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
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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.