The cast of "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet" with Tony nominee Josh Groban.
The cast of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet” with Tony nominee Josh Groban.




AND THEN there were two.

The new musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812  topped the 2017 Tony Award nominations Tuesday with 12, followed closely by Dear Evan Hansen, which earned nine. The Bette Midler-led Hello, Dolly! has 10 nominations but will compete in the best revival (not best musical) category.

Tony nominee Ben Platt and Rachel Bay Jones in "Dear Evan Hansen."
Tony nominees Ben Platt and Rachel Bay Jones in “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Even though 13 new musicals opened in the season just closed, the Tony committee saw fit to nominate only four for its top honor.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, based on Volume 2, Part 5 of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, focuses on Natasha’s affair with Anatole, and Pierre’s search for meaning in life. Its cast of 30-plus sings, dances, climbs, sprints and engages theatergoers throughout the Imperial Theatre, which was renovated to provide an up-close, in-the-round experience in which the stage is nowhere and everywhere.

Dear Evan Hansen, in contrast, tells the story of one teenager’s suicide and another’s lie, with a cast of eight, examining truth, memory and Internet lunacy along the way.

Completing the category are Come From Away (the true story of 7,000 airline passengers stranded in a small Newfoundland town by the events of 9/11)  and Groundhog Day (adapted from the 1993 movie with Andy Karl in the Bill Murray role).

The best new play category was also held to four nominations: A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas HnathIndecent by Paula Vogel, Oslo by J.T. Rogers and Sweat by Lynn Nottage.

Tony winner Jayne Houdyshell (left) and four-time Tony nominee Laurie Metcalf as Nora Torvald. Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Tony winner Jayne Houdyshell (left) and four-time Tony nominee Laurie Metcalf as Nora Torvald. Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Hnath’s A Doll’s House — a daring, widely praised sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s revolutionary 1879 portrait of marriage as a women’s prison — led all new plays with six nominations. Playwright Hnath is making his Broadway debut, as is Vogel, a Pulitzer Prize winner for How I Learned to Drive in 1998. Her Indecent retells the story of a Yiddish classic that, in 1923, featured the first-ever Broadway stage kiss between two women.

Nottage won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Ruined. She won again this year for Sweat, a personal and political drama that looks at America’s industrial decline. Rogers’ Oslo dramatizes the efforts of two Norwegian diplomats in 1993 as they try to bring Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Yasser Arafat together.

The Tony-nominated (Pulitzer Prize-winning) "Sweat," with (from left), John Earl Jelks, Tony nominees Michelle Wilson and Johanna Day, and Alison Wright. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Tony-nominated (Pulitzer Prize-winning) “Sweat,” with (from left), John Earl Jelks, Tony nominees Michelle Wilson and Johanna Day, and Alison Wright. Photo: Joan Marcus

The starry revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes also earned six nominations — including best revival and nominations for leading ladies Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon. The 1939 drama flays open a Southern family whose selfish pursuit of the American Dream destroys them and those they love. Linney and Nixon alternate in the roles of the fearless, conniving Regina Hubbard Giddens and her timid sister-in-law, Birdie Hubbard.

Clearly, there’s no Hamilton this season, but that’s the type of show that comes around once in a generation, if we’re lucky. Among this year’s surprises:

  • Tony winners Christian Borle (left) and Andrew Rannells are nominated again for "Falsettos." Photo: Joan Marcus
    Tony winners Christian Borle (left) and Andrew Rannells are nominated again for “Falsettos.” Photo: Joan Marcus

    Two-time Tony winner Christian Borle, who was nominated for his featured work in Falsettos but not for the leading role of Willie Wonka in the highly anticipated, widely panned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  • The entire Charlie and the Chocolate Factory team, which was shut out. The show was retooled for Broadway, even after running for more than three years in London and winning two Olivier Awards.
  • Leading performers Laura Osnes and Corey Cott, neither nominated for the World War II-themed musical Bandstand.
  • Leading lady Allison Janney, whose Six Degrees of Separation was nominated for best revival/play.
  • The shutout of the new musical Amélie, based on the 2001 rom-com film and starring Hamilton’s Phillippa Soo.

File this under disappointments: Only two women — The Great Comets Rachel Chavkin and Indecent‘s Rebecca Taichman — are among the eight competitors in the best director fields, a net increase of one from last year. Women fared only slightly better in the best play/musical categories, indicating that, while efforts toward gender equity are making a dent in America’s non-commercial theater, Broadway remains almost stubbornly inert.

Of special note to metro Atlanta theater-watchers:

  • The Christians, an earlier play by Lucas Hnath, opens Actor’s Express’ 30th anniversary season on Sept. 16. Called “stunningly original” by critics, it features a battle of wills between two preachers at a mega-church and calls for a full-size choir.
  • Brandon J. Dirden
    Brandon J. Dirden

    A revival of August Wilson’s 1970s-set Jitney, which earned six nominations, featured former Atlanta actor Brandon J. Dirden as Booster and Alliance Theatre regular Keith Randolph Smith (C.A. Lyons Project, King Hedley IIThe Whipping Man) as Doub. Neither was nominated, but the play is a best revival candidate.

  • Tim Minchin, whose Matilda the Musical just played the Fox Theatre, is nominated for best original score for Groundhog Day.

What might we expect to see on tour at the Fox Theatre in the next few years? Groundhog Day and Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 are the right size and spirit for the 4,678-seat landmark. Don’t expect to see Josh Groban, though. He has missed a mess of Broadway performances and is unlikely to tour. And, even though it has been open for only two weeks, there’s already talk of a road production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. With its family-friendly appeal, it might not need to be a Broadway juggernaut.

Tony nominee Bette Midler in "Hello, Dolly!
Tony nominee Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!

Hello, Dolly! is possible, but producers would have to entice Midler to stay with it or find someone, anyone, of a similar stature — if such a person exists. Anastasia, expanded from the 1997 animated movie about the last surviving child of the Russian Royal Family, might find second life on the road. Despite a Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty score (Ragtime, Once on This Island), it earned only two nominations (costumes, featured actress Mary Beth Peil).

Atlanta audiences are less likely to see Come From Away, which has a cast of just 12, and the eight-person Dear Evan Hansen. Like Fun Home, which we have yet to see, sadly, both are likely too small for the expanses of the Fox.

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey

The Tony awards telecast airs live on CBS at 8 p.m. June 11, with Oscar and Tony Award winner Kevin Spacey hosting the show, which returns to Radio City Music Hall after a few years’ absence. Pre-show activities — red-carpet arrivals, interviews and such — will stream live on the Tony awards website HERE, beginning no later than 7 p.m.

Spacey won a 1991 Tony Award for Lost in Yonkers and was nominated for The Iceman Cometh (1999). He last appeared on Broadway in A Moon for the Misbegotten (2007). His stage credits include Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Hurlyburly and Ghosts (all in the 1980s).

The full list of nominees:

Best play

  • A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath
  • Indecent by Paula Vogel
  • Oslo by J.T. Rogers
  • Sweat by Lynn Nottage

Best musical 

  • Come From Away
  • Dear Evan Hansen
  • Groundhog Day
  • Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Tony nominees Laura Linney (already a Tony winner, left) and Cynthia Nixon.
Tony nominees Laura Linney (a four-time nominee, left) and Cynthia Nixon, a winner for “Rabbit Hole” in 2006.

Best revival / play 

  • Jitney
  • The Little Foxes
  • Present Laughter
  • Six Degrees of Separation

Best revival / musical

  • Falsettos
  • Hello, Dolly!
  • Miss Saigon

Best book / musical 

  • David Hein and Irene Sankoff, Come From Away
  • Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day

Direction / play

  • Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
  • Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney
  • Barlett Sher, Oslo
  • Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes
  • Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

Direction / musical

  • Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
  • Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day
  • Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly! 

