EXPeriencing the 2016 Tony Awards

Cover image via.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, 49 people were shot dead and 53 were wounded at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Eighteen hours later, the 70th Annual Tony Awards were held at the Beacon Theater in New York City. On a day where the LGBTQ community—and the United States—was devastated by a sickening hate crime, it seemed only fitting that one of the most diverse and inclusive communities in show business should hold its award ceremony, the biggest night in Broadway.

And what a big night it was. For the first time in 70 years, Tonys for all four musical acting categories were awarded to people of color. Four black actors received Tonys for their leading roles on Broadway, two full companies of black actors took the stage, and several more companies with diverse casts performed. In the same year where #OscarsSoWhite was a trending hashtag for days and not a single person of color was nominated for a major acting role, the Tonys stands in stark contrast. Hollywood has no excuse for its whiteness, and the performances on Sunday illustrated that.

Beyond diversity and a strong sense of community and solidarity on Sunday—especially with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s heart-wrenching acceptance sonnet—the Tony Awards itself was an incredible show. I love James Corden. I have ever since I first saw him on Doctor Who when he became a pseudo-companion (shout-out to Stormaggedon). We all know he’s musically talented thanks to Carpool Karaoke, so it’s really no surprise his rendition of a lifetime of musicals to open the show was spot on.

Speaking of performances… let’s talk about Hamilton. Their Tonys-specific opening with James Corden was a great way to get “Alexander Hamilton” into the show without performing it outright. And then they performed my favorite all-company song, “The Battle of Yorktown.” I didn’t know they were performing that, so I was pumped to say the least when it started. Then, the show’s credits played out to the cast performing “The Schuyler Sisters”—in their gowns and tuxes with Tonys in hand. Of course Hamilton was going to win 11 awards. It was inevitable. To borrow the words of President Obama who introduced the performance, Hamilton has given America a civics lesson we can’t get enough of.

And while I am thrilled for Hamilton, I’m sad that School of Rock didn’t win any awards. It was very deserving of the four Tonys it was nominated for. I’ve been lucky enough to see a good number of Broadway shows in Chicago, London, and finally this year in New York. I saw Matilda and, on a whim, School of Rock. School of Rock was the most fun I’ve ever had at a theater. Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Avenue Q are two of the funniest musicals I’ve ever seen, but School of Rock was definitely the funnest. You can’t not have fun at a musical where you rock out for two hours to a show performed live by kids half your age that don’t make you feel useless in all you’ve done in your life. Seriously one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had.

On a day where we all so desperately needed to smile, to dance, to sing, and to feel loved, I’m so grateful for the Tonys. The show must go on, as they say, and I’ve never been more thankful to be a fan of musicals and theater. Despite all the bad of this weekend, I feel compelled to close out this post the same way Hamilton’s producer Jeffrey Seller did his acceptance speech for Best Musical: “Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

2016 Tony Awards - Show
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 12: Alex Brightman (C) and the cast of ‘School of Rock’ perform onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016, in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

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