The themes of the 2016 Tony Awards were established before the ceremony even began.
First, “Hamilton” claimed two of the record-breaking 16 trophies for which it had been nominated. And just one minute before the broadcast began, first-time host James Corden offered a message of solidarity from the Broadway community to the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
It was a night of celebrating this year’s hottest musical, as we all expected, but also a night of camaraderie in the face of inexplicable tragedy.
In that vein, the opening number mirrored the start of Broadway’s runaway hit. Rap lyrics provided a cheeky introduction to Corden, though Broadway regulars know he has his own Tony for “One Man, Two Guvnors” from 2012.
It kicked off what was one of the most musical Tonys of all time, thanks to a special new segment inspired by #Ham4Ham (the free mini shows outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre before select performances of “Hamilton”). Lucky fans outside the Beacon Theatre were treated to a series of snippets from all-time favorite tunes like “Tomorrow” and “The Circle of Life” performed by the casts of current Broadway musicals.
Performance highlights from the candidates for Best Musical included “Broadway Blues” from “Shuffle Along” (notably featuring Audra McDonald, who has recently announced that she will be stepping away for maternity leave in July), some roof-raising from the cast of “The Color Purple,” a breathtaking solo from Jessie Mueller during a “Waitress” medley and a surprise appearance by Gloria Estefan during a fun combo from “On Your Feet!”
Of course, the most highly anticipated performance of the night was the arrangement from “Hamilton.” The lauded musical was introduced by no less than Barack and Michelle Obama, and in another of several nods during the night to the Orlando tragedy, the cast performed “Yorktown,” about the battle that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War, without their usual muskets.
The show wound up taking home a total of 11 Tonys, including Best Musical. Helping drive home the themes of the night, another big winner of the night was new drama “The Humans,” about the quiet battles of a normal American family, with four wins of six, including Best Play.