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The 2017 Tony Awards: What Is The Industry Saying?

By Madeline Fox

Whether you’re packed into a bar in the Village, lined up outside the Radio City Music Hall red carpet, or at home with piña coladas and friends, the night of the 71st Annual Tony Awards makes you really excited to live in New York and be a part of the theatre world. As you watch the awards, you see people you recognize on the stage and in the audience. It reminds you of all the moments that inspired and drove you into this career path, or “lifestyle choice” if you will. But this year, being part of that exclusive “club” seemed misguided and out of touch.

Kevin Spacey ended his opening number with a joke: “I can’t believe how many people do that eight times a week,” Mr. Spacey said. “But that’s why we’re gathered here to celebrate all the incredible work that you do. Now if someone will please find my cardiologist.”

The part of his joke about finding his cardiologist missed the mark and highlighted the disconnect of this year’s Tony Awards. Yes, Mr. Spacey, a chorus member of a Broadway show almost certainly works incredibly hard and makes fractions of your standard paycheck. They also probably have panic attacks about whether they will have a paycheck from month to month, feverishly worry about the toll that eight shows a week are taking on their bodies, and whether they will qualify for consistent access to healthcare.

It’s a weird time for America in general, so it’s not really surprising that it feels like a weird time for American theatre. Broadway, which has long straddled the commercial demands of business while attempting to maintain artistic integrity and relevance, is at a crux.  It is attempting to speak to as many people as possible during a time when not everyone wants to hear the same message. One presenter made a comment along the lines of “if you can, come to New York, see a Broadway show” and instead of an encouragement to travel and support live theatre, it came across as a slight dig, highlighting the split between those who take for granted a night at the theatre several times a week and the majority of Americans for whom several hundred dollars on tickets alone is an impossibility.

It’s as if Broadway can’t really decide where it lands, publicly at least. Is it a members-only club that protects its own, coyly smiling at its own jokes, and let’s Bette Midler run the show if she feels like it – or is it a vehicle for change and progress?

Some actors used their speeches as a platform. Sally Field and Cynthia Nixon, for example, made impassioned pleas to the theatre industry and artists at large, but as a whole, this is where Broadway is stuck. They keep saying the same things to the same crowd. While there is plenty to talk about in the world of the arts these days, it seems like a closed conversation is being held and the people who truly need to be involved are the farthest outside. The Tony Awards are the one night that we can take this exclusive little Broadway club and put it on television for the whole world to watch, but what are the awards doing to reach out to those who haven’t been included? What statements did the awards make about race, gender, equality, and privilege? These are all of the most essential issues the world is dealing with right now.

Since the awards aired, there has been backlash in the community about Bette Midler’s refusal to yield her acceptance speech when the exit music started. It makes sense that some people are frustrated with her actions and it seems deserved, especially after spending the night watching some winners whose categories did not even receive airtime. I’m sure Ms. Midler knows about the significant contributions that go into making her performance possible, but the choice to run over made her seem blissfully unaware of their value. We’ve long heard complaints that many areas of the theatre community are underrepresented, or not acknowledged at all, by the Tony Awards, so why do we continue to pander to the narcissism of some performers?

That said, the women of the evening stole the show for me. Patty LuPone and Christine Ebersole were a quintessential example of Broadway badassery. The Radio City Rockettes soothed all the glittery parts of my soul and Eva Noblezada can do a dramatic opener like that any day of the week.

If the speeches were any indication of who we need be listening to in the world right now, it’s women with passion!

