NEW YORK – “Hamilton,” the hip-hop stage biography of Alexander Hamilton, captured nine Tony Awards by the mid-point of the telecast on Sunday but will not break the record for the most Tonys.
“Hamilton” went into the night with 16 nominations and had won best score, best book, direction, orchestration, choreography and best featured actor and actress statuettes for Renee Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs.
It earlier won awards for costume and lighting but lost scenic design to “She Loves Me,” meaning “Hamilton” will not be able to break the 12-statuette record haul by “The Producers.”
The awards show unspooled with a heavy heart a night after a gunman killed 50 people at a gay Florida nightclub, prompting a Broadway tribute to the victims at the top of the show and references to tolerance throughout it.
Host James Corden, his back to the audience, spoke to viewers when he dedicated the night to celebrate the diversity of Broadway. “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,” he said.
But for much of the telecast, the mood was light and typical of an awards show.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of “Hamilton,” won for best score and book, and read from onstage a sonnet, referencing tragedy and urging “love and love and love….”
Thomas Kail won the Tony for directing “Hamilton.” He thanked Miranda, a frequent collaborator, and celebrated the diversity of Broadway this season. “Let’s continue to tell stories,” he said.
Jayne Houdyshell, a mainstay of the New York stage, won her first Tony Award at 62 for playing a gossipy, gently needling mom in “The Humans.” Her stage husband, Reed Birney, won best featured actor in a play. An actor for almost 42 years, he admitted that 35 of them were “pretty bad.” He thanked the theater community for keeping him going.
At least 50 people died early Sunday when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
In response to the shooting, “Hamilton” will drop its use of muskets in its performance, according to a spokesman for the musical. The Tony show also created a silver ribbon for stars to wear in solidarity and they were seen on the suits of actor Sean Hayes and director George C. Wolfe.
“My heart is saddened by it,” said Jeffrey Seller, producer of “Hamilton.” ”The celebration tonight is tempered by it.”
The shooting was close to home for Christopher Fitzgerald, a nominee for the musical “Waitress” who went to school in Orlando. “I’m heartbroken. I think everybody is feeling it, so we are at least all coming together to celebrate and not live in fear,” he said.
“Eclipsed” won for best costume for a play and “The Humans” won for best set design of a play. Best set design for a musical went to “She Loves Me” and best lighting for a play went to “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
Jessica Lange has won her first Tony for playing a drug-addled mother in the Broadway revival of the monumental “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The two-time Academy Award winner acknowledged the “sad” day
Dutch visionary Ivo Van Hove won his first Tony Award for directing an imaginative revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.” Under his helm, the barefoot cast warily circled one another under bright lights in a set that resembled a boxing ring.
Corden brought his endearing, fan-boy vibe to the opening number in which he performed a head-spinning medley of tunes from famous Broadway musicals, including donning a mask for “The Phantom of the Opera,” a leather jacket for “Grease,” and a curly red wig for “Annie.” He later encouraged others in the audience to pick songs and join him in a bit of karaoke during commercial breaks including one with Hayes and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The show opened with the cast of “Hamilton” performing their opening number with the lyrics altered to have them all wondering why Corden — “chatting with Hollywood phonies” — had earned this honor.
The host of the “The Late Late Show” had some quips for the theater-loving audience: “This is like the Super Bowl for people who don’t know what the Super Bowl is,” he said at one point. At another: “Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity,” and made a dig at Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall around the theater. He later flirted with Oprah Winfrey.
Donald Trump was a frequent target. Nathan Lane made a crack about Trump University and Emilio Estefan insisted that his all-Latin cast for “On Your Feet!” were all in America legally.
The show itself seemed to burst out of the smallish Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side, taking a page from the weekly free public concerts outside “Hamilton” to put performers from the nominated shows on tiny stages outside the venue serenading the crowd before and after commercial breaks. Another highlight was watching Josh Groban play Tevye in a high school production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“Hamilton” and the 38 new productions this season helped Broadway’s attendance figures hit a record high, up 1.6 percent to 13.3 million ticket buyers. The box offices reported a record total gross of $1.37 billion — up 0.6 percent from the previous season.
The season also was rich in diversity among actors: Fourteen of the 40 Tony nominees for acting in plays and musicals — or 35 percent — are actors of color. And there are more non-whites nominated on the other side of the stage, including choreographer Savion Glover, directors George C. Wolfe and Liesl Tommy, and playwright Danai Gurira.
Women also broke records: “Eclipsed” is the first ever Broadway play to feature a director, writer and cast who are all women and also all black. On the musical side, “Waitress” marked the first time that the four top creative spots in a show — composer, choreographer, book writer and director — were four women.