• The best musical revival prize went to a nostalgic revival of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Bette Midler, who won the best actress award and gave a stem-winding speech in accepting it.
‘Dear Evan Hansen’ wins big
“Dear Evan Hansen,” a daringly unflinching exploration of loss, lies and loneliness in a high school community, on Sunday won the 2017 Tony Award for best new musical, completing its journey from improbable idea to theatrical triumph.
The challenging and cathartic show, about an anxiety-racked adolescent whose social standing improves when he insinuates himself into the grieving family of a classmate who has killed himself, picked up six awards over the night, including a best leading actor Tony for the twitching-and-tender talk-of-the-town performance by 23-year-old Ben Platt in the title role.
“To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful,” Mr. Platt said while accepting his award.
The victory by “Dear Evan Hansen” capped a night when Broadway, which has been booming, spread its top honors across several plays and musicals, in contrast to last year, when “Hamilton” swept the board. The ceremony, at Radio City Music Hall, was hosted by Kevin Spacey, who generally stayed away from politics, instead choosing to make fun of his own status as a late-in-the-game and unexpected choice as host.
An exuberantly nostalgic production of “Hello, Dolly!” won for best musical revival, and its adored star, Bette Midler, won as best leading actress in a musical — her first competitive Tony — 50 years after she stepped onto a Broadway stage in the original production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
But the night belonged to “Dear Evan Hansen,” which has already made stars not only of Mr. Platt, who previously was best known for appearing in the “Pitch Perfect” films, but also of its young songwriters, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are already at work on multiple Hollywood films, and book writer, Steven Levenson, who recently inked a development deal with 20th Century Fox Television.
In an era when Broadway often means big, “Dear Evan Hansen” is intentionally, insistently intimate — the show has just eight roles and an eight-piece orchestra, and it is being staged in a cozy 984-seat theater. Directed by Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen” is also wholly original — not based on a film, a book or a song catalog — and is one of the first shows on Broadway to integrate social media into its depiction of communication and community.
The musical, with Stacey Mindich as its lead producer, was also budgeted tightly — it cost just $9.5 million to bring to Broadway, which is significantly less than most, and should speed its path to profitability.
Since beginning performances at the Music Box Theater last fall, the show has been doing well at the box office — it is grossing over $1.2 million a week, thanks in part to an average ticket price of $157, and it has succeeded in attracting a relatively youthful audience, which is a rarity on Broadway. A national tour is scheduled to begin in Denver in October 2018.
Rachel Bay Jones, who plays the title character’s worried single mother, took the Tony as best featured actress in a musical. Gavin Creel of “Hello, Dolly!” won best featured actor.
Other musicals came up short. “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” the most nominated show of the season, won just two awards, for set and lighting design. “Come From Away,” the Canadian musical about the welcome Newfoundland extended to diverted air travelers after Sept. 11, 2001, won just one: for best direction, by Christopher Ashley. And “Groundhog Day,” an adaptation of the film, was shut out.
‘Oslo’ and ‘Jitney’ win play awards.
A whip-smart and unexpectedly riveting drama illuminating the largely unknown back story behind the 1993 Middle East peace accords won the Tony Award for best new play in a very competitive year.
The play, “Oslo,” was written by J. T. Rogers and presented by Lincoln Center Theater, a nonprofit. One of its performers, Michael Aronov, won the Tony Award for featured actor, for his role as a cocky Israeli negotiator.
“Oslo” defeated an aggressive competitor, “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” which campaigned vigorously for the attention of Tony voters, as well as two plays by Pulitzer Prize winners, “Sweat,” by Lynn Nottage (the play won her a second Pulitzer), and “Indecent,” by Paula Vogel.
All four contenders were by American writers, and marked Broadway debuts for the authors, delighting champions of American playwriting.
In one of the evening’s big surprises, Rebecca Taichman, who helped conceive of “Indecent” while she was a graduate student, won the Tony for best direction of a play. And, surprising no one, Laurie Metcalf, best known for her role in “Roseanne,” won her first Tony Award for her portrayal of a fiercely independent woman who had walked out on her family years earlier in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”
Kevin Kline picked up his third Tony Award, for his portrayal of a preening actor in a revival of Noël Coward’s “Present Laughter.” And Cynthia Nixon, an alumna of “Sex and the City,” won her second Tony for her work in a revival of “The Little Foxes.”
“Jitney,” by August Wilson, won best revival of a play. The drama, set in Pittsburgh in 1977, was the last of Wilson’s 10 American Century plays to be produced on Broadway; the widely heralded production, which closed in March, was presented by the nonprofit Manhattan Theater Club and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who fought long and hard to get it to Broadway.
An emphasis on comedy, not politics.
The evening’s host, Mr. Spacey, was an unusual choice for an awards show — unlike many of his predecessors (James Corden, Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman), he is not known as a song-and-dance man. Rather, this two-time Oscar winner has been a riveting television presence portraying an underhanded president, Francis Underwood, in “House of Cards” on Netflix.
But setting aside his dramatic persona to demonstrate his showbiz chops, he affectionately mocked the most-admired new musicals on Broadway as he opened the awards.
Distancing himself from hosts of other awards shows in recent months, Mr. Spacey did not focus on national politics, but instead poked fun at his own status as an unlikely host.
He adapted lyrics and set pieces from each of the four shows nominated as best musical. He wore a cast on his arm, much like the title character in “Dear Evan Hansen,” only to turn it into a knee brace, recognizing the injured lead actor in “Groundhog Day.” He cradled an accordion, as did Josh Groban in “The Great Comet,” and summoned a bizarre chorus line featuring the Rockettes and the cast of “Come From Away.”
None of the shows were particularly razzle-dazzle — in fact, he joked about the serious themes they explored — but that didn’t stop Mr. Spacey, who concluded with a tap dance number.
He peppered the second half of the broadcast with impressions of Johnny Carson and Bill Clinton, aiming one of the few political barbs of the night at that former president’s wife, Hillary Clinton.
The most political moment of the evening, however, belonged to Stephen Colbert, who mocked President Trump as he introduced the award for best musical revival.
“It’s been a great year for revivals in general, especially that one they revived down in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Colbert said. He added: “Huge production values, a couple problems: The main character is totally unbelievable, and the hair and makeup — yeesh. No, no. This D.C. production is supposed to have a four-year run, but reviews have not been kind. Could close early. We don’t know, we don’t know.”
Plenty of song and dance.
The broadcast was full of music: numbers from the four shows nominated for best new musical — “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Groundhog Day” and “The Great Comet” — as well as from the three nominated for best musical revival: “Falsettos,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Miss Saigon.” Two other new musicals performed: “Bandstand” and “War Paint.”
Ms. Midler, among the best-known stars of the theater season, did not sing; the producer of “Hello, Dolly!” opted instead to have her co-star David Hyde Pierce perform a song from the show. But she made up for it with a filibustering acceptance speech when she won the best musical actress award, insisting that the band stop playing as she thanked multiple collaborators and, in her inimitable fashion, exulted about her show and poked fun at her age and even her romantic life.
“I’d like to thank all the Tony voters, many of whom I’ve actually dated,” she said.