“Hate will never win,” James Corden said. “Together, we have to make sure of that.”
The opening tribute of the 70th annual Tony Awards from the comedian was dedicated to the more than 100 people who were killed or injured in an LGBT nightclub by a lone gunman in Orlando.
“All we can say is, you are not on your own right now,” he said. “Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theatre is a place where every race, creed, sexuality, and gender is equal, is embraced, and is loved.”
Outside the awards venue, hundreds of fans gathered, some wearing silver ribbons in honour of the victims, and others holding “Everytown for Gun Safety” banners.
The cast of hip-hop musical “Hamilton” then performed the ceremony opening, but without their usual prop muskets.
Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted the image of a rainbow-coloured heart with the word “Orlando”.
At the ceremony, Mr Miranda read out a powerful sonnet while accepting an award for Best Original Score Written for the Theatre category, as a tribute to the victims in Orlando.
Through tears, he said: "This show is proof that history remembers / We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers remembrance that hope and love last forever.
"Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside / I sing Vanessa’s symphony. Eliza tells her story. [we] fill the world with music, love, and pride."
Other voters and performers showed their support for the Orlando victims, who were killed by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.
”Tonight, every note I sing will be in remembrance of the lives taken in Orlando,“ actress and Tony nominee Laura Benanti tweeted Sunday afternoon.
Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth also wrote: “When will the violence end?”
Mateen was shot dead by police. His former employer, private security firm G4S, said they are co-operating fully with law enforcement. Mateen called 911 during the attack and pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Before the news in Orlando hit, the Tony Awards-related headlines were focused on whether Hamilton, a modern version of the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton, would scoop all 16 awards it was nominated for.
It won 11 awards from orchestration and choreography to Best Original Score and Featured Actress.
The list included two of the largest awards: Best Musical and Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, the latter won by Leslie Odom Jr.
Lead producer Jeffrey Seller, accepting the award for Best Musical, said to the audience: "Look around. Look how lucky we are to be alive right now."
The last record was 12 Tony awards for “The Producers” musical in 2001.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies