of color and are transcendental theatrical experiences. These shows push boundaries and what is possible for a Broadway show. All of these shows just make me even more excited for the future of Broadway and continue to challenge me to find ways to bring unique work to the largest stage in the world.”

Monda is the recipient of the 2020 Graduate of the Last Decade Award from the Wright State Alumni Association. While a student, he interned at the Human Race Theatre Company. He looks forward to returning to the Human Race next season to produce composer/lyricist/librettist Scott Evan Davis and librettists Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione’s world premiere musical “Indigo,” a story of family, hope and compassion surrounding a non-verbal teenager with autism. Similar in tone and score to contemporary pop/rock musicals such as “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Next to Normal,” “Indigo” is slated June 8-25, 2023, at the Loft Theatre under the direction of Dayton native Schele Williams (“Motown the Musical”).

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“Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, (Sing Out, Louise! Productions) started the conversation with some regional theatres about a developmental production,” Monda explained. “I’m very excited on a personal level to be involved with the Race in their first time working with outside producers. It’ll be a new experience for both of us. The Race has always been my artistic home. I always enjoy going back to see their shows. Our hope is that we’ll do (‘Indigo’) at the Race, find a New York City theatre to partner with, bring it to New York, and eventually get it to Broadway, which would make it the first Broadway transfer that originated at the Race.”

In addition to “Indigo,” Monda has more world premiere musicals on his agenda. He’s producing an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel “The Notebook” featuring music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson and co-directed by the aforementioned Williams, and librettist Jocelyn Bioh (“School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play”) and composer/lyricist Michael Thurber’s Afro-jazz-flavored mystical musical “Goddess.”

“As a producer, I produce the type of plays and musicals I want to see,” said Monda. “At the end of the day, I am still the same 10-year-old Broadway nerd that wore out my VHS of Mary Martin in ‘Peter Pan’ and the original Broadway cast recording of ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’ I hope (‘Hadestown,’ ‘The Inheritance’ and ‘A Strange Loop’) serve as that type of inspiration for the next generation of theatremakers.”

“I want to help change what people think of when they think of Broadway,” added Wilson. “I certainly hope this is just the start of a movement that will change Broadway for the better.”

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For more information about “A Strange Loop,” which also incorporates Muse Machine alum Ian Jesse Baggette as bass chair in the band, visit https://strangeloopmusical.com.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

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