Tony Awards Hail ‘Hamilton’ and Denounce Hate

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Members of the cast of “Hamilton” at the close of the Tony Awards. The musical, which had a record 16 nominations, won 11 Tony Awards, including best new musical and best original score. (Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

“Hamilton,” an improbable hip-hop musical about America’s first Treasury secretary, completed its rapturous march across America’s awards landscape on Sunday, picking up Broadway’s highest honor: the Tony Award for best new musical.

The prize capped an amazing season for the show, a smash hit that has been sold out from the start, captivating audiences and the broader culture through its use of today’s sounds and a largely nonwhite cast to explore America’s revolutionary origins and their contemporary relevance.


In all, “Hamilton” won 11 Tony Awards — one fewer than the record 12 won by “The Producers” in 2001.

The evening was also noteworthy for the way it contrasted Broadway with Hollywood: All four awards for performances in musicals went to black actors.

The big night for “Hamilton” was altered by a national tragedy: 18 hours before the awards ceremony began, a lone gunman armed with an AR-15-type assault rifle opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., leaving 50 people dead. The shooting — the deadliest in United States history — added a note of sadness, disbelief and anger to Broadway’s big night.

“Senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised — not one day,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author and star of “Hamilton,” declared, emotionally reciting a sonnet he had written as he accepted the Tony for best score. “Love,” he said, “cannot be killed or swept aside.”

The Tony Awards, as well as CBS, which broadcast the event, dedicated the ceremony to those affected by the tragedy. Performers and presenters arrived at the Beacon Theater wearing silver ribbons — created by the Tony-winning designer William Ivey Long in the color of the award itself — to acknowledge Orlando. Between the time of a morning rehearsal and the evening broadcast, “Hamilton” decided to drop the use of muskets in its production number (“Yorktown”), while the comedian/musician Steve Martin cut a joke that alluded to violence.

As the show began, its host, James Corden, paid tribute to the Orlando victims and their families, saying “our hearts go out to all of those affected by this atrocity.”

From left, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sean Hayes and James Corden at the 70th annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theater in New York. “Hate will never win,” Mr. Corden said. (Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

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From left, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sean Hayes and James Corden at the 70th annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theater in New York. “Hate will never win,” Mr. Corden said. (Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

But then, in a razzle-dazzle show-must-go-on moment, he began a rapid-fire song-and-dance journey through 20 much-loved musicals, from “Les Misérables” to “42nd Street.”

And the broadcast proceeded as planned, with a series of songs and medleys introducing television viewers to the musicals of the season, interspersed with awards and acceptance speeches. Outside the theater, casts of the nominated shows performed brief tributes to their favorite musicals, a nod to the sidewalk concerts performed weekly for last-minute ticket lottery entrants outside the “Hamilton” theater.

The awards also found room for humor — there were at least three jokes at Donald J. Trump’s expense (including one in which Andrew Rannells depicted him starring in a musical called “The Book of Moron”) and one about Hillary Clinton (depicted by Glenn Close singing the lyric “I really need this job” from “A Chorus Line.”)

“Hamilton,” which has become the rare musical to cross over into the broader popular culture, was nominated for 16 Tonys — more than any other show in history, a reflection of the excitement it has engendered.

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Performers and presenters wore silver ribbons, a tribute to the Orlando shooting victims. (Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision, via Associated Press)

One measure of its extraordinary stature: Its performance on the awards show was preceded by a videotaped tribute to the show from President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama. Mr. Obama, acknowledging that the idea of a hip-hop musical about a Treasury secretary at first sounded like a joke, said, “We all laughed, but who’s laughing now?” He called the show “a civics lesson our kids can’t get enough of.”

The show is successful not only artistically, but commercially — it is earning about $600,000 in profit every week on Broadway, and it is about to expand its reach, with a production opening in Chicago in September, followed by two North American tours and a London production. Soon after the Tony broadcast ended, a new block of tickets for the Broadway production went on sale.

“Hamilton” won Tonys not only for best new musical, but also for Mr. Miranda’s book and score; Thomas Kail’s direction; Alex Lacamoire’s orchestrations; Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography; Paul Tazewell’s costumes and Howell Binkley’s lighting design. And three of its performers won Tonys: Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr, beat out Mr. Miranda, who plays Hamilton, in the race for best leading actor; Renée Elise Goldsberry, who portrays Hamilton’s sister-in-law Angelica, was named best featured actress in a musical, and Daveed Diggs, who plays both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, won best featured actor in a musical.

