Since its inception in 1947, the Tony Awards has been full of performances and appearances by some of Broadway’s biggest and brightest. Surely on a night that brings together the best of Broadways writers, directors, actors and designers there are bound to be plenty of O-M-G, tear-jerking moments. Well, in honor of the 69th Tony Award Ceremony, it’s only right that here, at Broadway Black, I give you my seven most memorable Tony moments from previous years.
7. Rap It Up (2013)
They’d done it before in 2011, but there was one thing missing–Audra McDonald. When host Neil Patrick Harris started to say there wouldn’t be enough time for a closing song, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail came to the rescue. Like in 2011, the two wrote the rap during the telecast to the beat of “Empire State Of Mind.” It was glorious and perfect all in one. Also, who could forget Audra’s epic mic drop at the end?
6. Oh, Patti! (2008)
Remember that YouTube video that went around of Patti LuPone stopping in the middle of a performance of Gypsy to scold an audience member for recording? Didn’t think she could top that? Well she did at the 2008 Tony Awards when she won Best Actress in a Musical for Gypsy. Her first in 29 years, and she let us know that. Pulling out a two-page letter, Patti began to go through and thank every single person she could think of. Do you think the cue music slowed her down? Absolutely not, when the wrap-up music did play, LuPone yelled over the music “Shut up, it’s been 29 years!” Oh, Patti.
David Hyde Pierce presents the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical to Patti LuPone for her role as Rose in “Gypsy.” This was her second Tony, her first since she won in 1980 for “Evita.” I own nothing, no copyright infringement intended.
5. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s improvised rap acceptance speech (2008)
I can’t help it when the rap world and Broadway world collide. I can’t help but to be excited. Lin-Manuel Miranda gets it right every time. So when In The Heights won for Best Original Score–Miranda’s first Tony Award–of course he raps his acceptance speech. Not only does it rap it, it’s completely from the top of his head. That is some serious skill!
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony acceptance speech – Sunday, June 15th, 2008. “In The Heights” winning Best Original Score. No pare, sigue sigue!
4. Pippin’s “Magic To Do” (1973)
Two words. Ben Vereen. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to go back in time to see the original production of Pippin. Don’t get me wrong, I saw the revival with Patina Miller three times because I thought it was so good. However, after seeing this chilling performance of “Magic To Do”, I’ve never wanted to see Mr. Vereen’s Leading Player more.
Ben Vareen and Company perform “Magic to do” on the 1973 Tony Awards.
3. Billy Elliot Boys (2009)
The lead actors made us “aww” when the three boys made Tony history and gave the cutest speech ever. For the first time, David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish all were awarded Best Actor in A Musical. What makes it even sweeter? It was their Broadway debut. What a way to make an entrance, huh?
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish win 2009 Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for Billy Elliot the Musical They gave the cutest speech ever. This is the first time three actors shared the award at the Tony Awards. Congratulations!
2. Audra Made History (2014)
That time Audra McDonald made history and became the first person in Tony history to win a Tony Award in all four acting categories? Also when she became the first to win six Tony Awards for acting categories alone? Yes, you heard that right. The first. Not the first woman of color or the first black woman, the first person ever– period. I remember watching the Tony’s that year, bursting into tears while she gave her acceptance speech. She made history and I got to witness it.
Audra McDonald received a 2014 Tony Award for her performance in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play The 68th Annual Tony Awards, Sunday June 8th 8/7c on CBS. Broadway: Where Stars Align http://tonyawards.com/
1. Jennifer Holiday Told Us (1982)
I’d be foolish if I didn’t mention this tear-jerking, heartfelt performance by powerhouse Jennifer Holiday. At the time she was just 21 years old with a voice wise beyond her years. The song “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” comes at the end of the first act of Dreamgirls, the character Effie singing it after getting kicked out of the group and being dumped by her producer boyfriend. While the song is meant for him, Holiday sings into the audience in a way that makes you feel every note and lyric. I dare you not to get chills.
Sound off below with some of your own! What moments did you find most memorable?
Hamilton, The Color Purple & More Light Up the 2016 Tony Awards
On Broadway’s biggest, and now most historic night, ten of the 14 Tony-nominated musicals of the 2015-2016 season brought light and life to the CBS telecast held at the Beacon Theatre.
Watch the triumphant performances below:
This year’s Tony-winning host James Corden opened the show with help from Tony-winner Leslie Odom, Jr., and the cast of Hamilton, proving he’s a chameleon when it comes to iconic roles such as Grizabella, The Phantom of the Opera, Mama Rose, and Effie White.
