The cast of Hamilton.
For the first time in the Tony’s 70-year history, all four awards for performances in musicals went to actors of color.
Hamilton actors Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renée Elise Goldsberry took home Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, respectively. The Color Purple‘s Cynthia Erivo won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.
The only time three actors of color won musical acting awards at the Tonys previously was in 1982, when Dreamgirls actors Jennifer Holliday, Ben Harney, and Cleavant Derricks picked up three of the four musical performance awards.
Diversity on Broadway took center stage this theater season, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, deliberately casting actors of color in the roles of America’s white Founding Fathers. But it wasn’t only Hamilton that worked to diversify theater: The Color Purple and Shuffle Along had almost entirely black casts; Allegiance starred nearly all Asian and Asian-American actors; Spring Awakening had a cast of largely deaf actors and featured Broadway’s first actor in a wheelchair; and the play Eclipsed, starring Lupita Nyong’o and written by The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira, had a cast and creative team of entirely women of color.
Even before the Tony Award nominations were announced in early May, they were predicted to be a refreshing alternative to this year’s overwhelmingly white Academy Award nominees. The hashtag #TonysSoDiverse quickly emerged on Twitter, contrasting yet another year of #OscarsSoWhite.