See the full list of Tony Award Winners below

Best Play:
“Oslo” (WINNER)
“A Doll’s House, Part 2”
“Indecent”
“Sweat”

Best Musical:
“Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)
“Come From Away”
“Groundhog Day The Musical”
“Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

 Best Book of a Musical:
“Dear Evan Hansen” — Steven Levenson (WINNER)
“Come From Away” — Irene Sankoff and David Hein
“Groundhog Day The Musical” — Danny Rubin
“Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” — Dave Malloy

Best Original Score:
“Dear Evan Hansen” — Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (WINNER)
“Come From Away” — Music & Lyrics: Irene Sankoff and David Hein
“Groundhog Day The Musical” — Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
“Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” — Music & Lyrics: Dave Malloy

Best Revival of a Play:
“August Wilson’s Jitney” (WINNER)
“Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”
“Present Laughter”
“Six Degrees of Separation”

Best Revival of a Musical:
“Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)
“Falsettos”
“Miss Saigon”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:
Kevin Kline, “Present Laughter” (WINNER)
Denis Arndt, “Heisenberg”
Chris Cooper, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
Corey Hawkins, “Six Degrees of Separation”
Jefferson Mays, “Oslo”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:
Laurie Metcalf, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (WINNER)
Cate Blanchett, “The Present”
Jennifer Ehle, “Oslo”
Sally Field, “The Glass Menagerie”
Laura Linney, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen”(WINNER)
Christian Borle, “Falsettos”
Josh Groban, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”
Andy Karl, “Groundhog Day The Musical”
David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)
Denee Benton, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”
Christine Ebersole, “War Paint”
Patti LuPone, “War Paint”
Eva Noblezada, “Miss Saigon”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:
Michael Aronov, “Oslo” (WINNER)
Danny DeVito, “Arthur Miller’s The Price”
Nathan Lane, “The Front Page”
Richard Thomas, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”
John Douglas Thompson, “August Wilson’s Jitney”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:
Cynthia Nixon, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” (WINNER)
Johanna Day, “Sweat”
Jayne Houdyshell, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
Condola Rashad, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
Michelle Wilson, “Sweat”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)
Mike Faist, “Dear Evan Hansen”
Andrew Rannells, “Falsettos”
Lucas Steele, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”
Brandon Uranowitz, “Falsettos”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)
Kate Baldwin, “Hello, Dolly!”
Stephanie J. Block, “Falsettos”
Jenn Colella, “Come From Away”
Mary Beth Peil, “Anastasia”

Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Nigel Hook, “The Play That Goes Wrong” (WINNER)
David Gallo, “August Wilson’s Jitney”
Douglas W. Schmidt, “The Front Page”
Michael Yeargan, “Oslo”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
Mimi Lien, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” (WINNER)
Rob Howell, “Groundhog Day The Musical”
David Korins, “War Paint”
Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!”

Best Costume Design of a Play:
Jane Greenwood, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” (WINNER)
Susan Hilferty, “Present Laughter”
Toni-Leslie James, “August Wilson’s Jitney”
David Zinn, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Costume Design of a Musical:
Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)
Linda Cho, “Anastasia”
Paloma Young, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”
Catherine Zuber, “War Paint”

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Christopher Akerlind, “Indecent” (WINNER)
Jane Cox, “August Wilson’s Jitney”
Donald Holder, “Oslo”
Jennifer Tipton, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Bradley King, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” (WINNER)
Howell Binkley, “Come From Away”
Natasha Katz, “Hello, Dolly!”
Japhy Weideman, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Best Direction of a Play:
Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent” (WINNER)
Sam Gold, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, “August Wilson’s Jitney”
Bartlett Sher, “Oslo”
Daniel Sullivan, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”

Best Direction of a Musical:
Christopher Ashley, “Come From Away” (WINNER)
Rachel Chavkin, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”
Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen”
Matthew Warchus, “Groundhog Day The Musical”
Jerry Zaks, “Hello, Dolly!”

Best Choreography:
Andy Blankenbuehler, “Bandstand” (WINNER)
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, “Groundhog Day The Musical”
Kelly Devine, “Come From Away”
Denis Jones, “Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical”
Sam Pinkleton, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

Best Orchestrations:
Alex Lacamoire, “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, “Bandstand”
Larry Hochman, “Hello, Dolly!”
Dave Malloy, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories

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 the Theatre: Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser

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