School of Rock
This summer, school is back in session as nominee Alex Brightman led the kids of School of Rock, based on the film, in their performance of “You’re in the Band,” a number written for the show by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The biggest Hamilton fans in the country, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, prefaced the performance with a video message. In light of the tragedy that occurred in Orlando, FL, Tony-winners Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, and Tony-nominee Christopher Jackson (who sang “History Has Its Eyes On You”), and cast decided to forgo their musket props during their performance of “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” Turns out the award-winning choreography is just fine without them.
Sweet as pie! The cast of Waitress began their act with the opening number, “Opening Up,” followed by recording artist Sara Bareilles, who wrote the score, performing a gorgeous rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” on the piano. Jessie Mueller returned to the stage and left us edge-less.
Despite the Kickstarter controversy surrounding Ken Davenport’s Broadway revival of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, the cast returned to remind us what was so special about this electrifying production, as both hearing and deaf actors performed “Mama Who Bore Me” and “The Bitch of Living.”
On Your Feet!
Grammy-winner Gloria Estefan performed a medley of her hits alongside Ana Villafane, Josh Segarra, and the cast of On Your Feet!, the musical based on the lives of her and her husband, Emilio.
The Color Purple
We don’t have any words for this either. But Danielle Brooks, Heather Headley, and the cast of The Color Purple revival snatchT us bald with “Mysterious Ways” — merely moments before the woman of the hour, TONY-WINNER MOTHER F***ING CYNTHIA ERIVO, bodied us all with her show-stopping solo “I’m Here.” Naturally, everyone gave her a standing ovation, which is required any time this goddess opens her mouth.
The charming new musical Bright Star opened their performance with an appearance by composer Steve Martin on the banjo. With a first appearance on the Tonys, Carmen Cusack pretty much sang us her life story, performing “If You Knew My Story.”
Led by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, and Audra McDonald, the cast of Shuffle Along performed their opening number, “Broadway Blues,” featuring an expecting McDonald dancing her ass off. The woman can do no wrong.
Chicago, 20th Anniversary
To help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Chicago, now the longest-running American musical on Broadway, Bebe Neuwirth, Velma Kelly in the original revival cast, took the stage to perform the hit opening number, “All That Jazz,” which helped score her a Tony for the role. To date, Neuwirth is the only actress to perform as every female principle in the show.
Broadway legend Chita Rivera helped pay tribute to her friend and colleague, the late Roger Rees, and others we’ve lost in the past year, including Broadway’s first Black and youngest Jean Valjean, Kyle Jean-Baptiste.
She Loves Me
This eye-popping revival of She Loves Me performed a medley of songs with Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski recreating that iconic split/drag-across-the-stage piece of choreography, followed by Zachary Levi singing the title song, and ending with Laura Benanti’s power vocals in “Ice Cream.”
Fiddler On the Roof
Bartlett Sher’s streak of lush revivals continues as the cast of his latest work, the Fiddler on the Roof performed “Sunrise, Sunset,” led by six-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein, followed by the “Bottle Dance.”
Closing — What Else? Hamilton
Because they weren’t going anywhere, fresh after winning their 11th Tony for Best Musical, without doing an encore, the lovely ladies of Hamilton — Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Jasmine Cephas Jones — put their glorious harmonies to “work, work” with their number “The Schuyler Sisters.”
What a night. What a year.
Videos courtesy of CBS.
Hamilton Cast Performs Opening Number At Grammys
If you were ever in doubt as to whether Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has taken over the pop culture consciousness, tune into the Grammys this Sunday. The smash Broadway musical will be featured during the show.
The cast is set to perform their opening number aptly titled “Alexander Hamilton.” It’s the rolling, riveting number that gives the premise of the show complete with harmonies, hip-hop crecendos and a decent bit of dancing.
If you did not know. Hamilton is a steamroller of a show outpacing many other musicals and starring a predomininatly Brown and Black cast. Deadline reported late last year that the show was ahead of the game in recouping their investment costs.
Oh did we also mention the Hamilton cast album broke on the Billboard Rap charts landing on Number 12.
The performance is expected to be shown live from the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York. Of course, love and admiration for this show is almost unparalleled. It is particularly a proud moment for people of color who are seeing Miranda continue to create moving musicals with minority cast and crew. We hope and pray he keeps blessing us with more gems, but until then watch the Grammys this Sunday and support.
