The host opened the number by flipping channels on a sofa in what appeared to be the living room of a Manhattan apartment. Before long, the apartment set dissolved to reveal the packed interior of New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
From there, he strutted his stuff alongside cast members from nominated musicals like “Hadestown,” “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Beetlejuice,” pausing only to exchange some tongue-in-cheek dialogue with Bryan Cranston, a nominee for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for “Network.”
Cranston appeared to dart up the aisle for a bathroom break, telling Corden, “I am bloated as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” (Fear not, the line itself features prominently in “Network” itself.)
Along the way, Corden sung the praises of live theater over television ― a deliberately on-the-nose message given that he hosts CBS’s “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”
Though Corden hosted the Tony Awards previously in 2016, he admitted to some pre-show jitters about the opening number specifically in an interview with Variety published last week.
“Look, we want to make an opening that tells people that there is a show and that’s it’s happening and it’s live and it’s now,” he said. “This is a room I think per square meter the most talented people on planet Earth. We’re going to try to celebrate as best as we can, but it’s ambitious. There’s no denying it.”
The performance, however, drew mixed reviews from viewers on Twitter.
All in all, it was a fittingly all-encompassing way to get theater’s biggest night off to a wild and whimsical start.