Tony Awards Kick Off With Somber Message Against Hate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) —The Tony Awards got underway with a heavy heart a night after a gunman killed 50 people at a gay Florida nightclub, prompting a Broadway tribute to the victims at the very top of the show.

Host James Corden, his back to the audience, spoke to viewers when he dedicated the night to celebrate the diversity of Broadway. “Hate will never win. Together we have to make sure of that. Tonight’s show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle,” he said.

“Hamilton,” going into the night with 16 nominations, jumped out to an early lead with five awards, including best score and best featured actor and actress statuettes for Renee Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs.

It earlier won awards for costume and lighting but lost scenic design to “She Loves Me,” meaning “Hamilton” will not be able to break the record for the most Tonys, the 12-statuette haul by “The Producers.”

FULL LIST OF 2016 TONY AWARD WINNERS

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of “Hamilton,” read from a sonnet, referencing tragedy and urging “love and love and love….” Miranda previously won the same award for the score to his “In the Heights,”

Jayne Houdyshell, a mainstay of the New York stage, won her first Tony Award at 62 for playing a gossipy, gently needling mom in “The Humans.”

At least 50 people died early Sunday when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

In response to the shooting, “Hamilton” will drop its use of muskets in its performance, according to a spokesman for the musical. The Tony show also created a silver ribbon for stars to wear in solidarity and they were seen on the suits of actor Sean Hayes and George C. Wolfe.

“My heart is saddened by it,” said Jeffrey Seller, producer of “Hamilton,” which went into the night with a leading 16 Tony nominations. “The celebration tonight is tempered by it.”

The shooting was close to home for Christopher Fitzgerald, a nominee for the musical “Waitress” who went to school in Orlando. “I’m heartbroken. I think everybody is feeling it, so we are at least all coming together to celebrate and not live in fear,” he said.

The violence threatened to put a damper on the expected victory lap for “Hamilton,” Miranda’s hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary. With its diverse cast, the show has become a cultural phenomenon, bringing attention to Broadway like no other.

“Eclipsed” won for best costume for a play and “The Humans” won for best set design of a play. Best set design for a musical went to “She Loves Me” and best lighting for a play went to “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

Corden brought his endearing, fan-boy vibe to the opening number in which he performed a head-spinning medley of tunes from famous Broadway musicals, including donning a mask for “The Phantom of the Opera,” a leather jacket for “Grease,” and a curly red wig for “Annie.”

The show opened with the cast of “Hamilton” performing their opening number with the lyrics altered to have them all wondering why Corden — “chatting with Hollywood phonies” — had earned this honor.

The host of the “The Late Late Show” had some quips for the theater-loving audience: “This is like the Super Bowl for people who don’t know what the Super Bowl is,” he said at one point. At another: “Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity,” and made a dig at Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall around the theater. He later flirted with Oprah Winfrey.

The show itself seemed to burst out of the smallish Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side, taking a page from the weekly free public concerts outside “Hamilton” to put performers from the nominated shows on tiny stages outside the venue serenading the crowd before and after commercial breaks.

“Hamilton” and the 38 new productions this season helped Broadway’s attendance figures hit a record high, up 1.6 percent to 13.3 million ticket buyers. The box offices reported a record total gross of $1.37 billion — up 0.6 percent from the previous season.

The season also was rich in diversity among actors: Fourteen of the 40 Tony nominees for acting in plays and musicals — or 35 percent — are actors of color. And there are more non-whites nominated on the other side of the stage, including choreographer Savion Glover, directors George C. Wolfe and Liesl Tommy, and playwright Danai Gurira.

Women also broke records: “Eclipsed” is the first ever Broadway play to feature a director, writer and cast who are all women and also all black. On the musical side, “Waitress” marked the first time that the four top creative spots in a show — composer, choreographer, book writer and director — were four women.

For more Tony Awards coverage, click here.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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