That cool Tony Awards moment when Jay-Z joined Alicia Keys? Turns out it wasn’t live



Jay-Z’s electrifying reunion with Alicia Keys on what appeared to be a live duet of “Empire State of Mind” at the Tony Awards was actually pre-taped, a show official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press.

The appearance of the rapper in support of Keys’ musical “Hell’s Kitchen” led to a boost of excitement inside the arena but it now appears it was a piece of Hollywood trickery, undercutting the Broadway communities’ full-throated embrace of live singing and dancing.

A representative from Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and a producer at White Cherry Entertainment did not return messages seeking clarification on what happened Sunday night. A senior publicist for the telecast also did not return requests for comment on Monday.

- Advertisement -

“Hell’s Kitchen,” which won two awards Sunday night — for star Maleah Joi Moon and Kecia Lewis, who plays her mentor — is loosely based on Keys’ years growing up in that Manhattan neighborhood and contains old hits and new songs from the singer-songwriter. Keys is a producer but doesn’t appear in the show. The show ends with a rousing edition of “Empire State of Mind.”

Each best new musical nominee at the Tony Awards gets a slot performing and “Hell’s Kitchen” was first, with the cast playing a medley of songs — including her hit “Fallin’” — from the show.

Then Keys appeared at the piano on the stage of the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center and began singing her and Jay-Z’s 2009 smash. She soon got up and went down the steps of the stage and into the orchestra seat section and out the side of the auditorium — “Had to do something crazy. It’s my hometown,” she explained to the crowd — moments later apparently joining the rapper on some of the venue’s marble steps to wild applause. “Brooklyn, New York City in the Tonys tonight!” Jay-Z signed-off at the end.

The audience and media was inside the auditorium and no photos have surfaced of the two performers live. A version of the two finishing the song was beamed to the TV audience and a video screen inside the venue. Keys wore the same outfit she was wearing onstage. Jay-Z was never spotted entering the packed auditorium.

While some parts of the Tony telecast are pre-taped — technical awards handed out before the show, some advertising packages and often segments from the top nominated plays — the strong feeling is that the musical performances are what audiences will see when they come to Broadway, with no trickery.

- Advertisement -

New York Magazine first reported that the segment had been pre-taped.

Share this story:

- Advertisement -

Get the newsletter

More like this