The Tony Awards have long been appointment television for any and all Broadway superfans; offering a glimpse of the season at large (in addition to incoming productions), they often act as a theatrical haven to bond as one with fellow members of the community.
This year was no exception, and truly couldn’t have come at a better time; with the world in disarray and our President’s impending budget cuts looming over us like a dark cloud, we were desperate for levity… and an opportunity to celebrate the good that emanates from our community.
Chock-full of heartfelt speeches, topical political humor, and a cavalcade of impressionable impressions, the 71st annual toast of the best of the theatrical best gave us just that — with a heaping helping of hoofers, to boot!
Here’s a look at the top 5 moments we thought best encapsulated the feel-good spirit of the evening! Scroll through, and enjoy!
Opening Number: Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? He may have been the 15th choice to host, but Kevin Spacey dazzled with an opening number that definitely ranks within the top 5. Built around the concept of finding the right host for the gig, the number featured nods to such shows as Dear Evan Hansen, Groundhog Day, The Great Comet and Sunset Boulevard, jabs at past Tony hosts and much-in-the-news moments from the past year (read: Andy Karl’s ACL), and even, pop-up appearances from Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and the cast of Come From Away.
It all ended with a full-out tap break, complete with the jazz orchestra lifted from the risers, snazzy back-up dancers, and (naturally) top hat, spats, and tails, before our host finally defiantly declared, “I am Kevin Spacey! Your host is found!” Classic Broadway at its best. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kevin Spacey: And he didn’t stop there. The indefatigable host-with-the-most was at the top of his game, giving the evening a natural flow and keeping the public thoroughly entertained with funny food gags, crazy costume changes, a closing crooner, and — perhaps the most enjoyable of his shtick — a slew of his signature impressions. His two best zingers while appearing as these (both real and fictional) costumed characters?
Dressed as former President Bill Clinton, praising the Ben Platt for his powerful performance in Dear Evan Hansen, Spacey joked, “You may be a better singer, but after seeing your show, there’s no doubt Hillary’s much better at creating fake e-mail accounts than you.” (Don’t worry… there’s mud thrown at the Republicans later to even it out).
And later, as President Frank Underwood ('cause you knew he had to do it, right?), referencing the septuagenarian’s long-winded acceptance speech — which outlasted the length of the play-out music and then some — he turned to the camera with a “I wanna get the hell out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else.” And, of course, the audience ate it up.
Dear Evan Hansen is “Found” at the Tonys: It’s no surprise the blockbuster musical had a great night across the boards. Having conquered the creative categories earlier in the evening (including triumph for orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, actress Rachel Bay Jones, and composer-lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul), they clinched their win with a trophy for Best Musical and a beyond-deserving victory for Ben Platt. Following an electrifying performance of the show’s signature “Waving Through a Window,” Platt delivered a rapid-fire acceptance speech, in which he rattled off his gratitude for his parents, his PT, and his “edible, edible” nephews. He concluded with the most sound advice of the night: “Don’t waste anytime trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”
“At its core, our musical is about wanting to belong,” Stacey Mindich, DEH producer, added, when accepting the coveted Best Musical prize. “We are honored to belong to a season filled with such fantastic work.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Stephen Skewers the Chief: Well, you knew it was going to happen at some point. And at the end of the day, who better to hear it from than Colbert? The late night host prefaced his presentation of Best Revival of a Musical by referencing the one “they revived down in Washington, D.C.” (“[It’s] supposed to have a four-year run, but reviews have not been kind. [It] could close early,” he quipped), before using nominee Miss Saigon to launch another barb in the direction of Señor Orange: “[It’s] the only pageant whose locker room our President hasn’t walked in on.” Ouch! No one zings 'em quite like Colbert!
Winners Throw Support Behind Arts Education: Speaking of 45, perhaps in spite of his much-in-the-news budget cuts in arts programs country-wide, defense against arts education seemed to be a running theme among winners and presenters. Some, like Hello, Dolly! winner Gavin Creel, thanked their alma maters for shaping who they’ve become as performers; others, like Kevin Kline, of Present Laughter, plugged these organizations outright, stating “without [them], probably half of the people in this room would not be here.” Additional facts, figures and heartfelt pleas were peppered in throughout the evening, most notably from winner Cynthia Nixon, who praised those people “who are refusing to stand [by]” in these times, and presenter Sally Field, who, in her speech promoting the American Theatre Wing, spoke of their “enduring national spirit that has always guided us through adversity” and urged us to “Illuminate the darkness with the blazing truth of art.” Because #ArtMatters and #TheatreInspires. It’s just that simple.
BONUS: The Rockettes - I’m such a sucker for these leggy ladies, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include them on the list! The happy, tappy high-kickers returned to their home, showplace of the nation for a redux of their final number from last season’s smash hit New York Spectacular. With a mash-up of New York classics that blended their famous kickline with contemporary hip-hop choreography, this rendition came with the added bonus of live performances from 2016 Tony winners Leslie Odom, Jr. and Cynthia Erivo. Talk about a can’t-miss New York moment!