The best new musical award was handed out by Barbra Streisand, who had not appeared on the Tony Awards stage since 1970, when she won a special Tony as performer of the decade. Dressed in a lacy shirt-and-vest ensemble, Ms. Streisand joked as she opened the envelope: “Thank God I picked the right outfit.”

The 2015-16 theater season was the most diverse in Broadway history, and the Tonys celebrated that distinction, particularly as it came during a year when Hollywood faced criticism for its failure to nominate any nonwhite performers for the Oscars. Of the 40 acting nominations, 14 went to black, Hispanic and Asian-American actors.

“Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity,” Mr. Corden said at the start of the show, prompting raucous laughter. He joked, “It is so diverse that Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater.” And then, at the close of the segment, he brought out a multiethnic group of children, and, singing “This could be you,” replaced them with the equally diverse group of nominees for performances in musicals.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of “Hamilton,” with Carole King, as he accepted the Tony Award for best score. (Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

Mr. Kail, accepting the award for best direction, noted the diverse array of plays and musicals on Broadway: “What we’ve seen this season is that there are stories to be told and there are people that want to hear them.”

“Hamilton” dominated the broadcast, and the theatrical season, but was not the only show to win awards.

A revival of “The Color Purple,” a musical adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning novel by Alice Walker, had a good night, winning awards for best musical revival, and for best leading actress for its 29-year-old star, Cynthia Erivo, who is the second actress in 10 years to win a Tony Award for playing the book’s central character, Celie.

“The Humans,” a poignant family drama by Stephen Karam, did especially well, winning best play, best featured actress for Jayne Houdyshell and best featured actor for Reed Birney for their moving portrayal of a married couple struggling to love and cherish a family under stress. David Zinn won a Tony for his design of “The Humans” set, which replicated a shabby two-story apartment in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan.

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Barbara Streisand presented the Tony Award for best musical to “Hamilton.” (Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

And a production of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” won the awards for best play revival and for best director for Ivo van Hove, a Belgian director making his Broadway debut.

Jessica Lange, the Oscar-winning actress, won a Tony for her portrayal of the morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” And Frank Langella picked up his fourth Tony Award for his portrayal of a Frenchman with dementia in a new play, “The Father.”

David Rockwell, a prolific and much-admired set designer who has been nominated six times for Tony Awards, finally won one, for recreating a Budapest perfumery for a revival of a cherished but less well-known classic musical, “She Loves Me.”

The awards were concentrated among a handful of winners. The new musical “Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” which was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, won none; also going home empty were the new musicals “Bright Star,” “School of Rock the Musical,” and “Waitress,” each of which will have to hope that the musical numbers they performed on the broadcast will help energize box office sales.

The awards ceremony followed a bittersweet day for the theater industry. At the morning rehearsal, as a jubilant crowd cheered run-throughs of production numbers, somber network and awards show administrators clustered in aisles and hallways at the Beacon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, trying to figure out how the show should respond to the mass shooting.

The Tony Awards, officially called the Antoinette Perry Awards, are presented annually by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, and honor plays and musicals that open each season in the 40 theaters in and around Times Square that make up Broadway. There were 36 shows that opened during the 2015-16 season and were eligible for awards; 26 received at least one nomination.

This year’s nominees were selected by a panel of 47 theater experts, many of whom work at nonprofit organizations and in academia. The winners were chosen by the Tony voters — a mix of producers, performers and other theater industry professionals — and this year there were 846 people eligible to vote on the awards.

There are 24 competitive categories, but the Tonys also bestow several noncompetitive awards each year, and those awards were announced in advance. This year, those included lifetime achievement awards to the lyricist Sheldon Harnick, best known for “Fiddler on the Roof,” and the director Marshall W. Mason, the founding artistic director of the Circle Repertory Company. An annual award honoring a regional theater went to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., and the Isabelle Stevenson award for volunteerism to the performer Brian Stokes Mitchell for his work with the Actors Fund.

NY Times

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