It is a Broadway tradition that the show must go on. And so the Tony Awards did go on Sunday night as scheduled. But before the show officially started, host James Corden began on just the right note with his heartfelt tribute to those who died or were wounded in this nation’s worst mass shooting in Orlando:
“You are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality, gender is equal, is embraced and is loved. Hate will never win. Together we have and make sure of that tonight’s show stands as a celebration of that principle.”
And he was not the only one with a memorable message. When veteran actor Frank Langella received a Tony award as Best Lead Actor in a play for his role in The Father, he chose not to give the expected acceptance speech. Instead he had this to say to the audience:
“There are so many names I wrote down today to thank you, but I hope they will forgive me if I bring in a dose of true reality: what happened today in Orlando. I found some words that I think will mean more to you than a litany of names. When something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us. Today, in Orlando, we had a hideous dose of reality. I urge you, Orlando, to be strong, because I’m standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on earth, and we will be with you every step of the way. Thank you.”
The now 3 time Tony award winning actor also shared his feelings about portraying a man dealing with dementia:
“My brother has dementia. My brother is very much alive in me every time I play Andre in The Father. He’s doing well. He goes in and out. But I’m not alone in this. I’ve never played a role in which so many people come backstage and sit on the floor of my dressing room and weep. Not necessarily because of my performance, but because how many of us are dealing with people who are losing reality. And people who suddenly don’t know who you are. That’s been the most powerful thing I’ve discovered in this.”
But the night truly belonged to Hamilton and its creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. Even before it was announced that Hamilton, which had received a record breaking 16 Tony award nominations, had won as Best Musical, Miranda took to the stage to receive the Tony for Best Original Score. If there was an award for most original acceptance speech, that too would belong to the gifted actor, playwright and composer. In a love sonnet to his wife and son and to all those affected by the tragedy in Orlando, Miranda’s emotional delivery will long be remembered:
“My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”