“The Band’s Visit,” “Angels in America,” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” emerged big winners at the 72nd Tony Awards, a celebration of Broadway’s best that would have made Antoinette Perry, the theater awards’ namesake, proud.
Hosted by Tony nominees Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall June 10, the ceremony ended by crowning Itamar Moses and David Yazbek’s “The Band’s Visit” the best new musical of the 2017–18 season. Leading actress Katrina Lenk, leading actor Tony Shalhoub, supporting actor Ari’el Stachel, and director David Cromer were among the show’s impressive 10 Tony wins, more than any other musical this year.
Jack Thorne’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two” took home best new play, triumphing over “The Children,” “Farinelli and the King,” “Junk,” and “Latin History for Morons.” The two-part spectacle, developed alongside J.K. Rowling, earned six awards total, including for director John Tiffany. Winning the play acting prizes were Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf for Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women” and Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane for Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”
Among the evening’s musical performances were the shooting survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after a tribute to the school’s drama teacher Melody Herzfeld, this year’s recipient of the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Nominated musicals “Mean Girls,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Carousel,” “My Fair Lady” and more also performed showstopping numbers, including best musical revival: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “Once on This Island.”
Winners used their speeches to speak about the current political climate and representation in the arts, sometimes offering actorly advice. Featured actress in a musical winner Lindsay Mendez of “Carousel” said she was proud “to be a part of a community that celebrates diversity and individuality. To all of you artists out there, just be your true self and the world will take note.”
Stachel announced that in the wake of 9/11, he avoided his Middle Eastern heritage; embracing his identity was a key factor in earning his role in “The Band’s Visit,” a show bridging the divide between historically clashing cultures. “I want any kid who is watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose.”
Presenter Robert De Niro, introducing honoree Bruce Springsteen, kept things more blatantly political: “Fuck Trump.”
Receiving special distinctions this year were Regional Tony Winner La MaMa E.T.C. of NYC, Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre recipients Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award recipient Nick Scandalios, and special Tony honorees Sara Krulwich, Bessie Nelson, and the Ernest Winzer Cleaners. John Leguizamo, recipient of another special Tony Award this year, summed up one of the evening’s messages nicely: “Theater teaches you how to understand other people, how to feel empathy for people who are not like us.”
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