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Tony Awards 2016 Recap: Highlights, Big Moments and ‘Hamilton’ Galore

Curtains up! For weeks now, every Broadway buff and awards show aficionado has been wondering one thing: Will Hamilton break the record for the most Tony awards ever won? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking show already broke the record for most nominations — with a whopping 16 noms in 13 categories — but did it get more than the 12 wins nabbed by The Producers at the 55th Tony Awards? Read on to find out the answer to that question and more, including who performed and who took home awards at the 2016 Tonys on Sunday, June 12!

Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda perform at the 2016 Tonys.
Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda perform at the 2016 Tonys.

1. The entire show was dedicated to the tragedy in Orlando.

James Corden started the show by addressing the victims, their families and the LGBTQ community as a whole. “You are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy,” he said of the shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, which left 50 dead and dozens more injured.

Later, when accepting the award for Best Original Score, Miranda performed an original sonnet that alluded to the devastation. “Love is love is love is love is love is love,” he asserted, fighting back tears. He also wore a rainbow flag pin on his lapel in honor of the LGBTQ community.

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Jessica Lange referenced the tragedy as well, when she accepted her award for Best Lead Actress in a Play and said that the recognition for her work brought her joy even on such a sad day. And The Fathers Frank Langella, who won for Best Actor in a Play, addressed the people of Orlando directly, saying, “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, and I urge you, Orlando, to be strong, because I’m standing in a room full of the most generous humans beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.”

Finally, when reading the nominees for Best Musical at the end of the evening, Barbra Streisand said, “Our joy is tinged with sorrow, but we’re here to celebrate Broadway and the beauty artistry can bring into this world.”

2. Corden was a perfect host, blending touching moments with solid jokes.

After a somber tribute to the Orlando victims, the host of The Late Late Show kicked off the ceremony by singing a song to introduce himself to the crowd as Hamilton cast members danced around him.

“My name’s James Corden and this is what I’ll be awardin’,” he crooned, brandishing a Tony. “Just you wait!”

Beyond that, Corden landed great jokes all night. He pranked Josh Groban by playing an old video of the singer acting in Fiddler on the Roof and poked fun at the “Ham 4 Ham” tradition, when Hamilton cast members and other Broadway stars put on shows for fans entering the in-person lottery outside the theater. “[It] didn’t work out when the cast of The Crucible came out and tried to burn a woman,” he quipped.

Ultimately, though, his best comedic moments came when he tackled real, important issues. “Think of tonight as the Oscars but with diversity,” he said, slyly referencing the #OscarsSoWhite controversy from earlier in the year. He went on, “It’s so diverse that Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater!”

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He wasn’t the only one to get political, either. Jake Gyllenhaal made reference to Hillary Clinton making history by becoming the first female presumptive presidential nominee for a major party while announcing the winner of one of the Best Actress categories. Nathan Lane, like Corden, made a quick jab at Trump with a joke about the Trump University fraud cause. And Trump got roasted yet again later in the show, when Corden proposed a new musical called The Book of Moron, a parody of The Book of Mormon that lampoons the business mogul.

It wasn’t all jokes, though. In his opening number, Corden sang earnestly about dreaming big, promising kids watching that they could end up on a Broadway stage one day if they work hard enough. He took care to mention that kids in the LGBTQ community should never doubt that they too can make it.

3. There were really, really great speeches.

This year, the speeches seemed more poignant than ever. In addition to the numerous shout-outs to the citizens of Orlando and members of the LGBTQ community, the acceptance speeches touched on a variety of deep topics.

When Jayne Houdyshell won Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play, she let it be known that it was her first Tony Award, and that it was coming 42 years into her career. Langella gave his thoughts on being an older artist too, saying, “There is no late in an actor’s career. There’s just the journey and there’s just now.” He made his win for his turn as the Alzheimer’s-afflicted Andre in The Father even more touching by mentioning that his own brother was battling the disease as he aged.

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Featured Actress in a Musical went to Hamilton‘s Renée Elise Goldsberry, who used her allotted speech time to speak about her 10-year attempt to have children. “The Lord gave me Benjamin and Brielle, and then he still gave me this,” she said as she held up her Tony.

4. The performances were unorthodox, surprising and conversation worthy.

The School of Rock cast, introduced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, started the streak of incredible performances with its rendition of the song You’re in the Band. The crew of talented young kids played their instruments live, just as they do during their show eight times a week.

Later, Spring Awakening’s cast made history with a performance from Deaf West Theatre’s Broadway revival, which featured American Sign Language; Jessie Mueller brought down the house with Waitress‘ heartrending ballad “She Used to Be Mine”; and pregnant Audra McDonald earned major props on Twitter for dancing through her Shuffle Along song.

Of course, the most anticipated performance of the night belonged to Hamilton. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced the song in a pre-recorded video before Common introduced it again in real life, which was as good a sign as any for Us that something truly unparalleled was about to begin.

The cast performed a rendition of “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” which earned huge cheers from the crowd — particularly when Miranda and Daveed Diggs hit the famous line, “Immigrants: We get the job done!”

5. Hamilton didn’t break the record for the most awards won, but the night was still basically all about the musical.

The Hamilton crew popped up on stage multiple times throughout the night, lending their talents to everything from the opening number to the outdoor performances before commercial breaks. In fact, the cast of the historical musical was so ubiquitous at the ceremony that when Corden pointed out his parents in the audience toward the end of the night and stuck the mic right in his father’s face, the older man wondered aloud, “There’s a lot about Hamilton, isn’t there?”

Notably, there was a “Carpool Karaoke” segment, filmed before the show, that showed Corden and Miranda, along with Jane Krakowski, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and McDonald, singing tunes from Hamilton and Les Miserables. Obviously, revolution-based period musicals are really in right now!

In the end, Hamilton took home the big award at the end of the night, becoming 2016’s Best Musical.

Tell Us: What was your favorite performance?

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