After last year’s Kevin Spacey-hosted Tony Awards, the annual award show honoring the best of Broadway needed a palette cleanser for obvious reasons. With Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban as hosts, they certainly reset vibe of the 72nd annual Tonys with a positive energy and humor as they let their theater geek flag fly, making the telecast a celebratory night that was heavy on love and support of the theater community — and one very blunt politically-charged moment courtesy of Robert De Niro.
Before I get to De Niro saying “F*ck Trump”, I’ll first have to cover things from the start of the evening.
Bareilles and Groban live on the border of radio-friendly music and the Broadway stage, and they served as delightful cruise directors, devoid of forced jokes and corny antics. Instead, they leaned into their musical theater geekiness, which was infectious. As a hosting duo, they did their job effortlessly and well, staying in their lane by not doing too much or too little. They were pitch perfect — pun intended.
Throughout the evening, they delivered fun bits and short performances that moved the show forward. Bareilles and Groban did a medley honoring Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber, cast some Harry Potter spells and folded social media into the evening with the fun hashtag #TonyDreaming, which encouraged Twitter users to post pics of their early days in theater — whether it be in elementary, high school or otherwise.
Live performances were obviously in abundance with Bruce Springsteen, Frozen, Mean Girls, Carousel, Summer, Once on This Island and big winner The Band’s Visit and delivering the goods, but it was a performance from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama department that stole the evening with a moving performance of Rent‘s “Season of
Before the students took the stage, the ceremony rightfully honored the school’s musical theater instructor Melody Herzfeld with the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Award. She saved some 65 lives earlier this year during the tragic Parkland shooting by barricading students into a small classroom closet.
There wasn’t much a focus on politics or Trump during the ceremony. Oh, wait…there was that one moment when De Niro came out on stage and before introducing Springsteen’s performance, he said “F*ck Trump” and “It’s no longer ‘down with Trump.’ It’s ‘f*ck Trump” to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. So there’s that.
In addition, when Tony Kushner accepted the award for Best Revival of a Play for Angels in America, he reminded everyone that it was 21 weeks before midterm elections and that it was Judy Garland’s birthday. And that ended the politically charged portion of the evening.
Politics aside, there was a great amount of support, love and awareness from the evening’s winners. When Andrew Garfield won for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play for his role as Prior in Angels in America, he gave a heartfelt thanks to the LGBTQ community, while Carousel Best Featured Actress winner Lindsay Mendez told a story about how people said she would have to change her name in order to succeed in the business. Ari’El Stachel, who took home one of 10 trophies for The Band’s Visit, gave a tearful acceptance speech addressed to his parents when taking the award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical as he talked about how he tried to hide the fact that he was Middle Eastern when he was younger and is now proud of his heritage and stressed the importance of representation in entertainment.
Every year, the Tony Awards has a different energy than its award show brethren lincluding the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes. It seems like everyone there actually wants to be there. Not saying that there isn’t a sense of community in Hollywood, but with the Tonys, it radiates with smiles and a kind of an energy you can only get from a theater geek.
And true to Broadway form, the ceremony ended with Bareilles and Groban singing a reprise of the tune they sang in the beginning. As they sang their love letter to theater, flashes of #TonyDreaming images appeared in the background, giving the show a nice, sweet ending — but part of me was waiting for De Niro to storm the stage with one final Trump outburst for the ultimate grand finale.