It’s been a hell of a weekend. The world has been shaken by the senseless death of 50 people at a LGBTQ club early Sunday morning, and it seemed like the never-ending immigration and gender blame game would consume the news cycle for the next week. This was not something I was looking forward to.
Cue, the Tony Awards.
The Tony’s celebrate Broadway theatre, both plays and musicals alike. It’s a show more than an awards ceremony, where performers, writers, and musicians come together to share their love of the arts. It’s always entertaining and almost always makes me laugh or cry.
It is also one of the most inclusive and representative award ceremonies on television.
First of all, Sunday’s show was dedicated to the victims of the Orlando shooting. “All we can say is you are not on your own right now,” host James Corden — known for his role as the baker from Into the Woods and the host of the Late Late show — said before his opening number. “Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, embraced and loved. Hate will never win.”
This dedication seemed to shape the entire show, as messages of love and inclusiveness were poured out in every single acceptance speech and monologue. It was a well-timed reprieve to the politically violent rhetoric being pushed out on social media. The next three hours would be all about inclusivity and respect — something often lost during other award shows.
“Think of tonight like the Oscars, but with diversity,” Corden said at the beginning of the show. And it was absolutely diverse! Performers of colour won in all four leading categories — Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), won for best leading actress and actor in a musical, and Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) and Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) won for featured actress and actor in a musical.
Hamilton, a musical about the American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, swept 11 Tony Awards. Why was this such a big deal? Hamilton is the first hip-hop inspired musical on Broadway! Lyrics, music, and book written by lead performer Lin-Manuel Miranda, it truly is a work of art.
Miranda’s acceptance sonnet — yes, you read that right, he wrote a sonnet — was the highlight of the night. Probably knowing that he would have multiple opportunities to address the crowd, he used this opportunity to spread messages of “love is love is love is love” over, and over again until he made the audience weep.
— Jamie Gump (@JamieGump) 13 June 2016
And then, there was the opening number. Corden began with a Hamilton-inspired introduction and then jumped right into a story about a young man, “let’s call him James”, and his love of the theatre. I highly recommend watching the video below, but if you don’t have the time to listen to the whole eight-minute performance, here is a snapshot from the last two minutes:
To every future leading man who is making his debut in his fifth grade class as Peter Pan or pirate number two. To every future dancing queen whose feet are set to fly at the tiny toddlers tap routine next Sunday at the Y. To the theatre kids from any place with stardust in their eyes, of every colour class or race or shape and size. To the boys and girls, transgenders to, to every Broadway would be. Don’t wonder if this could be you, it absolutely could be!
This is why I love the Tony’s. Love, acceptance, inclusivity, entertainment — that’s what the show is all about. It isn’t about the dresses or the hairstyles; it isn’t about thanking God or the managers that got you the gig; and it isn’t about the trophies you get at the end of the night.
The Tony Awards are about community and a genuine adoration of live performing. It’s about big dreams, inspiration, and acceptance.
It’s everything we needed after the Orlando shootings, and for that I am incredibly thankful.