The Tonys: A small Band routs the blockbusters
With Broadway “in danger of becoming a theme park,” Tony Award voters made a stand Sunday night, said Michael Riedel in the New York Post. In a rebuke to Mean Girls, SpongeBob SquarePants, and other big-foot commercial franchises, the Best Musical award and nine others were showered on The Band’s Visit, “a lovely, human show” about an Egyptian police band stranded overnight in an Israeli town. Yes, the underdog champ itself is based on a movie (albeit an obscure Israeli production) and yes, the trophy for Best Play went to a five-hour Harry Potter spin-off that is the most expensive nonmusical ever to reach a Broadway stage. But the folks who actually put on the shows clearly want “smart, sophisticated” productions, not kids’ stuff.
The Band’s Visit, a show “as arrestingly original as Hamilton,” had little serious competition, said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. Mean Girls, SpongeBob, and Frozen openly cater to families and children, which may build an audience for future adult fare but for now crowds it out. Worse, “the dramatic landscape may be even more dire.” Though Harry Potter and the Cursed Child benefits from its “endlessly imaginative” staging, it’s “easier to defend as a galvanizing dramatic event than as a model of playwriting.” It won because few great plays ever reach Broadway when producers can’t afford to make huge bets even on shows that wow theater fans who visit smaller stages. At least Broadway revivals had a fine year—highlighted by winners Angels in America and Once on This Island, but also by My Fair Lady, Carousel, and Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women.
Even so, Robert De Niro almost stole the show, said Mike Hale in The New York Times. Tapped to introduce a song performed by Broadway newcomer Bruce Springsteen, De Niro delivered a short, obscene salvo against Donald Trump that was censored on TV but triggered a standing ovation and a social media storm. Other participants addressed the nation’s fraught politics with “a surprising amount of subtlety,” said Daniel D’Addario in Variety. In a particular moving moment, Parkland, Fla.’s high school drama club, whose members survived a mass shooting in February, took the stage to perform “Seasons of Love” from Rent. In a year when the Tonys could easily have been as belligerent in spirit as De Niro, “the show’s heart was big beyond measure.”
And the winners were…
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 Leading Actor in a Play: Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Best Leading Actress in a Play: Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women
Best Musical: The Band’s Visit
Best Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two