Best original score 

  • David Hein and Irene Sankoff, Come From Away
  • Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Tim Minchin, Groundhog Day
  • Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen

Leading actor / play

  • Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
  • Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
  • Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
  • Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
  • Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Leading actress / play

  • Cate Blanchett, The Present
  • Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
  • Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
  • Laura Linney, The Little Foxes
  • Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Leading actor / musical

  • Christian Borle, Falsettos
  • Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
  • David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
  • Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Leading actress / musical

  • Denee Benton, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Christine Ebersole, War Paint
  • Patti LuPone, War Paint
  • Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
  • Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

Featured actor / play

  • Michael Aronov, Oslo
  • Danny DeVito, The Price
  • Nathan Lane, The Front Page
  • Richard Thomas, The Little Foxes
  • John Douglas Thompson, Jitney

 Featured actress / play

  • Johanna Day, Sweat
  • Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
  • Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
  • Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
  • Michelle Wilson, Sweat

Featured actor / musical

  • Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
  • Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
  • Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

Featured actress / musical

  • Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
  • Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
  • Jenn Colella, Come From Away
  • Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Scenic design / play

  • David Gallo, Jitney
  • Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
  • Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
  • Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Scenic design / musical

  • Rob Howell, Groundhog Day
  • David Korins, War Paint
  • Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

Costume design / play

  • Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes
  • Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
  • Toni-Leslie James, Jitney
  • David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Costume design / musical

  • Linda Cho, Anastasia
  • Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
  • Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Catherine Zuber, War Paint

Lighting design / play

  • Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
  • Jane Cox, Jitney
  • Donald Holder, Oslo
  • Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Lighting design / musical

  • Howell Binkley, Come From Away
  • Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
  • Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
  • Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen


  • Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
  • Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day
  • Kelly Devine, Come From Away
  • Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
  • Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812


  • Bill Elliot and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
  • Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
  • Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Special Tony awards

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Two-time Tony Award winner James Earl Jones (Fences in 1987, The Great White Hope in 1969). He last appeared on Broadway in 2015 in a revival of The Gin Game opposite Cicely Tyson. Other Broadway credits include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Driving Miss Daisy,Vidal’s The Best Man (Tony nominee), Of Mice and Men, On Golden Pond (Tony nominee) and You Can’t Take It With You.


REGIONAL THEATER TONY AWARD: Dallas Theater Center, which has been producing new plays, classics, musicals and world premieres in North Texas since 1959.

ISABELLE STEVENSON AWARD: Baayork Lee, who created the role of Connie and was assistant choreographer for the 1976 Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning best musical A Chorus Line. The director-actor-choreographer has subsequently staged the musical in productions worldwide. She also is the founder of the National Asian Artists Project, a community of artists, educators, administrators, community leaders and professionals who work to showcase Asian-American theater artists. The Stevenson award recognizes “a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations.”

SPECIAL TONY AWARD: To sound designers Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin for their work on the play The Encounter. (The competitive sound design awards were eliminated in 2015 but will returns for the 2017/18 season).

EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATER: To general managers Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser. This award honors institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement but are not eligible in any of the competitive categories.

Tony nominations by production

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 — 12
Hello, Dolly! — 10
Dear Evan Hansen — 9
A Doll’s House, Part 2 — 8
Come From Away — 7
Groundhog Day — 7
Oslo — 7
Jitney — 6
The Little Foxes — 6
Falsettos — 5
War Paint — 4
Indecent — 3
Present Laughter — 3
Sweat — 3
Anastasia — 2
Bandstand — 2
The Front Page — 2
Miss Saigon — 2
Six Degrees of Separation — 2
The Price — 1
The Glass Menagerie — 1
Heisenberg — 1
Holiday Inn — 1
The Play That Goes Wrong — 1
The Present — 1



About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s editor, is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project.

View all posts by Kathy Janich