Even if you aren’t a big fan of musical theatre (what are you doing with your life, I ask?), it would be hard to resist feeling incredibly spellbound and touched by the speeches given at the 70th Tony Awards. The well-deserved winners used their allotted time slot to give their thanks, to spark a light of hope in young dreamers and to speak out against the Orlando shooting episode that occurred the same day.
The speeches remind people that the era we’re currently living in is not a moment, but a movement. It seems that around every corner is another ‘Pray for…’ campaign; pray for Sydney, pray for Paris, pray for Brussels, pray for Syria, pray for Orlando…. These moments of hate crime and terrorism are evolving into movements of love and generosity of heart spread across the globe, and it is imperative every one of us jump on board.
Theatre people in particular are some of the most generous, selfless and kind-hearted people in the world. I attribute their undying compassion to the fact that their actual job, stripped back to the raw basics, is to feel. Performers need to have a strong connection with the characters they are portraying and the emotions they’re experiencing, and so learn how to empathise with people in the real world that they might have nothing in common with.
The understanding nature of artists emerged through the speeches from the 70th Tony Awards, of which the following four are my personal favourites:
Best Original Score: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin, my role model and the brainchild behind Hamilton: An American Revolution wrote and presented a sonnet in place of an acceptance speech. I dare you to watch it without crying:
” My wife’s the reason anything gets done.
She nudges me towards promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one, our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
until they’re finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
that nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall and light from dying embers.
Remembrances that hope and love live longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
As sacred as a symphony, Eliza tells her story and fills the world with music love and pride. “
Best Lead Actor in a Play: Frank Langella
Langella’s speech was another which moved me to tears, directly addressing the Orlando tragedy.
“When I first came to New York in 1960 from school, I consulted an astrologer, who told me my greatest successes would come late in my career. I thought she meant 30. The fact of the matter is there really is no late in an actor’s career, there’s just the journey, and there’s just now. So it’s rather ironic that I should be honored with this award for playing a man who’s losing his now, who’s losing his reality, as indeed my dear brother Andrew is at the moment. There are so many names I wrote down today to thank you, but I hope they will forgive me if I bring in a dose of true reality, what happened today in Orlando. I found some words that will mean more to you then a litany of names.
‘When something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us.’
Today in Orlando, we had a hideous dose of reality. I urge you Orlando to be strong, because I’m standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way. Thank you.”
Best Revival of a Musical: The Color Purple
The Color Purple is a musical which teaches audiences to appreciate every little aspect of life, despite any tribulations which arise. Winner of Best Leading Actress, Cynthia Erivo was so profoundly moving in her rendition of I’m Here that she received the first standing ovation of the night, spreading the message of the song through passion and pure belief.
“I have never been more inspired by a character than Celie in Alice Walker’s timeless The Color Purple. No matter what, yeah Celie, no matter what life’s obstacles brought to her, this woman woke up every day marching forward and continued to love. Celie’s spirit has been with me for the last twenty years as a beating heart beat working on this musical, and we’re all so proud to be here today … Remember, whatever life brings you, there are Celie’s out there, you are beautiful and you are here.”
Best Musical: Hamilton
The speech by the show’s producer, Jeffrey Seller, perfectly summed up exactly how Hamilton has taken to the musical theatre world in a flurry of majestic mayhem.
“Alexander Hamilton was a dreamer. George Washington, Eliza Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, were dreamers. I stand on this stage tonight and in this theater surrounded by dreamers. Dreamers like Lin Manuel, who had a big idea and worked tirelessly over 6 years to bring it to life. Dreamers like Tommy and Andy and Alex and the extraordinary company of Hamilton who have showed up to our theater almost every single day for the last year and a half to share their vision of America. To the most supportive, appreciative and diverse audiences I’ve ever witnessed. Hamilton, an American musical, embodies the best values, the best impulses that make our nation a beacon to the world: inclusiveness, generosity, ingenuity, and the will to work hard to make our dreams come true. Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now, thank you.”