New York (AFP) – The Tony Awards, the biggest night in Broadway, dedicated its star-studded ceremony to the victims of the Orlando massacre, the deadliest terror attack in America since September 11, 2001.
Fifty people died when a heavily-armed gunman opened fire and seized hostages at a popular gay nightclub in the Florida city before the attacker was shot dead by a police SWAT team.
“Our hearts go out to all of those affected by that atrocity,” said host James Corden in his opening monologue, wearing one of the special grey ribbons created by the Tony Awards to honor the dead.
“Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, is embraced and is loved,” said the British comedian who has recently found success in America.
“Hate will never win,” he told the famed Beacon Theatre in New York.
Sunday’s 70th annual Tony Awards, which are the equivalent of the Oscars for the theater, saw smash-hit, hip-hop musical “Hamilton” win 11 awards after scooping a record 16 nominations.
Superstar Barbara Streisand, who presented “Hamilton” with the prize for best musical — dressed in an outfit inspired by the show — joined several of the winners in paying tribute to Orlando.
“Tonight our joy is tinged with sorrow,” she said. “Art can educate us and entertain us, and in times like these console us.”
“Senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” reading out a sonnet in accepting the Tony for best original score.
“Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside,” he said to cheers.
“I urge you Orlando to be strong,” said Frank Langella, accepting the award for best actor in a play — “The Father” — originally written in French which came to New York from Europe.
“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.”
Sunday’s awards were marked by diversity, with black actors winning all four musical acting awards and “The Color Purple” — about a black Southern woman — winning best musical revival.
“Hamilton” also stars largely black and Latino actors.
“Think of tonight as the Oscars but with diversity,” quipped Corden in reference to this year’s Academy Awards, which were panned for failing to honor minority actors and directors.
Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett, Claire Danes, Meg Ryan and Oprah Winfrey were among those who handed out prizes on Sunday, while US President Barack Obama taped a video message in support of “Hamilton.”
In a nod to the US general election, Cordon took pot shots at Republican contender Donald Trump — joking that “Donald Trump in the Book of Moron” would come to Broadway in the autumn.
Glenn Close appeared on stage dressed as his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, singing: “I really need this job” to applause.
Famous for its catchy score merging hip-hop, rap, blues and jazz “Hamilton” won in all aspects of showmaking: from best musical and best original score to directing, choreography, costumes and lighting.
It recounts the life of the colorful first US Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, fatally shot in a pistol duel with rival and then vice president Aaron Burr in 1804.
Its 16 nominations were the most in Broadway history, but “The Producers” still holds onto the record for most wins at 12.
The show broke another record last week by offering tickets for more than $6,000 for Miranda’s July 9 last-night performance.
Oscar winner Jessica Lange won best lead actress in a play for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” beating fellow Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o in “Eclipsed” set amid the chaos of the Liberian civil war.
Play “The Humans” won four awards, while Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” won best play and best director for Belgium’s Ivo Van Hove.