“Dear Evan Hansen,” the driving, dramatic new musical about high school students’ reactions to a teen suicide and the resulting social media firestorm, took best musical honors at Sunday night’s 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall. The show’s star, Ben Platt, won best actor in a musical, Rachel Bay Jones won best featured actress and the show also picked up awards for its book, score and orchestrations.
J.T. Rogers’ “Oslo,” an ambitious account inspired by true events surrounding the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, won best play. “August Wilson’s Jitney” took the trophy for best revival of a play, and—no surprise here—the much-buzzed-about Bette Midler-helmed juggernaut, “Hello, Dolly!” was declared best musical revival. Midler also took best actress in a musical.
Kevin Spacey opened the show with a rousing musical number proving his stage chops. The man’s a Tony winner (for “Lost in Yonkers”), but is more associated with killer dramatic roles in film (“American Beauty”) and on TV (“House of Cards”). The multi-costume-changing number had him morphing from “Dear Evan Hansen” (dressed as a polo-shirted teen with arm cast labeled #Host), to “Groundhog Day” (leaping in and out of bed and having a moment with Stephen Colbert), to “Sunset Boulevard” (donning a Norma Desmond gold turban and belting out “I am hooooost at last”). It all culminated with Spacey in top hat and tails doing a fairly convincing tap number.
“Oh my goodness—I can’t believe how many Broadway people do that eight times a week,” he said, after the number. “Now if someone will find my cardiologist….”
The show offered a fascinating contrast between a slew of young new artists—like Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, winners of best score for “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the playwrights nominated for best play, who were each making their Broadway debuts—and more established performers, like Kevin Kline (“Present Laughter”) and Laurie Metcalf (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”), who won Tonys for best actor and actress in a play.
The Rockettes performed a dance number to “New York, New York,” Spacey did some of his imitations (Johnny Carson, Bill Clinton), and then, suddenly, there was singer Sara Bareilles, serving pie in the audience, not-so-subtly plugging her musical, “Waitress.” Out came folks to hawk Wonka bars from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” even Chazz Palminteri with cannolis and a plug for “A Bronx Tale.”
“Imagine that, people trying tp plug their shows on the Tonys,” Spacey chastised—immediately launching into a plug for his upcoming one-man show, ”Clarence Darrow,” which he’ll perform at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing later this week.
Other memorable moments:
THANKS, NANA—Jones, who won for her complex portrayal of a mom of a troubled teen in “Dear Evan Hansen,” gave a shout-out to her grandmother. “Thank you to my nana who sold her engagement ring so I could move to New York to become an actor.”
UH…GEE, SORRY, HONEY—Comedian (and enthusiastic musicals lover) Rachel Bloom, star of the modern-day musical sitcom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” provided color commentary for CBS from backstage. “This honestly beats my wedding day!” she shouted (with a tinge of irony, we’re hoping).
A HEARTFELT TRIBUTE—Upon receiving a special Tony for lifetime achievement, James Earl Jones honored his wife of 34 years, Cecilia Hart, who died last year of ovarian cancer. “I want to thank my wife, Ceci, for being such a wonderful companion in my life and in my work. And for being the great co-producer of our son, Flynn. And,” he said, pausing, “for being so dazzling on the red carpet.”