Britain’s acclaimed Harry Potter And The Cursed Child and the American grown-up musical The Band’s Visit were the big winners at the Tony Awards on Sunday.
The Band’s Visit, based on a 2007 Israeli film of the same name about an Egyptian band that goes to the wrong Israeli town, won 10 statuettes — including best musical, best direction, orchestration, sound design, best book of a musical, lighting and featured actor Ari’el Stachel, who gave a heartfelt speech about his past.
“For so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person,” he said, addressing his parents in the audience.
He thanked the creators of the show “for being courageous for telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time that we need that more than ever.”
He added: “I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they’d be able to portray their own races, and we’re doing that.”
The show’s director, David Cromer, said the musical is also about loneliness and despair, and asked everyone to reach out to anyone for whom “despair is overwhelming”.
The two-part spectacle Harry Potter And the Cursed Child captured six accolades, including best play, book, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and director John Tiffany, who asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to his boyfriend.
Andrew Garfield won his first Tony, for best leading actor in a play, for playing a young gay man living with Aids in the sprawling, seven-hour revival Angels In America opposite Nathan Lane. He won his third, for best featured actor in a play.
Garfield dedicated the win to the LGBTQ community, who he said fought and died for the right to love. He said the play is a rejection of bigotry, shame and oppression.
“We are all sacred and we all belong,” Garfield said.
He then referenced last week’s US Supreme Court decision which ruled in favour of a baker’s right to deny a gay couple a wedding cake based on his beliefs.
“(Let’s) just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked,” he said, to rousing applause.
Lane said the play still speaks to society in the midst of “political insanity”.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Chita Rivera received honorary tributes, the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
Thanking the audience, Lloyd Webber said: “I have to say, I am completely overwhelmed.”
He added: “What made me absolutely certain I wanted to be a musical theatre composer was the movie South Pacific. I devoured absolutely everything I could find by Rodgers and Hammerstein and all I wanted when I was 10 years old was to be Richard Rodgers.
“I never dreamed that one day I, a Brit of all things, would be honoured with the same lifetime award that my idol won, by my peers and the true home of the musical, Broadway. I’m absolutely humbled.”
In a mesmerising moment, Melody Herzfeld, the heroic drama teacher who nurtured many of the young people demanding change following the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was honoured from the Tony Award stage.
Ms Herzfeld, the one-woman drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was cheered by the crowd at Radio City Music Hall.
Ms Herzfeld saved 65 lives by barricading students into a small classroom closet on Valentine’s Day when police say a former student went on a school rampage, killing 17 people.
She then later encouraged many of her pupils to lead the nationwide movement for gun reform, including organising the March For Our Lives demonstration and the charity single Shine.
Members of Ms Herzfeld’s drama department took the Tony stage to serenade her with Seasons Of Love from Rent.
In other wins, Glenda Jackson added to her impressive resume with a Tony Award for best actress in a play for her work in a revival of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women. That show also yielded the featured actress win to Rosanne star Laurie Metcalf.
Billy Joel gave his friend Bruce Springsteen a special Tony Award.
“This is deeply appreciated, and thanks for making me feel so welcome on your block,” The Boss said.
Later, Springsteen performed My Hometown on the piano from his sold-out one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway.
Robert De Niro, who took the stage to introduce Springsteen’s performance, started off with an expletive directed at President Donald Trump, which garnered him a sustained standing ovation from the crowd.
Co-hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles kicked the show off with a self-parodying duet on piano for all the losers out there — including them.
Neither Bareilles nor Groban have won a Grammy or a Tony despite selling millions of albums and appearing on Broadway. They turned that into a playful song.
“Let’s not forget that 90 per cent of us leave empty-handed tonight. So this is for the people who lose/Most of us have been in your shoes,” they sang in the upbeat opening number. “This one’s for the loser inside of you.”