Thoughts on the 2018 Tony Awards

By Aharon Nissel

The Red Carpet

Guests began arriving at the fairly uneventful Tonys Red Carpet outside of Radio City Music Hall, with its iconic rose backdrop several hours before the show. The red carpet was covered by several outlets, most notable Playbill in a facebook live stream. Some of Broadway’s biggest and brightest names graced the Red Carpet in flowing gowns and dapper tuxedos. The most popular colors were silver (as worn by Kerry Washington, Kelli O’Hara, and Tina Fey), a classic Tonys color, and pink (as worn by Laura Osnes, Renee Fleming, and Hailey Kilgore), perhaps in support of Mean Girls and its twelve nominations. Celebrities on the Red Carpet spoke about hope, feminism, and changes on Broadway in interviews with various media outlets. One notable guest was Sparky, the live goat from Once on this Island, who froliced along the carpet looking very debonair with a white collar and black bowtie.

The Ceremony

The Ceremony too was uneventful. But what it lacked in spectacle, it made up for in charm. The Ceremony was hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, who performed a simple, yet satisfying performance as hosts. Both Groban and Baraliess are unconventional choices for being a Tony host. Both are known more for their singing careers than their stage careers, and are newcomers to Broadway. Groban made his Broadway debut last season, starring in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, which only won two Tonys (Best scenic design and best lighting of a musical) despite its whooping 12 nominations. Bareilles is also a Broadway newcomer, but her musical Waitress is still playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for its third year. Two years ago Waitress received four nominations but zero awards. But being newcomers hardly stopped them from providing a fun show, and anything, ANYTHING is better than last year’s host, Kevin Spacey.

The opening number deviated from a trend of spatacular opening numbers, with dozens of high-kicking background dancers in shimmering costumes and elaborate special effects. Instead the co-hosts opened the show clad in tuxedos, seated at black two grand pianos where they sang a song dedicated to the “90% of us that leave empty handed.” The ballad, composed by Bareiless, praised everyone in theatre, especially the losers, for doing what they love regardless of the awards. Groban and Bareiless also made fun of themselves and their own losses. They were joined in the last verse of their song by ensemble members from nominated musicals.

The inclusion of the ensemble members is unique in that, if an opening number is going to feature actors from nominated shows, they usually showcase the leads. The decision was probably to appease the Actors’ Equity Association which campaigned for two ensemble categories. Ensembles are rarely recognized by award shows or reviews.

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Throughout the rest of the ceremony Groban and Bareilles provided brief moments of entertainment such as a parody of Sia’s “Chandelier” about the difficulties of having 8 shows a week.

Overall, their hosting was simple yet fun and charming. They played off their own strengths rather than trying to replicate any past hosts.

The broadcast itself was fun, but basic. It featured performances from several nominated musicals: Mean Girls (“Where do you Belong”), My Fair Lady (“The Rain in Spain”/“I Could Have Danced All Night”/“Get Me to the Church on Time”), Spongebob Squarepants (“I’m not a Loser”), Carousel (“Blow High, Blow Low”), Frozen (“For the First Time in Forever”/“Let It Go”), Summer: The Donna Summers Musical (“Last Dance”), Once on this Island (“One Small Girl”/“Mama Will Provide”), and The Band’s Visit (“Omar Sharif”). Each performance showcased the talents of each show with powerful vocals, elaborate sets, elegant costumes, and compelling choreography.

The Once on this Island performance featured Sparky, a live goat! This is the first time a goat has performed on the Tonys stage. (Although, the 2002 Tony for best play went to Edward Albee’s The Goat.)

Additional presenters included Bruce Springsteen who sang “My Hometown,” the current cast of Dear Evan Hansen, who sang “For Forever” during an In Memoriam montage, and the theatre department at Marjorie Stone Douglas HIgh School in Parkland, Florida who survived the terrible shooting several months ago sang a beautiful rendition of “Seasons of Love” from Rent to a standing ovation and an audience in tears.

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The cast of “Frozen” performs at the 72nd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 10, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Michael Zorn/Invision/AP)

Robert De Niro took the first half of his introduction of Bruce Springsteen to say “F*** Trump” twice and was muted by CBS in a controversial move being criticized by many. (My own opinion is that CBS was right to mute him. I personally agree with DeNiro’s sentiments but CBS set rules about what presenters can and cannot say. If you violate those rules, you’re going to be muted. They didn’t kick him off the stage or anything, they just muted the parts he shouldn’t have said. Additionally, he was supposed to introduce Springsteen, not state his own political opinions.)