Hamilton The Musical Performs & Wins on The Grammy Awards
Tonight the world received a special treat and the theatre community cherished it the most. The musical that continues to break barriers, Hamilton, performed live at the Grammy Awards from the Richard Rogers stage during the telecast for millions all over the world. In front of a house full of Hamiton musical fans, the cast used that energy & magnified it ten-fold thru our television screen to give us what you’ll witness below.
“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean, by providence impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
These are the words that start it all and we’re surprised that they were allowed on the telecast but we’re glad that they didn’t change that. They delivered such a powerful performance for the world to see & the impact of the opening lines are needed to draw in the masses. We were surely standing on our feet by the end of it.
Now, we know it’s already hard to get tickets for the show & once The Tony Awards come in June it’s going to be even harder but it’s the performances that air like this that make it even more special once you actually do get the chance.
Hamilton is the highly acclaimed, hip hop-infused story about America’s first treasurer, Alexander Hamilton. It has topped rap charts. It has beat out the almighty Lion King as top grossing musical TWICE. It’s members have appeared on a cypher on BET. And it has welcomed thousands of public school students into the theater to give the gift of the arts. Based on the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Miranda has penned what has come to be one of the most influential and talked about shows of our generation.
It also didn’t stop after the performance. Hamilton, the musical received more airtime when the musical won Best Musical Theatre Album & the award, as well as the acceptance speech, aired on the main telecast. Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, give a clever acceptance speech in the form a rap. He’s truly a remarkable genius with words.
Kennedy Center Honors Featuring Cicely Tyson Airs on CBS
Legendary actress Cicely Tyson stunned on Sunday as one of the honorees for the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors.
The annual celebration has become the star-studded event of the season attracting A-listers from Broadway to D.C. to Hollywood. Tyson was one of six honorees celebrated for their lifetime contributions to the arts and American culture. Other honorees included Rita Moreno, Carole King, George Lucas and Seiji Ozawa.
Broadway Black beauties Viola Davis and Kerry Washington were on hand for Tyson’s tribute to share all the ways the timeless 90 year old had inspired them and their work.
“Cicely Tyson does not merely act,” said Washington. “She soars. She sings. She vibrates. She is music.”
Davis, who recently worked opposite Tyson as her daughter on the hit-series “How to Get Away With Murder,” had this to say about the icon: “my friend, my inspiration, my TV mother…[she] motivates others to follow her lead and her dreams.”
Since her breakthrough performance in the critically acclaimed “Sounder,” Tyson has earned a bevy of Academy, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations over the span of her 60-year career. In 2013, she won her first Tony Award for her captivating portrayal of “Carrie Watts” in A Trip to Bountiful. She can currently be seen on Broadway in The Gin Game with long-time friend, James Earl Jones.
In all, Tyson has nearly 100 acting credits in film, TV and stage, but as Producer Tyler Perry explained, she has always been selective in the works with which she chooses to associate herself.
“She turned down more roles than you could imagine because they didn’t lift or serve us as a people,” Perry said. “For six decades, she has been diligent in her pursuit to better us all.”
When asked how she felt about receiving the presidential honor, she simply responded, “I am still in shock,” the humility ironic against her regal sophistication. “I consider this tantamount to being honored by the queen.”
The 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on Dec. 29 at 9 P.M.
Kerry Washington gives an amazing introduction for Cece Winans, Terrence Blanchard, & The Cicely Tyson Community School of Performing & Fine Arts Choir singing Blessed Assurance.
Aretha Franklin performs (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman like you’ve never seen before for another honoree, Carole King.
Broadway’s A-List Join American Theatre Wing to Honor James Earl Jones
The elite of stage and film recently gathered to celebrate the works of legendary actor James Earl Jones at the American Theatre Wing Gala.
Samuel L. Jackson, Leslie Odom Jr., Patina Miller, Brandon Victor Dixon, Latanya Richardson, Danielle Brooks, and the exquisite Cicely Tyson were among the many luminaries in attendance to honor the two-time Tony Award winner.
The 98th annual event recognized Jones for more than 50 years of exceptional theater work. Known best for his trademark bass, Jones is one of the few artists who has received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony for his noteworthy performances, including his role as Darth Vader, one of the most notorious villains of all time.
“His presence is so indelible, his talent so immense, ” noted Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing. “He’s managed to make some of his most memorable film roles without even showing his face.”
The Lion King’s Samuel E. Wright, Alton Fitzgerald White, L. Steven Taylor, Nathaniel Stampley and Rufus Bonds Jr. kicked off the celebration with a musical performance thanking Jones for originating the beloved role of Mufasa, which they each later reprised in the Broadway musical.
