In a 2015-16 season in which the top winner at the Tony Awards, “Hamilton,” had been a foregone conclusion since the musical opened last summer, the biggest uncertainty of the Tony telecast was how Broadway would sensitively acknowledge the recent shootings in Orlando while also going on with the show. Here are five of the evening’s biggest snubs and surprises.
SNUB: Intolerance and hate.
The Orlando shootings were acknowledged early and often throughout the ceremony, but what came to seem remarkable was how much of the show seemed already to stand in defiance of terrorists hoping to quash diversity, tolerance and inclusion. Even in the dress rehearsal on Sunday morning, before a formal acknowledgment of the tragedy had yet been formulated, the Tonycast’s opening number celebrated the Broadway’s diversity and welcomed young dreamers of every stripe — of “every color, class and race and face and shape and size,” as well as boys, girls and transgender kids too.
SURPRISE: Tony producers didn’t save “Hamilton” for last.
Many producers of the evening’s nominated shows, accepting that their projects didn’t stand a chance of beating “Hamilton,” were at least hoping the producers of the Tonys would save the “Hamilton” number until the final performance slot, so that the ceremony would hold on to as many TV viewers as possible for the duration. Almost, but not quite: The song from “Hamilton,” the full-cast Revolutionary War number “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside-Down),” was the second-to-last to air during the evening. The ultimate slot went to “Waitress,” which incorporated composer Sara Bareilles into a medley that showcased the full cast and star Jessie Mueller.
SNUB: “Shuffle Along” shuffled away empty-handed.
In any other season, “Shuffle Along” would have probably been the juggernaut. The show, in which a powerhouse team of creatives and performers turns a spotlight on a largely forgotten but influential 1921 musical, was such a strong contender that many in the industry were convinced that it would steal at least a couple of awards away from “Hamilton” — particularly with Savion Glover’s choreography and with at least one of its design elements, like maybe the costumes by Ann Roth or the lights by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. But in the end, “Shuffle” earned no awards from its 10 nominations.
SURPRISE: Andy Blankenbuehler of “Hamilton” won for choreography.
It’s not that people didn’t think Blankenbuehler didn’t do Tony-worthy work in making “Hamilton” move as smoothly and poetically as it does. It’s that the theater industry at large was mostly convinced that voters would spread the love and give this particular award to another Tony winner also doing spectacular work: Glover, who created the jaw-dropping tap in “Shuffle Along.” But Blankenbuehler won the day.
SNUB: Awards-watchers waiting for a surprise upset.
Sure, there were some minor variations from the script here and there, but mostly, the evening stuck to its expected trajectory: “Hamilton” dominated; a milestone in diversity was achieved with four African-American winners in musical acting categories; the winningest play was “The Humans”; “The Color Purple” and its star Cynthia Erivo were both triumphant; and the year of Ivo van Hove culminated in wins for “A View from the Bridge” and a directing trophy for van Hove. So no big surprises to set Broadway types chattering — but still plenty to celebrate.