Melissa Benoist, known for her roles in “Glee” and “Supergirl,” also presented ahead of her Broadway debut as Carol King in Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” this summer.

Acceptance speeches praised diversity and encouraged hope. Some spoke about growing up as a people of color, others about the LGBTQ+ community, and others about following your dreams. Winners and presenters gave hopefully speeches and praised those who do theatre and engage in other art forms to promote love and empathy. Such people are “part of the cure” sang Bareilles and Groban in their closing number.

The Winners

Of the 22 shows that received nominations, only eight took home any awards: five musicals and three plays.

The big winner of the night was The Band’s Visit which won 10 Tonys of its 11 nominations, including Best Musical. This was quite a surprise because the three new fan favorite musicals, Spongebob Squarepants, Frozen, and Mean Girls, received a combined 1 award. Spongebob Squarepants won just one award despite its 12 nominations. It won best scenic design for the incredible underwater wonderland David Zinn created for the show. Mean Girls, which also received 12 nominations, and Frozen, which received 3 nominations, both came away with nothing. There are 15 categories for musicals, The Band’s Visit took home 10, leaving just 5 awards for any other musicals. The revival of Rodger and Hammerstein’s Carousel won two awards, including best choreography, for Jason Peck, who proved he deserved it with the performance of “Blow High, Blow Low.” The award for best costume design was also a tough call. With such a broad range of costumes, it seemed like comparing apples and oranges. From the period costumes of Carousel and My Fair Lady, to the creative imaginary creatures in Spongebob Squarepants, to the realistic wardrobes of American high schoolers in Mean Girls to the clothing of Caribbean locals and deities in Once on this Island. The award ended up going to Catherine Zuber of My Fair Lady. Another surprise was that the award for best revival of a musical went to the little performance of Once on this Island, beating the larger and more acclaimed Carousel and My Fair Lady revivals.

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Out of the 12 plays that received nominations only three shows won awards in the categories for plays. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II, won six awards, including the award for Best Play. Angels in America came home with three. Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women received 2 awards, including at award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play which went to 82 year old Glenda Jackson, who is the third to eldest person to receive a Tony and had returned to acting after a 23 year career in British Parliament. The category for Best Leading Actor in a Play was one of the most hotly contested categories of the night with incredible nominees of Jamie Parker (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), Andrew Garfield (Angels in America), Tom Hollander (Travesties), Mark Rylance (Farinelli and the King), and Denzel Washington (The Iceman Cometh), all of whom are big names and incredibly talented actors. The award went to Garfield of Angels in America.

Below is the full list of winners:

Best Musical: “The Band’s Visit”

Best Play: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Best Revival of a Musical: “Once on This Island”

Best Revival of a Play: “Angels in America”

Best Book of a Musical: “The Band’s Visit,” Itamar Moses

Best Original Score: “The Band’s Visit,” Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek

Best Leading Actor in a Play: Andrew Garfield, “Angels in America”

Best Leading Actress in a Play: Glenda Jackson, “Three Tall Women”

Best Leading Actor in a Musical: Tony Shalhoub, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Leading Actress in a Musical: Katrina Lenk, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Featured Actor in a Play: Nathan Lane, “Angels in America”

Best Featured Actress in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, “Three Tall Women”

Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Ari’el Stachel, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Lindsay Mendez, “Carousel”

Best Scenic Design of a Play: Christine Jones, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical: David Zinn, “SpongeBob SquarePants”

Best Costume Design of a Play: Katrina Lindsay, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Catherine Zuber, “My Fair Lady”

Best Lighting Design of a Play: Neil Austin, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Tyler Micoleau, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Direction of a Play: John Tiffany, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Best Direction of a Musical: David Cromer, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Choreography: Justin Peck, “Carousel”

Best Orchestrations: Jamshied Sharifi, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Sound Design of a Play: Gareth Fry, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Best Sound Design of a Musical: Kai Harada, “The Band’s Visit”

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater: Chita Rivera, Andrew Lloyd Webber

Special Tony Award: Bruce Springsteen, John Leguizamo

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