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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
TONY AWARDS 2016

THE SHOW MUST GO ON
By BRIAN SCOTT LIPTON

  Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele and Cassie Beck in The Humans/ Ph: Brigitte Lacombe

“Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.” Those lyrics from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking hip-hop musical Hamilton took on an extra-special meaning to anyone watching the 70th Annual Tony Awards, held on June 12 at New York City’s Beacon Theatre less than 24 hours after 50 people were murdered brutally in an Orlando gay nightclub. As Broadway lived up to its motto, “The show must go on,” the ceremony was part celebration, part tribute to the human spirit. Indeed, its versatile host, Tony winner and British-born talk-show host James Corden, as well as numerous winners and presenters (including Barbra Streisand) made solemn mention of the tragedy. Yet, the show itself was so spectacularly entertaining – one of the best in recent years – as to make us almost forget the horror of the day.

As had been predicted, it was the #HamilTonys (as the Twitterverse had cleverly dubbed it), with Miranda’s masterwork taking home a near-record 11 golden statuettes, including Best Musical, Director of a Musical (Thomas Kail), Actor (Leslie Odom Jr.), Featured Actor (Daveed Diggs), Featured Actress (Renee Elise Goldsberry), Book and Score (both to Miranda), and Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler). Its musical presentation, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” was a worthy display of its craftsmanship and creativity, its intelligence and heart. (Thankfully, the ladies of the cast got their turn to shine in the ceremony’s final moments, singing a small section of the far more irresistible “The Schuyler Sisters.”) Is it in any wonder that President and Michelle Obama gave the show a video introduction? Hamilton is more than an American history lesson; it redefines the American dream, and marks a new chapter in the history of American musical theater.

Of course, Hamilton’s many triumphs left little room for any of the other fine musicals Broadway produced this season, from Shuffle Along to Waitress, to do their own victory dance. Still, the night’s biggest ovation (excepting maybe Streisand’s entrance) went to the extraordinary British actress Cynthia Erivo, who made one of the Great White Way's most memorable debuts ever as the downtrodden Celie in John Doyle’s stunning reimagining of The Color Purple. She was rightly rewarded with the Best Actress in a Musical Tony. And that musical’s production ultimately bested three other marvelous shows to win Best Revival of a Musical: She Loves Me (which won a well-deserved Tony for David Rockwell’s gorgeous jewel box of a set), Spring Awakening and Fiddler on the Roof.

The wealth was shared a bit more on the dramatic side of the fence, with Stephen Karam’s deeply touching The Humans taking not just the Best Play honor, but also earning featured acting prizes for two beloved stage veterans, Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell, neither of whom is capable of one false note. For bringing the frightening reality of Alzheimer’s disease to the stage with consummate skill in Florian Zeller’s The Father, 78-year-old Frank Langella took home his fourth Tony Award, along with the respect of anyone who heard his incredibly inspiring acceptance speech. (It could win a Special Tony next year!)

While the decidedly realistic revival of Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece Long Day’s Journey into Night took the great Jessica Lange one step closer to EGOT status for her unforgettable portrayal of Mary Tyrone, it rightly lost Best Revival of a Play to Ivo Van Hove’s imaginative, innovative and deeply felt staging of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge – which also garnered the controversial Van Hove the Best Director of a Play prize. Sadly, Van Hove’s equally remarkable rethinking of Miller’s The Crucible was completely shut out, as were David Harrower’s Blackbird and Danai Gurira’s moving drama Eclipsed, about war-torn Africa, which (save for a Best Costume Design Tony) unfortunately ended up living up to its name as far as the Tony voters were concerned.

 


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