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Tony Nominations 2017: You Can Bet the Farm on Bette

By Jil Picariello, Theater Editor, May 3, 2017

The 2017 Tony Award nominations were announced Tuesday and, as always, there’s a whole lot to unpack, pick over, thrill to, and wonder about.

The headlines note that the rapturous pop opera Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, based on a 70-page slice of War and Peace, got the most nominations, with 12 in all. The runner-up, with 10, is the tourist-friendly Hello Dolly, with the woman the word “indomitable” was invented for, Bette Midler, in the lead. And by the way, if we’re making book on the Tonys, put all your money on Bette. She’s this year’s Secretariat.

Josh Groban and the cast of ‘Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812;’ photo: Chad Batka.

Those two shows say it all about this season, and about Broadway in general. We’ve got the old-fashioned, feel-good “it’s so nice to have you back where you belong” Dolly on one block. And around the corner is the forward-facing and fiercely inventive The Great Comet, giving us something remarkable we’ve never seen before. They hand us warm pierogis! They don’t even have a stage!

And I haven’t even mentioned the show most likely to take the top prize of Best Musical: Dear Evan Hansen, a heart-wrenching, multi-layered, thrilling production with not a single “star” or gimmick.

Diversity, my friends. If Broadway can do it, why can’t the rest of America?

Ben Platt in ‘Dear Evan Hansen;’ photo: Margot Schulman.

Just to be inclusive in the Best Musical category, in addition to Comet and Evan, the other two entries are Come From Away, an earnest and well-regarded dose of Canadian uplift, and Groundhog Day, a well-reviewed charmer with a well-reviewed charmer in the lead.

Speaking of that charmer, Groundhog Day’s Andy Karl is clearly the winner of “Best Trouper” award for carrying on after tearing his ACL in the middle of a performance three nights before opening. The immortal words, “Is there a doctor in the house” were actually uttered onstage, and despite what was clearly a serious injury, Karl finished the evening (using a cane), performed on opening night with slight revisions to his moves, and has continued onward. Ben Platt, other wise known as Evan Hansen, who has been the odds-on favorite to win Best Actor in a Musical, may find himself wishing that the fake cast he wears on stage was the real thing.

Andy Karl in ‘Groundhog Day;’ photo: Joan Marcus.

An interesting note about the four plays nominated in the best-of category this year is that all are by American writers making their Broadway debuts. Oslo by J.T. Rogers, Indecent by Paula Vogel, Sweat by Lynn Nottage, and A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, are all serious, strong contenders. How to choose among them? Damned if I know.

There were 37 eligible shows this year, and 12 of them received no nominations at all. Some of the pretty splashy productions that got skunked: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (although star Christian Borle got a nod for his performance in Falsettos), and Anastasia. Don’t cry for either one, though—they are selling well at the box office and will surely weep all the way to the bank. Other ignored productions with a more limited guarantee of success include Amélie, In Transit, Significant Other, Sunset Boulevard, Cats, and The Cherry Orchard.

Allison Janney and Corey Hawkins in ‘Six Degrees of Separation;’ photo: Joan Marcus.

More surprising in the overlooked category is Allison Janney, the lead in Six Degrees of Separation. While the play is nominated for Best Revival and her co-star Corey Hawkins got a nod for Best Lead Actor, Janney got nothing but air. And brilliant reviews. And the love of everyone who sees the play.

Mark Ruffalo and Gideon Glick were also overlooked for their performances in The Price and Significant Other respectively (although wouldn’t it be interesting the other way around?). Despite well-regarded performances, the talent just cut too deep this season. And when the nominations in Janney’s category, for instance, went to Cate Blanchett, Sally Field, Jannifer Ehle, Laura Linney, and Laurie Metcalf, you know it’s been a pretty darn good theater year.

And the final note: In case you’re wondering where Jake Gyllenhaal and his confrères from Sunday in the Park with George are, the producers requested that the show not be eligible for nominations. Their explanation said that “the producers feel this extremely limited, special run of Sunday stands most appropriately outside of any awards competition.” But surely having to provide nearly a thousand free seats to Tony voters had something to do with the decision. With such a short run, freeing up those seats for sale made it a lot easier to recoup their investment—especially once it was clear that the show would be a whopper of a hit.

Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Sunday in the Park With George;’ photo: Matthew Murphy.

There will definitely be more surprises to come. Mark your calendars: The prizes will be awarded on Sunday, June 11 at 8 PM EST live on CBS, hosted by Tony winner (Lost in Yonkers) Kevin Spacey.

THE NOMINEES

Best Musical
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Best Play
A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath
Indecent by Paula Vogel
Oslo by J.T. Rogers
Sweat by Lynn Nottage

Best Revival of a Musical
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon

Best Revival of a Play
August Wilson’s Jitney
The Little Foxes  
Present Laughter
Six Degrees of Separation

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

Best Performance by an Actress in Featured Role a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Danny DeVito, Arthur Miller’s The Price
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, August Wilson’s Jitney

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Cynthia Nixon, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

Best Score
Come From Away, David Hein and Irene Sankoff
Dear Evan Hansen, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Groundhog Day, Tim Minchin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy

Best Book of a Musical
Come From Away, David Hein and Irene Sankoff
Dear Evan Hansen, Steven Levenson
Groundhog Day, Danny Rubin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy

Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

Best Direction of a Play
Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, August Wilson’s Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Best Orchestrations
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, August Wilson’s Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Rob Howell, Groundhog Day
David Korins, War Paint
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

Best Scenic Design of a Play
David Gallo, Jitney
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Jane Cox, August Wilson’s Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2

 

Cover: Bette Midler in ‘Hello Dolly!;’ photo: Julieta Cervantes.


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