Tuesday, June 13, 2017

2017 Tony Awards Final Thoughts

Tony host Kevin Spacey in Sunday night's opening number.

And that's a wrap! With Sunday night's Tony telecast, the curtain has officially fallen on the 2016-2017 Broadway season, bringing with it a freshly minted crop of Tony winners. And while I have plenty of thoughts on the ceremony as a whole, let's start by looking at how well I did during my annual predictions. Here are this year's actual winners, with the asterisk denoting races I correctly predicted:

Best Musical: Dear Evan Hansen*
Best Play: Oslo*
Best Revival of a Musical: Hello, Dolly!*
Best Revival of a Play: Jitney*
Best Actress in a Musical: Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!*
Best Actress in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Best Actor in a Musical: Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen*
Best Actor in a Play: Kevin Kline, Present Laughter*
Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen*
Best Featured Actress in a Play: Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!*
Best Featured Actor in a Play: Michael Aronov, Oslo
Best Direction of a Musical: Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Best Direction of a Play: Rebecca Taichman, Indecent
Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Best Book of a Musical: Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Score: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen*

For those who aren't great at math, that's 10 out of 17 correct, or a fairly unimpressive 59% success rate. The creative categories are where I struggled the most, as they were the source of the night's biggest surprises. I don't think anyone, including Christopher Ashley and Rebecca Taichman, expected their wins in the direction categories, which made for two of the most entertaining speeches of the night thanks to their genuine shock and happiness.

By contrast, the acting races all went down pretty much as expected, and as a result we didn't see anyone truly lose it the way some of the most memorable Tony winners do (no Nikki M. James style "butterfly" moments here). Don't get me wrong, I liked all of the speeches, and I truly don't have a problem with any of the winners; no one was robbed of their Tony this year, although there are a couple of races I was hoping might go a different way. (We love you, Stephanie J. Block, and you will get your Tony someday!)

The most memorable speech of the night was hands down Bette Midler's. In what may be a Tony record, Midler spoke for nearly 5 minutes as she thanked everyone from her cast, producers, and designers on down to her teachers. The orchestra eventually gave up trying to play her off and just let her speak, and while some people might have a problem with Midler taking so much more than her allotted time it's clear the audience was eating it up. It also helps that Midler was genuinely thrilled to win, and had nothing but effusive praise for her cast and crew. Thanks to a ridiculous behind the scenes feud between Hello, Dolly's lead producer and the Tony telecast, we did not get to see any of Midler's already legendary performance as Dolly Levi, so I'm fine with giving the star as much stage time as possible.

Speaking of the performances, I have to say the individual show producers by and large bungled their song selections. Almost all were poor representations of the show that were incredibly difficult to process out of contest, and I don't think the majority of shows were shown to their full advantage. Miss Saigon made the incredibly off-putting decision to open with an onstage murder and crying mother, although thankfully Tony nominee Eva Noblezada's incredible voice and performance salvaged things (they should have just started with her singing). Groundhog Day picked the sappiest song in its repertoire, and the Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 was just plain chaotic.

And God bless David Hyde Pierce, but nobody was interested in seeing a cut song from Hello, Dolly! when that score is literally brimming with standards. It's not Pierce's fault that producer Scott Rudin decreed Bette Midler wouldn't perform unless they could do the performance from the Shubert Theatre, and he did an admirable job with a number that in the context of the show is actually quite charming. But there are three *obvious* choices in that score for Tony performances ("Put On Your Sunday Clothes," "Before the Parade Passes By," and the title song, which would have been my preference), and Rudin should have sucked it up, paid for the duplicate set, and given the people what they wanted, which was Midler front and center.

As host, I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Spacey's easygoing vibe, which provided a nice contrast from James Corden's overly labored hosting gig last year (I know I'm in the minority, but I thought the late night host and Tony winner was trying way too hard). I think the opening number was a bit too "inside baseball" for the telecast, as you can only really appreciate it by having seen all of the parodied shows, which the majority of people watching have not. But Spacey sold it, and his repeated impersonations of other celebrities throughout the telecast were some of the evening's highlights. They also reminded anyone who may have forgotten that Spacey is an actor's actor, and he will hopefully be back on Broadway sooner rather than later. Finally, Spacey's repeated references to the fact that he was nobody's first choice for this gig were genius, as making fun of himself allowed him to make fun of others without seeming mean spirited ("Let's go before Bette Midler thanks anyone else").

Overall, I thought this year's Tonys were fine, although disappointing considering the strength of this Broadway season. The one area the Tonys usually excel at, the musical numbers, was marred by poor song choices that didn't do a good job of introducing the shows to people who didn't already know them. And oddly enough, the announcement of winners this year was somehow less interesting than last year even though last year we all knew Hamilton would dominate. But the most important aspect of the Tonys is celebrating the year's best and brightest, and this year I thought voters did an excellent job of rewarding those who truly deserved it.


  1. I wanted Kevin Spacey to have more screentime.

  2. I only got 5 of my predictions wrong: Director Of A Play and Musical, Featured Actor In A Play, Choreography, and Orchestrations.