James Corden couldn’t have said it better when he opened last night’s Tony Awards with this: “Think of this [event] as the Oscars, but with diversity.” And boy, was he right.
Last night’s #TonyAwards was nothing like this year’s #OscarssoWhite. Sure, there are still forms of representation we need to work on (like nominating more men of color for Best Featured Actor and Best Leading Actor in a play, for example). However, everyone slayed in their beautiful clothes and diverse visibility last night. I know my eyes were totally glued to the TV this year, and I can’t imagine a better way to have spent my Sunday evening.
But hey – if you missed the Tonys, let me fill you in on what you missed:
This hits close to home for me. The amount of mixed race people who performed and/or won Tonys was at an all-time high. Five multiracial people were nominated last night, and two won: Daveed Diggs for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Hamilton, and Brian Stokes Mitchell for the Isabelle Stevenson Award. In Diggs’ acceptance speech, he talked about how he wouldn’t be on that stage without the support of his parents, who were there to see him win. It goes to show that as a mixed race person, or anyone else who identifies with an in-between identity – you’re gonna need a rock-solid sense of self.
All four actors who received an award for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical were people of color. Daveed Diggs for Best Featured Actor, Leslie Odom Jr. for Best Leading Actor for Hamilton, Cynthia Erivo for Best Leading Actress for The Color Purple, and Best Featured Actress, Renée Goldsberry for Hamilton. You guys, this is the first time in Tony’s history that this has ever happened! EVER! And, on top of that, for each actor, it was their FIRST time receiving a Tony. Holy crap! FIRST TIME! Earlier in the show, James Corden performed a number for how anything could be possible to become a performer, and with the representation we saw last night, it rings as truth!
For the majority of people watching the Tonys for the first time, ninety percent of their reason why was to see Hamilton perform and try to win all sixteen of their award nominations. Corden even joked, “I promise this show won’t be all about Hamilton…There will also be commercial breaks.” They won eleven out of sixteen awards! And to see a production that fosters so much racial diversity and messages of promoting social justice by using the American Revolution as an allegory, proved that the impossible can be possible. It took seventy years to get to this point in the world of Broadway, but we’re here now, and that’s what matters.
Finally, the reminder of how the arts is a space of love and not of hate, was the most palpable sentiment from last night’s Tony Awards. When the news broke about the Orlando shooting earlier that day, homage was given to those in grief and in need of healing. When Lin Manuel Miranda won Best Score for Hamilton, his acceptance speech was, instead of a usual rap, a sonnet about love equality. When Frank Langella won Best Leading Actor in a Play for The Father, he said that he could not stay silent about the tragedy, and let people know who were affected by it that they are loved and supported. Although it was a day of losses, it was nice to celebrate the small gains in the midst of them all.
You don’t have to be a musical nerd to appreciate the power of representation at the Tonys this year. We had mixed race, black, and Latino actors, musicians, and designers win awards. We had the deaf community and other disabilities visible in the revival of Spring Awakening, and we had a woman of color nominated for Best Director in a Play. Here’s to hoping that other awards such as the Oscars, the Grammys, and more, follow suit in the diversity department. They could all learn a thing or two from the Tonys.