‘The Band’s Visit’ wins a leading 10 Tony Awards
New York– The American, grown-up musical “The Band’s Visit” outmuscled the acclaimed and sprawling British import “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” for the most Tony Awards on Sunday, capturing 10 statuettes, including best musical.
It’s based on a 2007 Israeli film of the same name and centers on members of an Egyptian police orchestra booked to play a concert at an Israeli city who accidentally end up in the wrong town. Its embrace of foreign cultures working together found a sweet spot with Tony voters.
“In ‘The Band’s Visit,’ music gives people hope and makes borders disappear,” producer Orin Wolf said upon accepting the best new musical crown, saying It offers a message of unity in a world that “more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences.”
Tony Shalhoub won as best leading man in a musical for his work on “The Band’s Visit,” connecting the win to his family’s long history of immigration from Lebanon, and the show’s Katrina Lenk, who won best actress in a musical, said the production “filled her stupid little heart with so much joy.”
“The Band’s Visit” also won statuettes for best direction, orchestration, sound design, best book and score, lighting and featured actor Ari’el Stachel, who gave a heartfelt speech about his past.
“For so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person,” he said, addressing his parents in the audience. He thanked the creators of the show “for being courageous for telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time that we need that more than ever.”
The show’s director, David Cromer, said the musical is also about loneliness and despair, and asked everyone to reach out to anyone for whom “despair is overwhelming.”
The two-part spectacle “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” captured six, including best play, book, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and director for John Tiffany, who asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to his boyfriend. They obliged.
A British revival of “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner’s monumental, two-part drama about AIDS, life and love during the 1980s, grabbed three big awards, including best play revival and acting trophies for Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane.
Kushner took the stage and pointed out there were 21 weeks until the midterm elections in the United States: “Twenty-one weeks to save our democracy, to heal our country and to heal our planet.”
Garfield won his first Tony, for best leading actor in a play, dedicating the win to the LGBTQ community, who he said fought and died for the right to love. He said the play is a rejection of bigotry, shame and oppression.
“We are all sacred and we all belong,” Garfield said. He then referenced last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision which ruled in favor of a baker’s right to deny a gay couple a wedding cake based on his beliefs.
“(Let’s) just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked,” he said, to rousing applause. Lane, who won for best featured actor in a play, said “Angels” still speaks to society in the midst of “political insanity.”
In one of the ceremony’s most mesmerizing moments, Melody Herzfeld, the heroic drama teacher who nurtured many of the young people demanding change following the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was honored from the Tony Award stage.
Herzfeld, the one-woman drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was cheered by the crowd at Radio City Music Hall. Herzfeld saved 65 lives by barricading students into a small classroom closet on Valentine’s Day when police say a former student went on a school rampage, killing 17 people.
She then later encouraged many of her pupils to lead the nationwide movement for gun reform. Members of Herzfeld’s drama department took the Tony stage to serenade her with “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.”
In other wins, Glenda Jackson added to her impressive resume with a Tony Award for best actress in a play for her work in a revival of Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women.” That show also yielded the featured actress win to “Rosanne” star Laurie Metcalf.
Billy Joel gave his friend Bruce Springsteen a special Tony Award. “This is deeply appreciated, and thanks for making me feel so welcome on your block,” The Boss said. Later, Springsteen performed “My Hometown” on the piano from his sold-out one-man show, “Springsteen on Broadway.” (De Niro, who took the stage to introduce Springsteen’s performance, started off with an expletive directed at President Donald Trump, which garnered him a sustained standing ovation from the crowd.)
Co-hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles kicked the show off with a self-parodying duet on piano for all the losers out there – including them.
Neither Bareilles nor Groban have won a Grammy or a Tony despite selling millions of albums and appearing on Broadway. They turned that into a playful song. “Let’s not forget that 90 percent of us leave empty-handed tonight. So this is for the people who lose/Most of us have been in your shoes,” they sang in the upbeat opening number.
Two of the shows going into the night with the leading number of nominations – Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 12 nods each – found the night tough. “Mean Girls” won nothing and “SpongeBob SquarePants” got only one for best set design.
The revival of “Carousel” won two awards – choreography and for Lindsay Mendez, who won best featured actress in a musical. She accepted in tears, recounting that when she moved to New York, she was told to change her last name to Matthews or she wouldn’t work. She said she was happy to be in a production that “celebrates diversity and individuality.” To all artists out there, she said: “Just be your true self and the world will take note.”
One of the show highlights was the lively performance by the cast of “Once on This Island” that included a sand-filled beach, real water and a goat. Onstage guests were volunteers and staffers from three organizations that bring relief to areas impacted by natural disasters. The show went on to win best musical revival, beating “My Fair Lady” and “Carousel.”
Getting buzz from appearing on the telecast can dictate a show’s future, both on Broadway and on tour. Broadway producers will be thankful this year that the telecast won’t have to compete with any NBA Finals or Stanley Cup playoff games.
For most of the previous awards season, shows like the Oscars and Golden Globes have acknowledged the issue of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. The Tonys didn’t specifically address that, but did touch on gun violence, depression, politics and inclusion.
The show was a sort of victory lap for a Broadway season that saw grosses hit another record high by pulling in $1.7 billion – up 17.1 percent over last season’s $1.45 billion. Attendance was also up, coming in a 13.79 million, an increase of 3.9 percent at last season’s 13.27 million.
Select Tony Award winners
Best Musical: “The Band’s Visit.”
Best Play: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two.”
Best Book of a Musical: “The Band’s Visit.”
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater: “The Band’s Visit.”
Best Revival of a Play: “Angels in America.”
Best Revival of a Musical: “Once on This Island.”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Andrew Garfield, “Angels in America.”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Glenda Jackson, “Three Tall Women.”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Tony Shalhoub, “The Band’s Visit.”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Katrina Lenk, “The Band’s Visit.”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Nathan Lane, “Angels in America.”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, “Three Tall Women.”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Ari’el Stachel, “The Band’s Visit.”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Lindsay Mendez, “Carousel.”
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