The Band’s Visit completed a remarkable 10-trophy night by winning Best Musical at the 72nd Tony Awards. The critical favorite cruised past the competition, while some notables were shut out, including Tina Fey’s Mean Girls and Disney’s Frozen.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won Best Play along with five other awards tonight. For the complete list of winners, click here.
A night of few surprises and virtually no unjustifiable honors. If CBS — and maybe the Broadway road show industry — might have wished for a few bigger, splashier wins for bigger, splashier productions, they’ll concede so only quietly. A Band’s Visit, a critical favorite, certainly won’t have the name recognition of Disney’s Frozen or Tina Fey’s Mean Girls as it takes up stakes in theaters across the country, all the more reason those 10 Tonys landed with the right show.
As for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child taking best play, maybe the win finally will end the chatter I still hear from even some very serious theater-goers: “But isn’t it a kids’ play? Don’t I have to know all about Harry Potter books and movies, which never liked all that much anyway?” No and no. Yes, kids love this play, but it’s pitched perfectly to adults as well (so is SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical, but that one’s a tougher sell without kids in tow).
As for the revivals, as much as I loved and love Angels in America, I could just as easily have seen the best play revival go to Joe Mantello’s stunning production of Three Tall Woman. And I’d be saying the same of Angels if Women had won, I suppose. And just in case anyone thinks that Angels won only by the unstoppable force of Tony Kushner’s masterpiece, keep in mind that this production, with its flawless cast headed by Tony winners Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane, rose to the great, difficult challenges of the play. I’ve seen plenty of Angels productions that don’t.
As for the actresses, Glenda Jackson was unbeatable in her triumphant return in Three Tall Woman. As good as Condola Rashad (Saint Joan), Lauren Ridloff (Children of a Lesser God) and Amy Schumer (Meteor Shower) were, really, I can’t imagine even they’d think it fair to have taken this award from Jackson. That’s how good.
A tougher call was the Best Featured Actress in a Play category. Laurie Metcalf was sublime in Three Tall Women, tough, vulnerable — eh, mostly tough — and I’m happy to see her recognition if only so non-theatergoers can know, once and for all, that Roseanne is not the be all and end all, or even the beginning, of this woman’s talents. My only regret is that Noma Dumezweni, another bright spot in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, didn’t get to dazzle America tonight.
And more’s the pity that such a wonderful collection of featured actors found themselves up against Lane this year. Newcomer Anthony Boyle (Harry Potter) will get another chance, no doubt, unless TV and film snatch him up and won’t let go, while Michael Cera and Brian Tyree Henry, both so good in the underdog Lobby Hero, would truly have had a fighting chance in any Lane-less year. David Morse, the very definition of a journeyman actor who never does less than top-notch work, could have won this award and I wouldn’t have griped for a second.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came with the Best Featured Actor in a Musical category. Again, a tough bunch. Grey Henson might be the best thing about Mean Girls (he’s the “too gay to function” heart of the tale), and Gavin Lee, in his big SpongeBob number “I’m Not a Loser,” has one of the brightest showstoppers on Broadway at the moment. Norbert Leo Butz (My Fair Lady) and Alexander Gemignani (Carousel) are Broadway stalwarts and never less than excellent, so it was an added joy to see newcomer Ari’el Stachel (The Band’s Visit) take tonight’s honor. He gives a quiet, heartfelt performance — and, when called upon, is very, very funny — and could easily have gotten overlooked among the gaudier productions. He didn’t, and bravo.
As for snubs, while it’s easy to suggest the much-loved Tina Fey and Mean Girls, or the beautifully lavish My Fair Lady were unfairly shut out, the truth is, both productions just came up against something that was, in some small, indefinable say, better. The Band’s Visit had a natural heart that Mean Girls, for all its trying, just could not muster, and Once On This Island was just so fresh, so spirited, that the lavish My Fair Lady or even the gorgeous Carousel just didn’t stand a chance.
Snubs? No. They just lost.