If you blinked, you might have missed it, but Bruce Springsteen did amble onstage and accept a special Tony Award recognizing the commercial powerhouse that he has been presenting in recent months, Springsteen on Broadway.
The musician got a brief and businesslike introduction by Billy Joel, who noted that an original 8-week run has now been extended to what will be well north of 200 performances by the time the show wraps in December. “The Boss is working hard,” Joel quipped.
Springsteen sped through a few thank-yous, reading from 8-by-11 white printed pages in a speech that clocked in at less than a minute. In keeping with his singular style, he nevertheless managed to imbue his remarks with considerable warmth and charm.
“This is deeply appreciated. Thank you for making me feel so welcome on the block,” Springsteen said. “Being part of the Broadway community has been a great thrill and an honor and one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced.”
He saluted his wife and musical collaborator, Patti Scialfa, “for her love and inspiration every night.”
Toward the end of the night, Springsteen came back out onstage to sit at the piano and perform a solo number from his show, the ruminative tune “My Hometown,” about mid-20th-century life in Freehold, N.J., where he grew up. The mostly spoken, impressionistic lyrics and spare piano accompaniment stood in stark contrast with the introduction by Robert De Niro, who stepped to the microphone and said, “I’m only going to say one thing: F–k Trump.”
Along with Springsteen’s honor, special Tony Awards were handed out to Chita Rivera, Andrew Lloyd Weber and John Leguizamo. In a speech during the creative arts portion of the show, which was not broadcast on CBS, Leguizamo offered a tribute to his fellow honoree, who was shown on the internal press-room feed grinning appreciatively in the audience. “Bruce Springsteen was born to run. I was born in Queens, so I had to run,” he cracked. “And I ran all the way to Broadway, yo!”