James Corden was the host of the 70th Tony Awards, and opened the show with a tribute to victims of the Orlando mass shooting. Alongside and the cast of ‘Hamilton’ he went on to deliver a show-stopping opening number. See a roundup of reviews from critics and video highlights of the show.

- James Corden Lin-Manuel Miranda

Photo: James Corden, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Credit: PR Photos

While he may be known to U.S. audiences as the host of ‘Late Late Show’ on CBS, the British actor and comedian James Corden is also a Tony Award winner, winning the much coveted Best Lead Actor in a Play for ‘One Man, Two Guvnors,’ four years ago.

He took to the stage to open the show with a spoken remembrance for the 50 who lost their lives and the 53 who were injured at the iconic gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, in the terror attack that was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. He said in part, “All we can say is you are not on your own; your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place there ever race, every creed, every sexuality is equal, embraced and is loved. Hate will never win.” He went on to say the show was a “symbol and celebration of that principle.”

And from that, the pivot to the traditional opening number; an urgent pivot, even it was a bit abrupt, but it underscores the principle, that the terrorists must not win, and, as the cliche goes, the show must go on. As noted, he got quite the assist from the cast of ‘Hamilton.’ Not to downplay, of course, that Corden blitzed his way through nearly two dozen musicals.

Corden, in continuing to usher levity back to the Beacon Theater and the worldwide audience, saying, “Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity. It is so diverse, Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater.”

He later quipped, “This is like the Super Bowl for people that don’t know what the Super Bowl is.”

With ‘Hamilton’ and the pop culture phenomena it has become, there was anticipation and excitement for what was surely to be a celebratory night for the musical, and thankfully that did shine through, despite the national tragedy. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical was nominated for a record 16 awards (winning 11 ultimately, and falling short of the record of 12). Miranda addressed it in a sonata he recited as he accepted one of the show’s numerous awards, saying in part, “Love is love…love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

As did social media, so did the television critics weigh in on the three-hour extravaganza of acceptance speeches punctuated by Broadway musical numbers and the unforeseen challenge of striking the right tone after the Orlando terrorist attack. Here’s what they’re saying of the show.

“….In terms of Corden’s overall performance as host, it was very much in line with his Late Late Show monologues — sweet and upbeat, if not the least bit risky or cutting-edge. Despite the inevitable longueurs that set in as the evening wore on, for the most part he kept the show moving briskly with affable appearances to paper the gaps. Corden also resisted the urge to put the ham in an evening that was all about Hamilton…..” –THR

“….The awards also found room for humor — there were at least three jokes at Donald J. Trump’s expense (including one in which Andrew Rannells depicted him starring in a musical called “The Book of Moron”) and one about Hillary Clinton (depicted by Glenn Close singing the lyric “I really need this job” from “A Chorus Line.”)….” –New York Times

“…. The Tonys tend to have the best acceptance speeches anyway, because the winners know how to perform. Add to that someone with the gravitas of Frank Langella reading a message of love, or someone with the hip cachet of Lin-Manuel Miranda penning and delivering an emotional sonnet, and I think it’s fair to say that this year’s show will be remembered for more than just the coronation of Hamilton…..” — The A.V. Club

“…. Much of the entertainment factor can be attributed to affable new host James Corden. We fondly recall Corden raiding the bar at the 2012 Drama Desk Awards after he won Outstanding Actor for One Man, Two Guvnors. Now that he’s a Hollywood star (Into the Woods) and the host of CBS’ Late Late Show, hosting the Tonys felt like a perfect fit. ….” Theatermania

It was a night of celebration and triumph and critics and the public alike will continue to debate over whether producers and participants struck the right tone. You can see video highlights below of the 70th Tony Awards show with host James Corden!

Pictures: PR Photos