Broadway celebrates success, rewards originality at 72nd Tony Awards

By Daniel Morgan, Contributing Writer

The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards gives those who may never see a Broadway show a collective glimpse at New York City’s most popular and acclaimed productions, which collectively brought in over 13.7 million attendants and $1.7 billion, the Broadway League’s biggest and highest-grossing season in history.

It’s unique compared to the other three major entertainment awards shows that make up the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy and Oscar). Nearly everyone has direct access to television, music and movies; not everyone can say the same about live theater. That’s what makes the experience so thrilling. 

This year’s broadcast, hosted by Tony-nominees Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, garnered much anticipation with Broadway adaptations of pop culture phenomena like “Mean Girls,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Frozen” and “Harry Potter” taking center stage among other impressive productions. Believe me, if you’re going to include Harry Potter AND SpongeBob in a broadcast, you know I’ll be watching. (Now, when can we get Star Wars on Broadway…)

As expected, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two” dominated the play categories, winning six of its ten nominations, including Best Sound Design of a Play (Gareth Fry), Lighting Design of a Play (Neil Austin), Costume Design of a Play (Katrina Lindsay), Scenic Design of a Play (Christine Jones), Direction of a Play (John Tiffany), and Best Play (Jack Thorn). Following the franchise’s immense popularity and critical success, “Cursed Child’s” spectacle overtook the other Best Play nominees with its lush, revolutionary design and direction.

Angels in America,” with its record-breaking 11 nominations for a play, won three awards: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Andrew Garfield), Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Nathan Lane), and Revival of a Play. Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf took home the remaining play awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and Featured Role, respectively, for their work in “Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women.”

The musical categories brought some surprises, as the Tony Awards always do, seeing that two of the three most publicized Best Musical nominees, “Frozen” and “Mean Girls,” received no awards; “SpongeBob SquarePants” only received one for Best Scenic Design of a Musical (David Zinn). Tony voters opted to reward originality over familiarity, giving the top prize (and almost every other musical prize), to remaining Best Musical contender “The Band’s Visit.”

As the biggest winner of the night, “The Band’s Visit” won 10 of its 11 nominations, including Best Musical, Direction of a Musical (David Cromer) Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Tony Shalhoub), Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Katrina Lenk), Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Ari’el Stachel), Book of a Musical (Itamar Moses), Original Score Written for the Theatre (David Yazbek), Lighting Design of a Musical (Tyler Micoleau), Sound Design of a Musical (Kai Harada), and Orchestrations (Jamshied Sharifi).

The musical revivals took the rest of the awards, with “Once on this Island” taking Best Revival of a Musical, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel” winning Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Lindsay Mendez) and Choreography (Justin Peck), and Catherine Zuber taking Best Costume Design of a Musical for “My Fair Lady.”

Among the dazzling performances throughout the evening, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama students gave the most emotional and heartfelt of them all. Excellence in Theatre Education Award recipient Melody Herzfeld’s students honored her with a tear-inducing rendition of “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.” Herzfeld saved dozens of students’ lives when a student opened fire in the school, killing 17 people on Valentine’s Day.

Two musical theatre legends, actress Chita Rivera and composer/producer Andrew Lloyd Webber received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre last night during the ceremony.

John Leguizamo and Bruce Springsteen received a Special Tony for their respective work on Broadway, Nick Scandalios received the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for public service, La MaMa E.T.C. received the Regional Theatre Tony Award, and Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were awarded to Sara Krulwich, Bessie Nelson, and Ernest Winzer Cleaners.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy