"Dear Evan Hansen" won six Tony awards, including best musical and best actor in a musical for leading man Ben Platt.
“Dear Evan Hansen” won six Tony awards, including best musical and best actor in a musical for leading man Ben Platt.

Dear Evan Hansen was named best musical of the 2016/17 Broadway season at Sunday’s Tony awards, and Oslo was named best play.

Bette Midler in "Hello, Dolly!)" Photo: Sarah Krulwich/The New York Times
Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!)” Photo: Sarah Krulwich/The New York Times

How that translates: Metro Atlanta audiences are unlikely to see Evan Hansen unless they travel. Like Fun Home two seasons ago, its small cast of eight makes it a poor fit for the 4,678-seat Fox Theatre or the 2,750-seat Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Oslo, meanwhile, has extended its run to July 16. The political drama by Tony-winning playwright J.T. Rogers details secret peace talks between Israel and the PLO in Norway in 1993.

Dear Evan Hansen, which leads the list of Tony winners with six, is a contemporary musical about trying to fit in. The title character is a high school senior with a social anxiety disorder who finds himself trapped in the turmoil that follows a classmate’s death.

There was no Hamilton-size sweep this year, and the awards were a somewhat lackluster affair with host Kevin Spacey, the Tony- and Oscar-winning actor, out of his element as the singing, dancing, not-so-funny guy. He was, apparently, not Tony producers’ first choice, or even second or third. Next year, look for Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to host.

[VIDEO: SPACEY’S OPENING NUMBER]

Highlights:

  • Cynthia Nixon, a winner for her work in Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes."
    Cynthia Nixon, a winner for her work in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes.”

    Sutton Foster, who recently played Atlanta Symphony Hall and has Georgia connections, giving the best featured actor/musical to award to Gavin Creel for his work as Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! The two co-starred in 2002’s Thoroughly Modern Millie.

  • Playwrights talking about their plays. The Tonys always struggle to spotlight best-play nominees, which can pale in comparison to splashy musical numbers. This year’s answer should stick. Each nominated playwright —  Lucas Hnath  (A Doll’s House, Part 2), Lynn Nottage (Sweat), J.T. Rogers (Oslo) and Paula Vogel (Indecent) — each took the stage for a few brief minutes to share what their play is about and how it came to be. (The Christians, an earlier Hnath work about the politics of a mega-church, is part of the Actor’s Express 2017/18 season.)
  • Cynthia Nixon, who won best featured actress/play for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, eloquently using her acceptance speech to compare Hellman’s 1939 family drama to today’s political climate.

[VIDEO: NIXON’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH].

  • And the indomitable Bette Midler, refusing to let the orchestra play her offstage during her acceptance speech for best actress/musical for Hello, Dolly!

[VIDEO: MIDLER’S FULL ACCEPTANCE SPEECH]

One big disappointment, also from Dolly: The decision to perform “Penny in My Pocket,” a throwaway song cut from the 1964 original and given to David Hyde Pierce’s Horace Vandergelder this go-round. We get it. Bette didn’t want to perform. Still, Jerry Herman’s score includes some of the best chorus numbers in musical theater history. Couldn’t we have gotten “It Only Takes a Moment,” “Elegance” or even “It Takes a Woman” instead?

Also disappointing: News this week that two best-play nominees — Indecent by Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel and Sweat by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage — will both close June 25. Indecent closes after 15 previews and 80 performances. Productions are planned, however, at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Sweat will have run for 24 previews and 104 performances.

Broadway, which set a new box office record for the past season, plays well far beyond New York. In the 2015/16 season, according to the Broadway League, 14 million people in more than 200 cities saw a touring Broadway show, generating $981 million in ticket sales. Look for those numbers to grow as Hamilton (playing the Fox Theatre in February) travels and Wicked (which has been here more than once) continues to fill even the bigger houses.

The 2017/18 Broadway season, by the way, has already begun, with 10 plays and six musicals scheduling theaters and openings. The first, a British-born adaptation of the George Orwell novel 1984, opens June 22 at the Hudson Theatre on West 44th Street.

Here’s one last look back at the 16/17 season (Tony winners in bold type):

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

  

Best revival / play

  • Jitney by August Wilson
  • The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman
  • Present Laughter by Noel Coward
  • Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare

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

Choreography

  • 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

Orchestrations

  • 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.

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS AWARD

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.

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 return 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 wins by production

Dear Evan Hansen — 6
Hello, Dolly! — 4
Indecent — 2
Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes — 2
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 — 2
Oslo — 2
Bandstand — 1
Come From Away — 1
A Doll’s House, Part 2 — 1
Jitney — 1
The Play That Goes Wrong — 1
Present Laughter — 1

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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. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

View all posts by Kathy Janich