NEW YORK CITY: History has had its eyes on Hamilton for some time now. The 70th annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre revealed that while the 2001 run of The Producers still holds the record with 12 Tony wins, Hamilton took home a remarkably 11 awards, including Best Musical, and it still holds the record of garnering the most Tony nominations, with 16. More significantly, the hip-hop musical contributed a pathbreaking Tony Awards ceremony celebrating unprecedented diversity onstage.
This year, for instance, all four of the musical acting categories were awarded to black performers—a new record for the number of performers of color who have received the award in a given year. Lead actor, lead actress, featured actor, and featured actress of a musical went respectively to Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton, Cynthia Erivo of The Color Purple, Daveed Diggs of Hamilton, and Renée Elise Goldsberry of Hamilton.
While Hamilton may not have swept the ceremony quite as entirely as predicted, with leading actress of a musical going to Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple and scenic design for a musical awarded to David Rockwell for She Loves Me, it certainly had a hand in the record number of 13.3 million attendees on Broadway this season.
And even if you weren’t in the room where it happened at the Beacon Theatre, another record was made in the millions of living rooms across the country, with the 8.78 million viewers who tuned in to watch the ceremony hosted by James Corden on CBS (the highest ratings for the program in 15 years).
Corden opened the ceremony acknowledging the terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla., saying, “Theatre is a place where every race, creed, sexuality, and gender is equal, is embraced, and is loved. Hate will never win. Together we have to make sure of that. Tonight’s show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle. This is the Tony Awards.”
Frank Langella, Jessica Lange, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Lin-Manuel Miranda were among many who touched on the attacks in their speeches throughout the night.
“When senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day,” said Miranda in his sonnet acceptance speech for Best Score, which was addressed to his wife, Vanessa, and continued:
The show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger
We rise and fall, and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside
I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love, and pride
The ceremony followed that directive, acknowledging the importance of theatre and entertainment in a world of fear. Corden’s opening number saluted young viewers at home who dream of the Broadway stage with a humorous reenactment of his own childhood visits to the theatre. For the nominees, the opening musical number served as a reminder of their own first encounters with theatre and the people who shaped their careers. And for the viewers at home, it was a glimpse into the New York theatre community.
But the Tony Awards also recognized the theatre happening outside of New York City, and acknowledged institutions and programs bringing up the next generation of theatre artists. The Regional Tony Award, for one, went to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., which was announced earlier this month. And the second annual Excellence in Theatre Education Award, presented by Carnegie Mellon University in association with American Theatre Wing, was given to Marilyn McCormick, a high school drama teacher in Detroit who was nominated by her students.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, announced on the telecast, is a $1.3 million, three-year initiative to support theatre education opportunities for under-resourced public schools across the United States.
As per tradition, the special Tonys and the design awards were doled out before the TV broadcast and between commercial breaks. (Except for the sound design awards, which were excluded from the categories once again.)
But there’s no question it was a big year for Broadway. That Hamilton didn’t break The Producers’ record is a testament to how competitive the 2015-16 season was. It was also a big night for Theatre Communications Group, which boasted a record number of Tony nominations for plays published by TCG books, including The Humans, which took home Best Play.
The complete list of winners is below:
Best revival of a play
A View From the Bridge
Best revival of a musical
The Color Purple
Best book of a musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Best original score
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Best leading actor in a play
Frank Langella, The Father
Best leading actress in a play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey into Night
Best leading actor in a musical
Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton
Best leading actress in a musical
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Best featured actor in a play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Best featured actress in a play
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Best featured actor in a musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Best feature actress in a musical
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Best scenic design of a play
David Zinn, The Humans
Best scenic design of a musical
David Rockwell, She Loves Me
Best costume design of a play
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Best costume design of a musical
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton
Best lighting design of a play
Natasha Katz, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Best lighting design of a musical
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Best direction of a play
Ivo van Hove, A View from the Bridge
Best direction of a musical
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Marshall W. Mason
Special Tony Award
National Endowment for the Arts
Regional Theatre Tony Award
Paper Mill Playhouse
Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Brian Stokes Mitchell
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Sally Ann Parsons