Who could have imagined that the highlight of the Broadway season, the gay Super Bowl, would be held on the same day as the nation's deadliest attack against America's LGBT population? Yet it did on June 12, 2016. Before the opening of the telecast, master of ceremonies James Corden soberly, yet compassionately, addressed viewers at home with his back to those attending the awards ceremony. With his brief commemoration completed, the coronation of Hamilton began. During the telecast, comments about the slaughter of 49 patrons at Orlando's gay club, Pulse, were made by Lin Manuel-Miranda, Jessica Lange, Frank Langella and Barbra Streisand (yes, Babs made her first appearance in 50 years). And everyone was sporting a silver ribbon on their lapel or gown in a show of solidarity for the city of Orlando.
Of course, in this day and age of 24/7 news, the coverage of the attack was continuous and unnerving. This was in stark contrast to the indifference shown more than 40 years earlier after the previous deadliest attack against gays, in June 1973, when 32 patrons of the New Orleans bar Upstairs Lounge died in an arson fire. Sadly, hate continues in the present day, but this time it was publicized worldwide rather than ignored.
NOW, ON WITH THE SHOW!
The lovable James Corden was wonderful - and such a relief from the silliness of last year's hosts, Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth. (Actually, Corden's love of Broadway is similar to that of another former host, Hugh Jackman.) The introduction of Corden at the top of the show was genius, replicating the rap patter of Hamilton and sung by cast members. It poked fun at Corden being relatively unknown. One excerpt:
CBS said, "This collision of theater and television needs a risk taker, it needs a rule breaker, it needs a troublemaker, a mover and a shaker - It needs that chubby dude from 'Into the Woods' who played the baker."
Lin-Manuel Miranda had plenty of opportunities to beam as Hamilton won 11 Tony's. The widespread acclaim the show has received is no doubt the biggest reason the telecast's rating was the highest in 15 years.
CALLING THE FASHION POLICE!
There's always one and this year it was Cate Blanchett, resplendent in raccoon-eye makeup and an "outfit" that looked like it was made from a sweatshirt and leather harness.
80+ NEVER LOOKED BETTER
At 83, the vibrant Chita Rivera introduced the In Memoriam tribute, a list she's not likely to appear on for many years.
A COMEDIC TRIBUTE TO "LAW & ORDER"
There was a hilarious routine about various Broadway actors who may be better known for their roles on Law & Order than on Broadway (ending with six roles by Fiddler's Danny Burstein).
Billy Porter ("Shuffle Along")
Daveed Diggs ("Hamilton")
Danny Burstein ("Fiddler on the Roof")
There were three swipes at Donald Trump. In applauding the diversity of the Tony nominees, Corden said that Donald Trump had threatened to build a wall around the theater; Nathan Lane said he learned about the great importance of winning awards at Trump University; then, near the end of the show, in a real slap at him, there was a little routine about a show about Trump coming to Broadway in the fall titled "House of Moron".
HEY, HAVEN'T I SEEN THAT DRESS BEFORE?
Renee Elise Goldsberry, 2016 Tony Winner
Alicia Vikander, 2016 Oscar Winner
I found myself enchanted by the number, If You Knew My Story, from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's nominated show Bright Star. The song had a countrified charm, and the stage setting's soft blue hues brought to mind a water color.
BECAUSE OUTRAGEOUS TICKET PRICES DON'T RAISE ENOUGH REVENUE
New York senator Charles Schumer was applauded for passing legislation providing tax breaks for Broadway. The cynical question in my mind - does that mean ticket prices will go down?
CUTE, HORNY BOYS IN KNICKERS
The number from Spring Awakening had the cutest display of boys in knickers since the Tony ceremony from a few years ago that featured a number from Newsies.
EMILIO RUINED THE SURPRISE
In introducing a number from Get on Your Feet, Emilio Estefan spoiled a surprise when he mentioned that wife Gloria wasn't at the podium with him because she was appearing in the number. I loved the two little boys dancing the rumba while playing maracas; the Ricky Martin-esque lead also got my attention. One of the songs in the medley was Estefan's remake of Turn the Beat Around, but for me only Vicki Sue Robinson's original version will do.
THE REVIVAL THAT WON'T DIE
There was a special shout-out for the 20th anniversary of the revival of Chicago, but I found it odd that no mention was made of its original run 40 years ago.
LOVE HIM, LOVE HIM, LOVE HIM!
Lin-Manuel Miranda gave a powerful, emotional acceptance speech upon accepting his Tony for Best Score. The most memorable, emphatic line alluded to the day's tragedy in Orlando: "Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside" .
THE LIGHTS OF BROADWAY ARE SO BRIGHT SHE'S GOTTA WEAR SHADES
Anna Wintour, as always, showed up wearing sunglasses. And, again, she went home without a Tony.
DIVERSITY, THY NAME IS THE TONYS
The night's much-touted "diversity" included presenter Daniel Dae Kim, starring in "The King & I"
THRILLED JUST TO BE NOMINATED
Jane Krakowski ("She Loves Me")
Jonathan Groff ("Hamilton")
Brandon Victor Dixon ("Shuffle Along")
Michelle Williams ("Blackbird")
PAYING TRIBUTE TO CLASSIC BROADWAY
During commercial breaks cast members of the nominated musicals would rush outside and do a quick verse from a classic Broadway show, for all of 10-15 seconds. The giddy energy brought to mind young kids putting on a show, a la Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.
At the end of the song from "Rent" sung by the cast of "Hamilton" it was amusing to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda doing light shilling for CBS, shouting, "The Tonys, only on CBS!"
LOVE THOSE CROWD SHOTS!
Something must have been going on in the cheap seats ...
TWO MORE "HAMILTON" FANS
The president and first lady briefly talked about, what else?, "Hamilton", offering an anecdote about seeing a version of the show in its embryonic stage at the White House a number of years ago.
"SHUFFLING" PAST 11:00
Unlike the Oscars, the Tonys have a reputation for ending on time, but this year the telecast went until 11:15. Perhaps it would have ended at 11:00 if it weren't for the need for presenters to say the official title of Shuffle Along ("Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed"). Because it received ten Tony nominations it was mentioned throughout the night.
THEN ... AND NOW, THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD!
If your DVR stopped recording at 11:00, you missed the uplifting closing few minutes, featuring a number from, no surprise, "Hamilton", with lyrics that were so very apt on this day:
Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now ... we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world - in the greatest city in the world!
Here are reviews of previous Tony Awards:
2015 Tony Awards
2014 Tony Awards
2013 Tony Awards