Article 2018-06-10 Radio City Music Hall, New York City, NY

Tony Awards 2018: ‘The Band’s Visit’ and ‘Harry Potter’ Prevail

• “The Band’s Visit,” a delicate musical about an Egyptian police orchestra stranded for a night in Israel, swept the awards, winning 10 prizes including best new musical.

• “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a sequel to the seven-novel series, won best play.

• The biggest upset of the night: “Once on This Island” defeated “Carousel” and “My Fair Lady” to win best musical revival.

• Acting prizes went to Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane for “Angels in America” and Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf for “Three Tall Women.” See all the winners.

• Students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., sang an anthem of survival from “Rent,” just months after living through a mass shooting.

“The Band’s Visit,” a gentle show about longing, loneliness and the Middle East, triumphed over three much better-known productions to win the Tony Award for best new musical Sunday night.

The victory sent a strong message from Tony voters, who rewarded adult emotion and artistic integrity over commercialism and familiarity. While “The Band’s Visit” is based on a film, it came to the stage far less known — and presold — than the other contenders, “Mean Girls,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” and “Frozen.”

But the Tonys also honored one of the biggest brands in popular culture, giving “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” an expensive and ambitious sequel to J.K. Rowling’s seven smash-hit novels, the prize for best new play. “Cursed Child” was spared much of the criticism directed at other moneyed ventures because of widespread admiration for the extraordinarily high level of stagecraft — storytelling and scenic elements, movement and magic — in the show.

“The Band’s Visit,” adapted from a 2007 Israeli film, picked up 10 awards, including key prizes for its stars, Katrina Lenk, who plays a sultry Israeli cafe owner, and Tony Shalhoub, the commander of an Egyptian police orchestra, as well as for Ari’el Stachel, as an amorous Egyptian trumpeter. Among the show’s prize recipients were its director, David Cromer; its composer, David Yazbek; and its book writer, Itamar Moses.

An achingly delicate 90-minute show, it offers a vision of a world in which people can overcome suspicion and fear to find common humanity. Its victories came during an emotional awards ceremony at which many prize winners rued the current political climate in the United States.

“Music gives people hope and makes borders disappear,” said the musical’s lead producer, Orin Wolf. “Our show offers a message of unity in a world that more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences.”

The British actress Glenda Jackson, winning her first Tony at 82, offered a gentle, but still pointed, comment on today’s climate.

“You, as always, are welcoming and kind and generous, and America has never needed that more,” said Ms. Jackson, a former member of British Parliament. “But then, America is always great.”

But the actor Robert De Niro, introducing Bruce Springsteen, brought a note of anger to the proceedings as he slammed the president. “It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump,’” he said, going on to suggest a profane alternative.

The ceremony, hosted by the singers Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, was filled with emotional moments. A choir of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who survived a mass shooting in February, sang a moving rendition of “Seasons of Love,” the anthem of survival from “Rent.”

Several performers — John Leguizamo, who was born in Colombia; Ari’el Stachel, whose father came from Yemen; and Lindsay Mendez, whose father is Mexican-American — praised theater for providing a home for Americans of all heritages.

“I am so proud to be part of a community that celebrates diversity,” said Ms. Mendez, who identifies herself as “a Mexican-Jewish girl,” and who said she had been advised to change her surname to Matthews when she first moved to New York — advice she ignored. Ms. Mendez won for playing Carrie Pipperidge, the same role that won Audra McDonald her first Tony in 1994.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a magically theatrical two-part drama, won the prize for best new play.

The play is unlike any nonmusical event that preceded it, as a spectacle and as an investment. And the theater industry, despite some leeriness about creeping commercialism, has embraced it because of the talent brought to the story and the staging.

Besides the big win, the play earned Tonys for costumes, sound, set and lighting, as well as for John Tiffany’s direction.

The “Cursed Child” victory was perhaps the least surprising outcome of the season, but still a welcome one for the show’s producers, who are hoping the play, running just over five hours and presented in two parts, will remain on Broadway for years. The lead producers are Sonia Friedman, Colin Callender and Ms. Rowling.

An original story set 19 years after the conclusion of the final novel, the play depicts Harry Potter as a father, struggling with the ordinary challenges of parenting and the extraordinary challenges of doing so as a famous wizard.

Written by Jack Thorne based on a story he conceived with Mr. Tiffany and Ms. Rowling, “Cursed Child” is still running in London, as well as in New York, and a third production is scheduled to open in Melbourne, Australia, next year. The New York production was capitalized for $35.5 million — vastly more than any previous nonmusical play — and features a large cast, a completely refurbished theater and a level of spectacle more commonly associated with musicals.

The path of “Cursed Child” to a Tony was eased by the fact that the last season was a relatively weak one for new plays. And “Cursed Child” was the only Tony-nominated new play still running at the end of the season.

‘Angels in America’ has a big night.

A starry staging of Tony Kushner’s seven-and-a-half-hour play “Angels in America,” which transferred to Broadway from the National Theater in London, was named the best play revival, cementing its claim as the best American drama of the late 20th century.

The original production, which opened in two parts, in 1993 and 1994, had won the Pulitzer Prize and two best-play Tony Awards; it was later adapted by Mike Nichols as a mini-series for HBO, and it is regularly studied and staged.

Andrew Garfield, who on the red carpet described the play as about “the agony and the ecstasy of living and dying,” was honored as best leading actor for his all-out performance as Prior Walter, a gay man whose battle with AIDS brings him prophetic powers and an encounter with the celestial. And Mr. Lane won as best featured actor for his portrayal of a raging Roy Cohn, the right-wing lawyer who secretly had sex with men and died after contracting AIDS.

“It is still speaking to us as powerfully as ever in the midst of such political insanity,” said Mr. Lane, who had won Tonys twice before, though in musicals.

Mr. Garfield, winning for the first time, dedicated his award “to the countless L.G.B.T.Q. people who have fought and died for the right to live and love” and took a shot at the Supreme Court decision last week affirming a Colorado baker’s refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

“We are all sacred, and we all belong, so let’s just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked,” he said.

Mr. Kushner, an outspoken critic of President Trump’s, exhorted Americans to vote in the coming midterm elections, saying there were “21 weeks to save our democracy and heal our country and heal our planet.”

But then he also added a bit of levity: “What kind of homosexual would I be if I didn’t say, ‘It’s June 10 — Happy Birthday Judy Garland!”

A performance from “Once On This Island.”CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times
The biggest upset of the night was for best musical revival, where “Once on This Island,” beat out sumptuous productions of two classics, “My Fair Lady” and “Carousel.”

The revival of “Once on This Island,” a tragic fairy tale musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, was staged in the round, with a set that resembled a Caribbean island in the aftermath of a hurricane and a cast that included chickens and a goat.

Among the other prize recipients: Laurie Metcalf was honored as best featured actress in a play for her role in Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women.” And the costume designer Catherine Zuber won her seventh Tony, for her work on “My Fair Lady.”

Ms. Jackson’s Tony was notable because she had been nominated four times earlier, before taking a 23-year break from acting to serve in the British Parliament. She won for one of the season’s most celebrated turns, as an enfeebled but tyrannical mother in “Three Tall Women.”

Bruce Springsteen got a special Tony Award in recognition of his ecstatically reviewed and totally sold-out show, “Springsteen on Broadway,” during which he sings stripped-down versions of some of his best-known tunes and tells stories from his memoir. The show opened in October and is scheduled to close in December.

“Thanks for making me feel so welcome on your block,” Mr. Springsteen said in accepting the award to rousing applause.

John Leguizamo, the actor, writer and comedian, also received a special Tony “for his body of work and for his commitment to the theater, bringing diverse stories and audiences to Broadway for three decades.” This past season, Mr. Leguizamo appeared in “Latin History for Morons,” his fourth solo show on Broadway.

“I just want to say: I’m an immigrant, and I’m not an animal,” Mr. Leguizamo said, alluding to a comment by President Trump about some unauthorized immigrants, and tearing up as he paid tribute to victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last year. “My hope is that someday our stories won’t be the exception, but the rule.”

The composer Andrew Lloyd Webber — one of the most successful musical theater writers and producers in history — received a lifetime achievement award, as did Chita Rivera, a revered Broadway dancer and actor whose credits include originating the role of Anita in “West Side Story.”

“By the way: there’s still a lot of salt left in this shaker,” Ms. Rivera, who is 85, said, reflecting on her intention to keep performing.

Mr. Lloyd Webber, who is 70 years old, had already won seven Tony Awards, including for “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera”; Ms. Rivera had won as a performer in “The Rink” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

“All I wanted to be was Richard Rodgers,” Mr. Lloyd Webber said referring to the legendary Broadway composer. “I never dreamed that I, a Brit of all things, would one day be honored with the same award my idol won.”

An especially poignant award this year: Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was given an award for excellence in theater education. Ms. Herzfeld hid 65 students during the mass shooting at her school on Feb. 14, and then later helped some of them use theater and song to express some of their feelings; it was some of those students who performed during the broadcast.

“All the goodness and tragedy that has brought me to this point will never be erased,” she said. “I remember on Feb. 7, in a circle with my students, encouraging them to be good to each other. And I remember only a week later, on Feb. 14, a perfect day, where all these lessons in my life and in their short lives would be called into action.”

And a New York Times photographer, Sara Krulwich, became the first journalist recognized with a Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater, for her decades of photographing Broadway shows. Her award was given on Monday.

The Tonys, formally called the Antoinette Perry Awards, are presented by the American Theater Wing and the Broadway League.

By Michael Paulson via The New York Times.
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