Tonys celebrate American theater, from Miller to ‘Hamilton,’ and tolerance – USA TODAY
The victims of the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting were on the hearts of many at the Tony Awards.
NEW YORK âÂ Can a victory as utterly predictable as the bounty of Tony Awards reaped byÂ Hamilton still be sweet? The answer, on Sunday night, was an unequivocal yes.
The hip-hop-infused blockbusterâ which already had won the Pulitzer Prize and, in its earlier off-Broadway incarnation, pretty much every award available to it â made its presence felt early in the broadcast. Members of the company joined this yearâs host, Tony winner turned TV personality James Corden, in a parody of Hamiltonâs opening number. âWe like to give the little guys a leg up here,â Corden joked, referring to the productionâs record-setting 16 nominations.
The musical wound up winningÂ 11 in all, stopping just short of The Producers‘ recordÂ 12Â â no mean feat, given that three of Hamilton‘s actors ran against each other in one category, performance by a featured actor, and two in another, leading actor. Leslie Odom Jr., who as Aaron Burr is a blazing foilÂ toÂ creator/star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton, won in the latter category, over Miranda.
Miranda, as predicted,Â collect awards for his book and score, with Hamilton also winning in the categories of featured actor and actress in a musical, director, orchestrations, choreography and costume and lighting design and, of course, musical.
Despite the celebratory atmosphere, there were nods throughout to the tragedy that shadowed the ceremony:Â theÂ mass shooting that killed 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning.Â Jessica Lange,Â collecting her first Tony for playingÂ âÂ Â for a beautifully textured turn asÂ tortured matriarch Mary Tyrone in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’sÂ Long Dayâs Journey Into NightÂ â Â said in her acceptance speech, âThis is a dream come true and it fills me with such happiness on a sad day like this.”
Frank Langella, named best leading actor in a play for his equally harrowingÂ portrait of an aging man inThe Father, urged those in the Florida city âto be strong, because I am standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.â
The issue of tolerance was particularly relevant at this ceremony.Â The diversity embodied by Hamiltonâs casting â Miranda is the son of Puerto Rican natives, and the multi-racial company features black actors as other founding fathers, including a few presidents â was typical of this Broadway season, and reflected in other nominated productions, among them Eclipsed and the 10-times-nominated musical (but not awarded)Â Shuffle Along. Corden suggested that the audience think of the Tonys as âthe Oscars with diversityâ
A revelatory staging of The Color PurpleÂ (by Scottish director John Doyle)Â earned best revival of a musical, and another Tony for its powerhouse of a leading lady, Cynthia Erivo. With Odom and Hamilton‘s featured actor and actress, Daveed Diggs and RenÃ©e Elise Goldsberry, joining her, that made this the first year that all awards for performancesÂ in musicals were given to actors of color.
The Humans, Stephen Karam’s witty, sobering portrait of a modern middle-class family facing numerous challenges,Â won best play, with beloved stage veteran Jayne Houdyshell winning her first Tony, for featured actress in a play, and costar Reed Birney winningÂ featured actor. Belgian director Ivo Van Hove took home an awardÂ for his stark revival of Arthur Millerâs A View From the Bridge, named best revival.
Miller and O’Neill were not the only greatÂ old-schoolÂ scribesÂ recognized at the Tonys.Â Winners announced prior to the broadcast included legendary lyricist Sheldon Harnick, represented on Broadway this season in revivals of bothÂ She Loves Me and Fiddler On The Roof,Â one of the many ambitious, socially conscious musicals that helped pave the way for Hamilton. Accepting a special awardÂ for lifetime achievement, the 92-year-old Harnick quipped, âIf I didnât deserve it, this would be embarrassing.â
Contributing: Brian Truitt
In accepting the Tony Award for Best Score, Lin-Manuel Miranda talked about the power of love in the wake of the deadly gay nightclub shooting in Orlando.