Last night’s broadcast of the 71st Annual Tony Awards revealed a few surprises, some unexpected wins, and a couple of sigh-worthy missteps that had theatergoers wondering where the theatricality was in theater’s most celebrated honor.
Kevin Spacey stepped to the plate to take a swing at hosting, and while his spot-on impersonations garnered some chuckles, it lacked a certain energy necessary to fill Radio City Musical Hall or penetrate television-watching audiences.
Expected wins for Ben Platt (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical – Dear Evan Hansen) and Bette Midler (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical – Hello, Dolly!) were nevertheless exciting to witness, particularly Midler—in star power fashion—who bulldozed her way through the orchestra to complete her acceptance speech.
More surprising were the director wins for Christopher Ashley for Best Direction of a Musical (Come From Away) and Rebecca Taichman for Best Direction of a Play (Indecent), who both seemed shocked and thrilled at the recognition of their work.
Some choices paid off while others fell flat. Having playwrights speak of their own work was compelling, but their introductions, spoken by actors appearing in their plays while sitting in the audience, felt awkward. The broadcast’s final hurrah was also a dirge as Spacey and Patti LuPone shared a duet of “The Curtain Falls,” which should have happened before the song. An acapella quintet featuring Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper, Justin Guarini and others, was a beautifully sung accompaniment to the tribute for those theater artists who passed during the past year. And let’s not forget about Eva Noblezada. The young star of Miss Saigon is a knock-out who’s been nudged out of the limelight this year, but keep your eyes on her… perhaps the new Eliza Doolittle in next season’s My Fair Lady?
Come From Away was the best excerpt that gave audience members of what the show’s about, while Platt delivered an expectedly moving snippet of his soon-to-be award-winning role. The biggest disappointment (perhaps of the night) was David Hyde Pierce’s valiant attempt to represent Hello, Dolly! It’s not called Hello, Horace Vandergelder after all.
The New York Times reported that producers “argued that the different configuration of the stage at Radio City — and, in particular, its passerelle — could pose a risk to leaping dancers and would not do the song justice.” You’re theater people: Figure It Out. Such a shame that the momentum behind the show and Midler’s well-deserved momentous performance wasn’t shared with a larger audience.
Dear Evan Hansen
Best Revival of a Musical
Oslo by J.T. Rogers
Best Revival of a Play
August Wilson’s Jitney
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Best Direction of a Play
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent
Best Performance by an Actress in Featured Role a Musical
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Best Book of a Musical
Dear Evan Hansen, Steven Levenson
Dear Evan Hansen, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Cynthia Nixon, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Here’s look at the tally of the winners:
Dear Evan Hansen – 6
Hello, Dolly! – 4
Indecent – 2
Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes – 2
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – 2
Oslo – 2
Bandstand – 1
Come From Away – 1
A Doll’s House, Part 2 – 1
Jitney – 1
The Play That Goes Wrong – 1
Present Laughter – 1