By the time the cast of Hamilton took the stage at Sunday night’s Tony Awards, the smash-hit musical that marries hip-hop and American history had collected nine of its record-breaking 16 nominations (two of those losses came in the Best Featured Actor category, won by Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs). And soon, it would pick up the big Best Musical prize that it had locked up before its first performance on Broadway.
But before that could happen, viewers of the telecast got their most complete view of the Pulitzer Prize-winning show yet, far more than creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda let the world see during a prime spot on the Grammys back in February. And the introduction came, via video, from none other than President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Christopher Jackson’s George Washington began the performance by singing the prophetic opening lines from “History Has Its Eyes on You.” That moment transformed into a climactic song from Act I of the musical that recounts the Battle of Yorktown. More than the relatively subdued opening number “Alexander Hamilton” that the cast has performed on television in the past, this piece displayed the high energy exuberance that wows lucky audiences in New York eight times a week.
Ending with the repeated refrain, “The World Turned Upside Down,” audience members could hardly be forgiven for thinking about Sunday morning’s tragic crime of hate and terror in Orlando that cast a cloud over the Tonys, especially given the LGBT community target.
Earlier in the evening, during one of his several acceptance speeches, this one for Best Score, Miranda dispensed with his typical freestyle in favor of an even more emotional sonnet, with the Orlando nightclub massacre on his mind.
“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,” he said from the podium. “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 last longer.
“Love is love is love is love is love is love is love,” Miranda added, bringing his speech to a crescendo, “Cannot be killed or swept aside.”