Guys, the 71st annual Tony awards took place last night and we need to discuss. Basically, the event felt like a celebration of some of my favorite things: storytelling, theatre education, and powerhouse vocals. Let's jump right in!
First of all, to my knowledge this is the first time that the best play nominees have been introduced by the playwrights themselves. It was brilliant decision and one that really brought storytelling to the forefront of the show as each playwright gave a beautifully insightful and succinct account of their own narrative. Let's hope they continue this method of introducing the plays in the years to come!
And shout out to Come From Away, one of the four shows nominated for Best Musical, which likewise showed off its storytelling chops by presenting the exposition-heavy opening number during the Tonys broadcast. "Welcome to the Rock" is a fun, energizing opening number and it showcases the brilliant ensemble (much like the show itself). Watch the number (right) to get a sense for how Come From Away puts strong characterization and narrative at the forefront of the show.
In the meantime, the acceptance speeches ran the gamut from shocked-first timers (check out Indecent director Rebecca Taichman's stunned response to her first ever Tony win) to seasoned pros (Bette Midler actually ran out the clock, refusing to let the music play her off the stage), but a common thread in many of the speeches was an expression of gratitude towards teachers and an affirmation of the importance of arts education. Gavin Creel, in particular, gave an inspirational speech in which he encouraged people to invest in arts education. "Start a scholarship," Creel urged, "Change someone's life." Now that's a message I can get behind!
Many of the stand-out performances went the route of powerhouse solos rather than large ensemble song-and-dance numbers. I'm thinking in particular of performances from Miss Saigon's Eva Noblezada, Dear Evan Hansen's Ben Platt, and a powerful duet between War Paint's Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. Although we got to witness some pretty impressive belt technique from the three ladies, it was Ben Platt's rendition of "Waving Through a Window" that really stood out for me as the must-see performance. As I was watching the broadcast, I believe my exact words were, "Does this man ever BREATHE?" In addition to some RIDICULOUS breath support, Platt does an amazing job navigating between his upper and lower registers. Not surprisingly, Platt took home a well-earned award for Best Actor in a Musical. Plus he gave us this gif, so all in all a good night for Ben Platt.
Overall, it was an interesting night at Radio City Music Hall! And it's good to see that, as always, we can count on the Tonys to deliver good vocal technique, honest storytelling, and a reminder that we can always do with more of the arts in our lives.