Maleah Joi Moon Wins a Tony for Her First Professional Role

Maleah Joi Moon Wins a Tony for Her First Professional Role

Maleah Joi Moon won the Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical on Sunday night for her Broadway debut in “Hell’s Kitchen,” a fictionalized remix of Alicia Keys’s childhood.

Moon recently spoke with The New York Times about earning a Tony nomination for her first professional role, a 17-year-old girl who discovered a gift for piano while chafing under her mother’s vigilance.

“It’s surreal and it’s ridiculous and crazy and insane and all the things,” said Moon, 21. “But my inner child — the one that wanted to be Nala on Broadway — is like, this is aligned. It’s divine alignment. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t meant.”

The other nominees in the best leading actress category were Eden Espinosa (“Lempicka”), Maryann Plunkett (“The Notebook”), Kelli O’Hara (“Days of Wine and Roses”) and Gayle Rankin (“Cabaret”).

Moon’s first stage role was playing Dorothy in a school production of “The Wizard of Oz” — the same role that Keys first played as a child. She then threw herself into school productions: “Annie,” “Shrek,” “Sister Act,” “Rent,” “Into the Woods,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “West Side Story.”

Before securing the role in “Hell’s Kitchen,” Moon had auditioned on Broadway for the role of young Nala in “The Lion King” and the musical “Six.” After her Tony win was announced on Sunday, she stayed in her seat for several seconds, stunned and sobbing.

During her acceptance speech, Moon thanked her parents as well as Keys and the creative team at the Public Theater. “You saw something in me a few years ago, and you nurtured that thing ever since,” she said.

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