“Dear Evan Hansen” was the big winner at the 2017 Tony Awards, which aired last night on CBS. “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1912” received the most nominations, but only walked away with two awards for lighting design and scenic design.
Meanwhile, “Dear Evan Hansen” won best musical, best score, best book, best lead actor, best featured actress, and best orchestrations for a total of six, losing only three of its nine nominated categories. I have been in love with this show since I first saw it Off-Broadway last year, so I was thrilled to see it win so many of its categories.
During his acceptance speech for “Dear Evan Hansen” in the leading actor in a musical category, Ben Platt said, “To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself. The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”
“Hello, Dolly!” was another big winner with four awards. Bette Midler won for best lead actress (no surprise!), Gavin Creel won best featured actor (his third nomination and first win), and the show won best costume design and best revival of a musical.
“Come From Away,” the musical about September 11th, only received one Tony for best direction. “Groundhog Day,” which was also nominated for best musical, didn’t receive any awards. It isn’t that these shows aren’t wonderful; it’s just that this season was one of the most competitive we’ve seen in years.
As lyricist Glenn Slater (“School of Rock” and “A Bronx Tale”) told me recently, “Musical theater is having a huge renaissance right now. There are so many talented people writing. So much room has opened up in the realm of what can be written, what audiences will accept, what they’ll embrace.”
The same could be said for straight plays, with many new celebrated works both on Broadway and Off-Broadway. All of the nominated playwrights this year were making their Broadway debuts and all are Americans.
Several musicals performed during the show, including “Come From Away,” “Miss Saigon,” “Falsettos,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Groundhog Day,” “War Paint,” “Bandstand,” and “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1912.” The “Hello, Dolly!” performance was a solo song by David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder – a song that had been cut from most previous productions of the show. Many people were disappointed that Bette Midler didn’t take the stage, but Pierce was terrific.
What about this year’s host? Well, no one can beat Neil Patrick Harris in that job, but Kevin Spacey was excellent. Highlights included a bit as Johnny Carson and later walking on stage as President Underwood from “House of Cards” to hand Lin-Manuel Miranda the envelope for best musical.
Kevin’s opening number was probably the best part of his host performance, however, as he sang songs from all four of the musical nominees with lyrics changed to suit the circumstances. The funniest moment was when someone ran on stage to remove his “Dear Evan Hansen” arm cast and wrap it around his leg for his “Groundhog Day” bit. This was a joke aimed at “Groundhog Day” star Andy Karl, who tore his ACL just before opening night and now performs in a knee brace. Check it out below:
Other performance highlights included a brief “New York, New York” duet between Tony winners Cynthia Erivo (“The Color Purple”) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (“Hamilton”) after a dance number by the Rockettes, and a beautiful song performed by a quintet led by Justin Guarini during the “In Memoriam” portion.
The Tony Awards are the most inclusive of all awards, but this year’s winners are almost 100% white. One of the few exceptions was the lifetime achievement award, which went to James Earl Jones. The lack of diversity this year is an unfortunate turn of events in a season that was otherwise one of the best in recent memory.
But there’s no question that Broadway is alive and well. It has had its most successful season in history, and with the help of shows like “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” a whole new generation is beginning to love the theater.
Here’s a full list of tonight’s winners:
Best musical – “Dear Evan Hansen”
Best play – “Oslo”
Best revival of a musical – “Hello, Dolly!”
Best revival of a play – “August Wilson’s Jitney”
Best book of a musical – Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen”
Best original score – Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for “Dear Evan Hansen”
Best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical – Ben Platt for “Dear Evan Hansen”
Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical – Bette Midler for “Hello, Dolly!”
Best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play – Kevin Kline for “Present Laughter”
Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play – Laurie Metcalf for “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play – Michael Aronov for “Oslo”
Best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play – Cynthia Nixon for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”
Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical – Gavin Creel for “Hello, Dolly!”
Best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical – Rachel Bay Jones for “Dear Evan Hansen”
Best scenic design of a play – Nigel Hook for “The Play That Goes Wrong”
Best scenic design of a musical – Mimi Lien for “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
Best costume design of a play – Jane Greenwood for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”
Best costume design of a musical – Santo Loquasto for “Hello, Dolly!”
Best lighting design of a play – Christopher Akerlind for “Indecent”
Best lighting design of a musical – Bradley King for “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
Best direction of a play – Rebecca Taichman for “Indecent”
Best direction of a musical – Christopher Ashley for “Come From Away”
Best choreography – Andy Blankenbuehler for “Bandstand”
Best orchestrations – Alex Lacamoire for “Dear Evan Hansen”
Special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre – James Earl Jones
Special Tony Award – Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, sound designers for “The Encounter”
Regional Theatre Tony Award – Dallas Theater Center in Dallas, Texas
Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award – Baayork Lee
Tony honors for excellence in theater – Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser