It also helped that there was a palpable lack of tension in the room, thanks to Hamilton, which had been tipped for utter dominance since it opened on Broadway last August. A combination of rave reviews, a best-selling cast album, and a cast filled with electrifying actors of color has turned the show into a mega-phenomenon. Previous hits like The Producers and The Book of Mormon had seemingly represented the ceiling of the Broadway sensation, but Hamilton also tapped into the internet to reach a whole universe of fans still clamoring to see it. Meanwhile, it’s sold out through next year and prices are only going up (the best seats now go for $849, face value).
Hamilton was the star of the show, and it opened and closed the night. There was a jokey rap introduction for Corden; a “carpool karaoke” video where Corden and Miranda sang along to the cast recording before being joined by the Broadway stars Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Jane Krakowski; a performance of the song “Yorktown”; and later a more impromptu version of “The Schuyler Sisters” to close the show (with the cast still in their tuxes and gowns). Corden frequently and jokingly referenced the assuredness of a Hamilton sweep, and if that wasn’t already obvious, Barack and Michelle Obama introduced the performance of “Yorktown” via pre-recorded video.
Miranda’s first acceptance speech, for Best Original Score, was the most memorable—his sonnet addressed his wife and child as well as the tragedy in Orlando, making it all the more powerful and spontaneous. “This show is proof that history remembers we lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger,” he said. “We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer.”
The show’s other winners included Daveed Diggs, who plays the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, for Best Featured Actor in a Musical; Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler, for Best Featured Actress; and Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Aaron Burr, for Best Leading Actor, beating Miranda as many awards pundits had anticipated. Hamilton’s haul of 11 trophies fell one short of The Producers’s record 12—it lost Best Scenic Design to the gorgeous jewel-box look of She Loves Me’s 1930s Budapest perfumery, and Best Leading Actress to Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple.
Erivo brought the house down with her performance of “I’m Here,” earning the first standing ovation of the night. Almost all of the show’s musical numbers were well-staged, a departure from the typical pattern at the Tonys, where songs often feel awkwardly truncated so that they can fit in enough ad breaks. Hamilton’s dominance came during an overall strong year for Broadway—revivals like The Color Purple, She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof, and Spring Awakening (which featured a partly deaf cast and innovative staging) were well-received, while new musicals like Waitress, School of Rock, and Bright Star showcased the thematic variety on offer for theatergoers.