“Don’t waste any time trying to be anyone but yourself. The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” – Ben Platt
The Tonys are Broadway’s biggest night and last night was no exception! After such an incredible 2016/2017 season, it’s no surprise that The Tonys officially ended the season in an incredible way!
The 2016/2017 season was filled with incredible musicals, both new and revivals. I love that there were performances from all the nominees for Best Musical and Best Revival. It gave a little taste of what happens during these shows, even bringing in the sets that are used in the show to make it feel authentic, which I think is pretty cool. How they get all those sets and set up in Radio City Music Hall is beyond me though. My favourite performance of the night was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I loved how they made the more traditional stage at Radio City like their immersive staging at the Imperial Theatre and I loved how they did a mashup of songs from the show. Great Comet has such diverse styles of music so the mashup made sense and it worked beautifully. A+ music arranger! Their ensemble is also amazing and it made the performance really enjoyable to watch. The cast of Dear Evan Hansen (or should I say Ben Platt) performed Waving Through a Window. I thought it was really good but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t You Will Be Found. I just think that’s an incredibly powerful song with an important message that should be shared on live television and everyone in the cast has a role in the song. I love Ben Platt and think he’s super talented but I think the rest of the cast was overlooked by just having them singing the background harmonies. Because I’m Canadian, I feel obligated to say that I loved Come From Away’s Performance, which is 100% true. They performed the opening number Welcome to the Rock. I’d hoped they’d perform Screech In, but since this musical is mostly sung through and there’s no overture, Welcome to the Rock gives a good overview and feel for the show, which is great. Falsettos’s performance was also super fun and super cute (Anthony Rosenthal is the cutest human on Broadway). I have to say though, I’m disappointed that Hello, Dolly! did a performance without Dolly (aka Bette Midler). I was really looking forward to seeing her perform. All the performances were amazing and it’s amazing that they can do that for 2.5 hours (not just one song) 8 times a week!
One thing that I really liked about this year’s awards was that there was a lot of love given to plays and playwrights. I don’t know why, but plays always seem to take a back seat to musicals. Writing a play and getting it produced on Broadway is just as impressive as writing a musical and getting it produced on Broadway. However, plays can’t really do “performances” of a song like musicals can. So I appreciated the fact that each of the playwrights for the nominees for Best Play were given the chance to give a brief synopsis and talk about the themes in their play.
With 38 new shows opening on Broadway in the 2016/2017 season, there was bound to be some tough competition for the actual awards. The Best Featured Actress category was one of the toughest I’ve ever seen:
- Jenn Colella (Come From Away)
- Rachel Bay Jones (Dear Evan Hansen)
- Stephanie J. Block (Falsettos)
- Kate Baldwin (Hello, Dolly!)
- Mary Beth Piel (Anastasia)
I thought this category would be between Jenn and Stephanie and to be honest, I never thought Rachel had a chance in hell of winning, but yet she did. Not that Rachel didn’t deserve to win (all these women deserved to win), I just really thought that Jenn Colella should’ve won because her performance in Come From Away is just one of the best performances of any actress that I’ve ever seen. On stage, she makes me laugh, she makes me cry, and off stage, she is one of the kindest, humblest human beings.
One of the things I dislike about the Tonys in general is that the “creative” categories like Scenic Design, Choreography, Orchestrations, and Lighting Design are not televised. These artists winning these awards deserve to be recognized just as much as anyone else involved in a production. They matter too. If it weren’t for these people the show would not have the same level of pizazz and impressiveness as they currently do. I was really happy that Alex Lacamoire won Best Orchestrations for Dear Evan Hansen because his strings arrangements just make me sob. That makes back to back Tony wins for Lac after winning last year for Hamilton. Andy Blankenbuehler also collected back to back Tony wins for Best Choreography, again after winning for Hamilton last year. But this year Andy both directed and choreographed Bandstand. From the one number that I’ve seen (called Nobody), I love the choreography and I would love to see this show. For me, it’s definitely a bucket list item to take a dance class from Andy Blankenbuehler. Great Comet obviously won Scenic Design of a musical. This was predictable because of the immersive nature of the show and how they’ve designed the Imperial Theatre. I don’t know about you, but I would happily watch an extra hour of the Tonys if it meant I got to see these people win their awards and their acceptance speeches.
Of course, the big award of the night is Best Musical and this year it so deservingly went to Dear Evan Hansen. I really thought Come From Away might give DEH a run for its money at the Tonys but apparently I was wrong and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed. As soon as Benj Pasek and Justin Paul won for Best Original Score and Steven Levenson won for Best Book, I knew that Dear Evan Hansen had Best Musical locked up, since well the book and the score are what make a musical. The Tony for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical was Ben Platt’s to lose (there was no real competition) and he 10000% earned this award. He puts his heart and soul and emotions into this show 8 times a week and does a beautiful job. I can’t believe he’s only 23! He’s such a talent and will go so far. I haven’t seen DEH but I’ve been listening to the cast album since it came out and it truly is a beautiful story that has such a fitting place in the 21st century and I really do love it. “You have been seen. You matter. You will be found.”
Overall, I have to say, the show itself was severely mediocre. Kevin Spacey was a fine host.The jokes and the food bit were fine. The awards themselves were fine, if not a little disappointing. I really thought Come From Away deserved more than just Best Direction of a Musical for Christopher Ashley (which was so well deserved). I really thought they should’ve had Best Book, even though it’s mostly sung through and Best Featured Actress for Jenn Colella. Come From Away took home 1 out of 7 nominations, Dear Evan Hansen took home 6 out of 9 nominations, Great Comet took home 2 out of 12 nominations, and Hello, Dolly! took home 4 out of 10 nominations. In terms of plays, there was no clear “winner” but several different shows took home a Tony, which is wonderful.
I just want to say, thank you, Broadway for being a light in the darkness, for giving me things to obsess over, for giving me new stories and music to fall in love with, and reminding me to keep dreaming big and believe in something magical. How lucky I am to love something like the theatre.
What were your favourite moments of the Tonys and the overall 2016/2017 Broadway season? Let me know in the comments!