The 71st annual Tony Awards was, as always, a well-produced affair, stocked with incredible displays of talent and passionate winners. A highlight was actress Rachel Bay Jones, a winner for “Dear Evan Hansen,” saying that she finally forgave her parents for “cursing me with a love of the theater.”
“I’d like to thank all the Tony voters, many of whom I’ve actually dated,” Midler cracked. The last time Midler was recognized at the Tony Awards was over 40 years ago when she won a special Tony Award in 1974, not long after she began her career on Broadway in the 1967 production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
The evening musical numbers were lively and engaging and the flow of the show was well-paced, Bravo to the shows producer. The biggest shortcoming was host Kevin Spacey, who just didn’t deliver the same kind of engaging effort as his recent predecessors. The contrast was especially sharp against last year’s emcee, “Late Late Show” host James Corden, who so memorably rose to the occasion when faced with the daunting task of pulling it off less than 24 hours after the massacre at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla.
Spacey’s big opening number was all about himself not being the first choice for the job. He also relied on his stock of celebrity impressions that just seemed out of place for the setting. There were groans in the audience at Radio City Music Hall when Spacey came out as Bill Clinton and took some dumb shots at Hillary Clinton. His Johnny Carson fell even flatter.
Ahead of the best musical announcement, when he came out in his Frank Underwood persona from “House of Cards,” with his on-screen wife Robin Wright in tow, it was at least mercifully brief. He did get one good quick jab at the Divine Miss M’s for her long ass speach that was by far the most amusing he was all evening. “Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda, who presented the award, even quipped “It’s been a long night.”
The former second lady Jill Biden, looked gorgeous in a red gown, took the stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovastion. She thanked the audience several times before announcing that the nonprofit Got Your 6 has partnered with Broadway’s Bandstand.
In the armed forces, ‘got your six’ means, ‘I’ve got your back.’ I’m proud to say that the organization Got Your 6, which works to empower veterans has partnered with the thrilling musical Bandstand to highlight the experiences and talents of America’s veterans,” she said, as cameras cut to her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, who was smiling in the audience. “As the daughter of a World War II signal man and the mother of an army captain, I’ve seen how the scars of service can haunt even in the best of situations.
Dr. Biden continued, “As veterans cope with returning to civilian life, they form a band unlike any the nation has ever seen and discover the power of music to find their voice, their purpose and redemption. I’m honored to say to our veterans on behalf of Joe, myself and the company of Bandstand and everybody else here, we’ve got your six.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” was the night’s big winner. That provided a nice showcase for the musical and the meteoric success story of star Ben Platt, who capped a huge Broadway debut with a Tony win on his first at-bat.
Bette Midler provided another highlight with her filibuster of an acceptance speech, gushing about the enduring charm of “Hello, Dolly!” She went so far as to tell the orchestra “shut that crap up” when they tried to play her off.
The night’s humorous high point, was when late-night host Stephen Colbert. The Late Show host couldn’t resist a jab at President Trump while announcing the nominees.
“It’s been a great year for revivals in general, especially that one they revived down in Washington, D.C.,” said The Late Show host. “It started off-Broadway in the Eighties. Way off Broadway, over on 5th Avenue, huge production values. A couple of problems: the main character is totally unbelievable, and the hair and makeup: yeesh. 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. Best of luck to everyone involved.”
The Tony Awards “honor theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway ” in Musicals and plays, including revivals, that opened over the course of the 2016-2017 season.
When the nominees were announced in May, the musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 scored the most nods with 12 nominations.
The 2017 TONY Awards Winners:
Dear Evan Hansen
Best Revival of a Musical
Best Leading Actor in a Play
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Best Leading Actress in a Play
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Best Leading Actor in a Musical
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Best Featured Actor in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Best Featured Actress in a Play
Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Best Direction of a Play
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent
Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen