History will play a significant part in the 70th annual Tony Awards airing Sunday, June 12 from New York’s Beacon Theatre.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cultural game-changer “Hamilton” — which has already received a Grammy and Pulitzer Prize — revolutionized contemporary musical theater this season with its astonishingly bold, hip-hop account of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury among other accomplishments.
As the Tonys prepare to embrace the extraordinary artistry of “Hamilton,” one of the most phenomenal productions I have witnessed, here are five things to keep in mind regarding the telecast, hosted by late-night talk show host and 2012 Tony winner James Corden (“One Man, Two Guvnors”).
1. IMPRESSIVE DIVERSITY
The startling lack of diversity at this year’s Academy Awards drew controversy, but the Tonys will be one of the most diverse in recent memory.
In addition to the refreshingly multiracial “Hamilton,” African-Americans are particularly showcased with such dynamic shows as the entertaining, thought-provoking throwback “Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed” (which reaped 10 nominations including Best Musical), the visceral Liberian-centric drama “Eclipsed” (six nominations), and the poignant, scaled-down return of “The Color Purple” (four nominations).
In fact, in what would be a historic first in the same year, the four musical acting categories stand a chance of being won by African-Americans (Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, Daveed Diggs and Renée Elise Goldsberry).
2. SHE’S STILL THE GREATEST STAR
CBS has gathered a terrific array of presenters from the worlds of stage, TV and film. Notables include Oprah Winfrey (who could win her first Tony as producer of “The Color Purple”), Cate Blanchett (making her Broadway debut this winter in Chekhov adaptation “The Present”), Nathan Lane (heading back to Broadway this fall in the revival of “The Front Page,” which also features Dayton native and Tony nominee Micah Stock), Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (nominated for their charming bluegrass musical “Bright Star”), and Jake Gyllenhaal (starring this fall in a New York concert version of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”). But all eyes will be on original “Funny Girl” Barbra Streisand, returning to the Tonys for the first time since 1970. Expect a hearty standing ovation.
3. A HAMILTON SWEEP?
With 12 wins in 2001, “The Producers” still holds the record as the most honored production in Tony history. “Hamilton” scored a record 16 nominations (breaking the record of 15 shared by “Billy Elliot” and “The Producers”), but it’s more likely to tie or at least come close to 12 wins rather than surpass. After all, due to the considerable strengths of the season, nothing is certain across the board, especially in the acting categories. Not even choreography is a sure bet for “Hamilton” considering Savion Glover’s tremendous tap dance routines in “Shuffle Along.” So, anticipate a huge haul for “Hamilton” but not a clean sweep.
4. STIFF COMPETITION
Anyone involved with “Hamilton” aims to do well, but there’s always the possibility of vote-splitting. For instance, Daveed Diggs is the frontrunner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his fantastically flavorful dual roles of Marquis de Layafette and Thomas Jefferson, but he’s nominated alongside his fellow actors Jonathan Groff and Christopher Jackson. So, the hilarious Christopher Fitzgerald could upset for his scene-stealing turn in “Waitress.”
In the same regard, Leslie Odom Jr. — frontrunner for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his marvelously multifaceted embodiment of Aaron Burr — faces off against Miranda’s powerful titular portrayal. This could result in an overdue victory for six-time nominee Danny Burstein, who gives a heartwarming performance as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Also, Best Revival of a Musical is an absolute nail-biter between four spectacular shows: “The Color Purple,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “She Loves Me” and “Spring Awakening.” Momentum is with “She Loves Me” since it opened this spring, but “The Color Purple” is also greatly admired due to the remarkable Broadway debut of British powerhouse Cynthia Erivo as Celie and director John Doyle’s superbly reconceived vision.
5. TWO FOR THE ROAD
You can catch two of this year’s acclaimed productions on the road this fall. “Hamilton” begins an open-ended run Sept. 27 at Chicago’s PrivateBank Theatre courtesy of Broadway in Chicago. The first allotment of group tickets have already sold out, but single ticket and additional group ticket sales are forthcoming. For more information, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com. Additionally, the incredibly experimental, riveting and cathartic production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” frontrunner for Best Revival of a Play, will stop at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center Nov. 18-Dec. 3. Tickets are priced at $45-$119. For more information, call (202) 467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
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