Diversity reigned at Tony Awards 2016 with black actors winning big in four major acting categories, while blockbuster hip-hop musical Hamilton, about America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton, scored an impressive 11 trophies at the ceremony.
The subject of diversity in Hollywood has long been a topic of debate, with the lack of nominations for black stars at this year’s Academy Awards prompting the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
The Tony Awards, however, seemed to have set a new benchmark in diversity.
Three of the acting wins came for the cast of Hamilton. Leslie Odom Jr took home the trophy for best actor, while Daveed Diggs (best featured actor) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (best featured actress) nabbed awards for their work in the acclaimed musical.
“There’s so much diversity on Broadway. I’m very proud to be part of it,” Diggs said after his win.
Cynthia Erivo won for her performance in the revival of The Color Purple, a victory that prompted tears from producer Oprah Winfrey.
Before any awards were handed out, host James Corden praised the diversity among the nominees – while taking a dig at presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
“Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity. It’s so diverse, Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater,” he said.
After the ceremony, Tony Awards tweeted, “For the first time in #TonyAwards history, all four musical acting awards have gone to people of colour.”
For the first time in #TonyAwards history, all four musical acting awards have gone to people of color.
— The Tony Awards (@TheTonyAwards) 13 June 2016
Hamilton, which was nominated for a record-breaking 16 awards during Sunday’s prizegiving, also won best musical. The show’s star, creator and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, took home the best book of a musical and best original score honour.
The creative team had a near clean sweep, winning bestdirection of a musical (Thomas Kail), best choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), best orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire), best costume design (Paul Tazewell), and best lighting design (Howell Binkley).
Although Hamilton went home with 11 trophies, it did not break the record for the most wins in one night, which is held by The Producers. The musical was honoured with 12 Tonys in 2001.
Meanwhile, acclaimed show The Humans scored the most trophies in the play categories, for best play, best featured actor and actress prizes for its two stars Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell, respectively, and best scenic design of a play for David Zinn.
Frank Langella earned his fourth Tony for best leading actor in a play for The Father, while Jessica Lange won her first Tony for best leading actress in a play for Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge was given two Tonys, for best revival of a play and for its director Ivo van Hove.
Casts from each of the best musical contenders – Bright Star, Hamilton, School of Rock, Shuffle Along and Waitress – treated viewers to song and dance numbers, while stars from best revival of a musical nominees, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me and Spring Awakening, also hit the stage to perform.
Bebe Neuwirth also led a 20th anniversary tribute to the revival of long-running musical Chicago, the show which earned her her second Tony Award in 1997.
The ceremony held at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Corden, in his monologue, also addressed the tragic Orlando shooting.
Also during the show, the American Theatre Wing — which hands out the Tonys — announced its new Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, which is being funded with a USD 1.3 million, three-year grant from Lloyd Webber, that will support theatre education opportunities for under-resourced public schools around the United States.