It would have been easy to say that this year’s Tony Awards were all about Hamilton but the ceremony proved that that was not true. More than any other award ceremony, the Tonys showcase the plays that they have gathered to honour and as somebody who isn’t able to fly to New York and pay hundreds of dollars to watch these shows, I couldn’t appreciate it more.
In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, Broadway showed Hollywood what diversity looks like – kind of. I am well aware that not every single race and ethnicity was represented last night in the Beacon Theatre but there were more than we’re used to seeing on screen and we need to celebrate the small victories.
Throughout the years that I’ve watched the Tony Awards, a running theme is that the show is just as much for the aspiring young performers and writers in in their small towns as it is the nominees. Indeed, James Corden based his opening number on that very idea. For some reason, many actors going into stage-work have specific roles in mind that they want to play which means from the very conception of their dreams, they are limited by the works that are already out in the world – by what they see exists.
I’m by no means an actor but I am very well-acquainted with comic-con and cosplay. For me, finding a character in a piece of work that I enjoyed and I could dress up as proved impossible. Nobody on screen looked like me and to be perfectly honest, that hasn’t changed all that much but watching the Tonys was a wonderful, inspiring experience. There were people who I could see myself in and they were being celebrated.
Obviously Hamilton used colour-blind casting and simply hired the people that were good (somehow a radical notion in Hollywood) but the show’s Leslie Odom Jr. put it best, saying:
“you know what’s better than colour-blind casting? Roles that are actually written about you. Roles that are actually written about your experience.”
Also honoured in last night’s ceremony we saw Eclipsed, Shuffle Along, and The Colour Purple. Barring The Colour Purple, these are all new shows: Hollywood has a diversity problem and it doesn’t help that studios are so afraid to produce original content – films that aren’t remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, adaptations etc.
In the wake of the horrific events in Orlando, the Tony’s were a reminder that there is still so much joy and love and most of all, the ability to change. The kind of diversity that was put forward last night wouldn’t have existed in this industry 20 years ago but we have evolved and we just have to hope that we can continue to do that.
Did you see last night’s Tonys? Who were you rooting for to win? What was your favourite show this season? Let me know in the comments.