Norm Lewis, who previously played Javert in Les Miserables, dedicated his lovely rendition of “The Prayer” to the late Kyle Jean Baptiste, acknowledging that both of their opportunities were set in motion by pioneer Jones’ efforts. “That was all because of doors you opened.”
After being presented with the award by Star Wars co-star Jackson, Jones humbly thanked The Wing for their contributions to his artistic growth. “They taught us not to put ethnic or gender limits on the characters that we studied. They taught us speech for Shakespeare, and speech for Arthur Miller, and speech for Tennessee Williams, and speech for George Lucas,” he affirmed graciously before concluding, “I can’t thank you enough, no matter how old I get.”
Jones can currently be seen with Ms. Tyson in The Gin Game at the Golden Theater through January 10, 2016.
What a night fit for a legend. Congrats @JamesEarlJones! #AboutLastNight #TheWingGala #YouAreBroadwayBlack A photo posted by BroadwayBlack (@broadwayblack) on
@SamuelLJackson presenting @JamesEarlJones with #TheWingGala Honor #AboutLastNight A photo posted by BroadwayBlack (@broadwayblack) on
A video posted by BroadwayBlack (@broadwayblack) on
2015 National Black Theatre Festival: Promises Music, Dance, Theatre & A Celebration of Legacy
Giddy expectation surrounds the 2015 biennial National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem North Carolina. Since 1989, the festival produced by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company and founded by Larry Leon Hamlin will showcase 145 performances to an expected 60, 000 participants. The festival will feature 37 professional theatre companies from around the country, South Africa and Brazil. In addition, there will be two collegiate productions.
This year’s festival, which runs August 3rd through August 8th, boasts celebrity co-chairs Debbie Morgan and Darnell Williams well known as the beloved Black power couple “Angie and Jessie” on the soap opera “All My Children”. Additionally, theatre goers will have the opportunity to attend “The Monkey on My Back” (An Intimate Evening with Debbi Morgan) which details memoirs of her life and legacy. After a stirring celebrity processional replete with African drummers and dancers, attendees of the opening night gala will be treated to an awards presentation. Check out our previous article on this year’s honorees.
The headlining event of the festival this year will be “Black Stars of the Great White Way: A Chapman Roberts Concept” produced by Chapman Roberts. The concert has been described as a “soaring music and dance celebration of the glorious 100 year history of African Americans on Broadway and at Carnegie Hall. This Gala All Broadway Star Production is specifically designed to honor NBTF luminaries past and present”. The concert will include tributes to Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Eubie Blake, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Noble Sissle. This star studded concert will include the likes of Melba Moore, Jackee Harry, Harold Wheeler, Hattie Winston, Obba Babatunde, Maurice Hines, Alyson Williams, Norm Lewis, Andre Deshields, Larry Marshall, Peggi Blu, Longineu Parsons, Jeffresy Anderson-Gunter, Kirk Taylor, Jacob Wheeler, Dawnn Lewis and Jermaine Coles. Selections from beloved productions of Eubie, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Sunset Boulevard, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, The Wiz and the film “Selma,” will highlight the rich history of Black Broadway Theatre.
According to the website, this year’s festival promises a multitude of “…electrifying performances, informative workshops, riveting films and insightful spoken word poetry that will open your eyes to a new perspective on our culture’s artistic endeavors. Every evening culminates with a Celebrity Reception, Midnight Readers’ Theatre and the Midnight Poetry Jam.” Festival attendees should keep their eyes out for popular productions such as “Letter from Zora: In Her Own Words” performed by OPAS (Los Angeles, CA) , “The Eve of Jackie: A Tribute to Jackie Wilson” performed by Chess, Not Checkers, Inc. (New York, NY), , “At Last: A Tribute to Etta James” performed by Black Ensemble Theater (Chicago, IL) and “The Bluest Eye” performed by North Carolina Central University (Durham, NC)
This year’s lineup promises to be an exciting and powerful celebration of Black Theatre for both festival veterans and newcomers. Avid festival attendee and supporter Wendell Tabb, Chair of Visual and Performing arts at Hillside High School says the following about the festival “I have had the pleasure of attending the Theatre Festival since 1989. Many of my former Hillside Theatre students perform at the Festival with Theatre Companies from around the world. The National Black Theatre Festival has helped jumpstart so many professional careers and has afforded great opportunities for artist to develop and showcase their works. The vision and legacy of the late Larry Leon Hamlin continues to shine through the hearts of many. I am extremely grateful and honored to be a part of Black Theatre” in the words of Larry Leon Hamlin that’s Marvtastic!
View a full list of the 2015 NBTF Honorees HERE