The cleverest bit of Hamiltonsploitation though was the recurring nod to Miranda’s #Ham4Ham shows, which he performs regularly outside The Richard Rodgers Theatre for all the people lining up to enter the $10 ticket lottery. Having the casts from the nominated musicals perform Broadway classics like “Tomorrow” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” out on the street served two good purposes: It allowed those casts to get a little extra camera-time themselves; and it celebrated the enthusiasm and creativity that Miranda has brought to the American theater. From Twitter to talk-show appearances, Miranda always communicates in ways that are surprising and original, and that always give his fans a little extra. (Case-in-point: That acceptance speech sonnet.) Even if the Tonys were just piggybacking off a popular idea—and, again, getting Miranda to perform a couple of more times—the ceremony still captured something essential about what’s been happening on Broadway.


Think of it this way: More than any other awards show, the Tonys are revisited and rewatched for years. That’s because it honors live theater, which, unlike movies and television, not everyone gets the chance to see. The Grammys come closest to the Tonys because of their one-of-a-kind musical performances, but the actual Grammy awards themselves are kind of a joke. Devotees of the Tonys, on the other hand, have vivid memories of each winner and each telecast, such that they can recall the big numbers from the first time that The Color Purple and Spring Awakening were nominated. Each one of these ceremonies becomes its own document, which ups the pressure to get the night right, for posterity.

This year’s musical numbers effectively represented the variety on Broadway right now, including the old-fashioned throwbacks like Fiddler On The Roof and She Loves Me (the latter of which is one of the two nominees I’ve actually seen, and one of the only live theater experiences I’ve had where the audience applauded the set as well the actors). School Of Rock and Waitress were 2016’s examples of Broadway repurposing movies, but with a level of wit and sophistication beyond the norm. And if not for Hamilton, there’s a good chance the night would’ve been dominated by Shuffle Along, a reportedly rollicking and stunningly recontextualized version of a 1920s “race musical.” Shuffle Along came across really well tonight; and The Color Purple and Spring Awakening were even more electrifying than they were a decade ago.


I wish the Tonys gave as much time to the plays as they used to back when I watched the show as a teenage drama geek. What was lacking in terms of actual clips was made up for by magnificent speeches like Langella’s, and Jessica Lange’s, and the amusingly half-self-deprecating/half-boastful director Ivo van Hove. Along those same lines, and iin keeping with what I was saying about Lin-Manuel Miranda always giving a little extra, every single one of the Hamilton winners gave speeches that were personal, heartfelt, and on-point. They all lived up to their adulation. (If you didn’t already love Daveed Diggs before watching the Tonys, you likely did afterward.)

Some may quibble with the choice of James Corden to host the Tonys, seeing it as a bit of obvious CBS self-promotion. Myself, I’m not the biggest Corden fan; and I thought roughly half of his jokes tonight either fell flat or came across as him trying too hard. But I liked him as the host overall, perhaps because he was so sparingly deployed. (I wonder if his time was cut back some due to Orlando.) And at least one of his comedy segments—where he identified Tony attendees by their Law And Order guest appearances—was pure gold.

I especially want to stand up for Corden’s opening song, which I saw getting dinged a bit on social media. It was an old-fashioned, even corny number, to be sure: an earnest salute to musical theater that quoted everything from Guys & Dolls to The Lion King. Corden even joked about the routine toward the end, asking Oprah Winfrey, “Have I ruined the Tonys?” But it was poignant too, on tonight of all nights, to hear Corden sing to all the misfit kids, “This could be where you belong.” Some years, the Tonys are a three-hour commercial for New York City tourism. This year, the show was a pledge of allegiance to theater itself.


And after the events of this weekend, that was even more inspiring than it otherwise might’ve been. It was stirring to see so many different kinds of faces on-stage, performing and being hailed—including the four black actors who made history by dominating the Musical and Musical Revival categories. But then it’s always been restorative, to check back once a year, and to be reminded of Broadway’s long history of letting outsiders in, to tell their stories.

Stray observations: