Watch James Corden’s Brilliant Message of Acceptance At The Tony Awards
The Tony Awards is always my favorite awards ceremony of the year, because I love theater, and I love Broadway. As an entertainment writer, I love the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs…in fact, any award ceremony that recognizes people’s contributions to entertainment, but the Tonys will always be top of my list. I’ve worked in theater. I know how hard it is, I know how grueling, how demanding it can be. I know the pay is poor, the hours are long, and finding a job in the first place is the most difficult task of all. I also know, as an actor, audience member and nowadays, critic, just how much joy theater can bring.
Theater transports us to a world of imagination, where anything can be made possible, live, right before your very eyes. One song can have us feeling total euphoria, wanting to jump out of our seat and join in too. Or, it can have us crying at the depth of emotion played out on stage. The dialogue can thrill us, terrify us, make us laugh, make us sob, make us remember, recall, hope…. Theater is the ultimate escape.
This year, the Tonys took place on the same day as the devastating mass murder of 50 members of the LGBT community at Pulse, an Orlando LGBT nightclub. Let’s call this what it was; a hate crime. A crime so despicable and deplorable that it shook not just the LGBT community, or the U.S., but the entire world. This was an attack on the very community that so often find themselves persecuted for no other reason than whom they chose to love. This was an attack on the community that has often been made to feel like outsiders, been bullied, been tormented, been ostracized… And this is the same community that so often find acceptance and solace in theater.
Why? Well, as a straight, white, woman, I can’t answer on anyone’s behalf except for my own, but it became my solace for the reasons I mentioned above; escapism and acceptance. Joining together with like minded individuals to create art, to become something or someone else, is an incredibly comforting thing. No one cares, in the theater, whether you like boys, girls, dinosaurs, or all three. They care whether or not you’re a decent human being, fun to work with, good to be around, positive, uplifting, and whether or not you like Barbara Streisand.
Understandably, the Broadway community was grieving on Sunday night, and the entire evening was dedicated to all the victims, friends, and families of those affected by the shooting. Host James Corden gave a stirring tribute at the start of the evening, promising that “Hate will never win.”
During the course of the evening, many plays, musicals, actors, actresses and behind the scenes crew, were honored with prestigious awards but of course, Hamilton owned the night. Written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton tells the story of the founding fathers, and the cast is predominantly made up of actors of color. The music is a tremendous fusion of hip-hop, rap, and singing, and the show has taken Broadway by storm. In collecting his award for Best Original Score, Miranda also paid tribute to the Orlando victims, in the form of a sonnet, which served as a reminder to us all that love is love (watch from 1:30 for the speech).
But what stood out for me most of all, was James Corden’s opening number. A musical medley that told the story of a boy (we’ll call him James), who grew up in love with the theater and wondering if one day, that could be him up there. The number was fun; Corden really showcased his musical theater skills, but it was this verse at the end that really spoke to me, and also to my son.
“To every future leading man who’s making his debut, in his fifth grade class as Peter Pan or Pirate number two.
To every future dancing queen whose feet are set to fly at the tiny toddlers tap routine next Sunday at the Y.
To the theater kids from any place with stardust in their eyes, of every color, class and race, and face, and shape and size.
To the boys and girls, transgenders too, to every Broadway would-be!
Don’t wonder if this could be you, it absolutely could be!”
It’s hard for any kid to find their place, and it’s hard for any kid to make sense of what happened in Orlando this past weekend. But if you’ve been given an out-of-the-box kid, one who doesn’t quite fit, for whatever reason, it becomes even harder for them to accept and understand. Why? Because the victims were somewhere they belonged, where they didn’t ever expect to feel in danger, where they felt accepted, like they belonged.
Corden’s impassioned words at the end of this song told my son two things; fly your flag high in the face of adversity, my child. Wave your rainbow colors and be proud. Find where you belong (for him it is dance), reach for those stars and never, ever, give up on your dreams. Hate will not win.