By Barry Bassis.
The big winner at the Tony Awards was “Hamilton” but the evening was also a victory for tolerance and diversity.
The celebratory evening was tempered by the mass murder in Orlando, Florida, referred to at the beginning by host James Corden and during the course of the show by a number of the award winners.
“Hamilton” didn’t beat out “The Producers” (winner of 12 Tony’s) but landing 11 is quite an achievement. In addition to the best new musical award, the show won best score, best book, direction, orchestration, choreography, costumes and lighting as well as best actor in a musical (Leslie Odom Jr., beating out Miranda), featured actor (Daveed Diggs) and actress (Renee Elise Goldsberry).
The musical numbers from this season’s musicals were terrific. It was exciting to see Gloria Estefan joining the cast of “On Your Feet!” It’s an indication of what a competitive year this was that Ana Villafañe didn’t get nominated for her star turn.
Significantly, the one who roused the audience to a standing ovation was English actress Cynthia Erivo. She won the Tony for best actress for her dazzling Broadway debut in “The Color Purple,” which also won for best musical revival.
“The Humans” by Stephen Karam won for best new play and there were several references to the author’s youth and promise. At the same time, Jayne Houdyshell and Reed Birney, who won for best featured actress and actor in a play, both highlighted their long careers. She proclaimed her age of 62 and he noted that, of his 42 years, as an actor, 35 of them were “pretty bad.”
Jessica Lange won for best actress in a play for her moving performance as the drug-addicted Mary Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” She said, “This is a dream come true and it fills me with such happiness, even on such a sad day as this.” Frank Langella, winning his fourth Tony, spoke movingly about his brother’s decline from dementia, the same condition his character suffers from in “The Father.” He also expressed solidarity with the people of Orlando.
Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” was named best revival and its director Ivo Van Hove won as well but unfortunately not its brilliant star Mark Strong.
Although there was one mild Hillary Clinton joke (Glenn Close singing “I Want this Job” from “A Chorus Line”), there were many jabs at Donald Trump. This wasn’t a crowd that believes “good fences make good neighbors.”
As James Corden’s father observed near the end, the show went on a bit too long but, all in all, it was a joyful celebration of a successful season.