New York— Dear Evan Hansen, the touching, heartfelt musical about young outsiders, has won the biggest theatre popularity contest — winning the best new musical trophy at the Tony Awards along with five other statuettes, including best score, book and top actor honours for Ben Platt.
The show came into the night as the second-leading Tony nominee but ended up on top, with a revival of Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler next with four Tonys. Oslo, a three-hour meditation on diplomacy, was named best play.
Midler took the best actress trophy and — to the amusement and cheers of the audience — refused to be played off, forcing the swelling orchestra into silence.
It takes real bravado to even attempt to shoo off Midler when she's winning her first competitive Tony. Producers tried on Sunday — and failed miserably.
The Divine Miss M was not going to be denied and signaled she was in a feisty mood early: "I'd like to thank all the Tony voters — many of whom I've actually dated," she joked. When the orchestra tried to goose her along with swelling instruments, Midler was not having it. "Shut that crap off!" she said. The orchestra went wisely silent.
Watch her speech here:
Dear Evan Hansen came into the night behind Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 with 12 nominations, but that musical which dramatises a 70-page slice of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace stalled after winning just two technical awards, for best set and lighting.
Instead, the night belonged to Dear Evan Hansen, a show that centres on a profoundly lonely 17-year-old who fabricates a prior friendship with a classmate who has just committed suicide.
Platt thanked his cast mates, crew and family, calling his parents his heroes. He had this inspiring message to young people out there: "The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful."
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who recently won an Oscar for the song City of Stars from the movie La La Land, added to a remarkable year by earning Tonys for best score for writing the songs for Dear Evan Hansen.
Moments later, the show's story writer, Steven Levenson, won the Tony for best book, and Alex Lacamoire earned one for best orchestations. Rachel Bay Jones won her first Tony for her work in the musical, capping a long career onstage with plenty of zigs and zags.
Cynthia Nixon won her second Tony, this time for her work in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. Nixon, the Sex and the City star, struck a defiant political tone, saluting those who refuse to stand by and watch bad things happen in the world.
Kevin Kline won his third Tony Award playing an egomaniacal matinee idol in the midst of personal turmoil in the play Present Laughter. He thanked, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Andy Blankenbuehler won his second choreography Tony in as many years — last year for Hamilton and this time for Bandstand.
Laurie Metcalf won her first Tony, winning best actress honours in A Doll's House, Part 2. She won three Emmy Awards for her role as Jackie Harris on Roseanne and thanked her children. Rebecca Taichman won best directing play honours for Indecent.
"Am I dreaming? Is this some kind of crazy dream?" she asked.
Kevin Spacey kicked off his first-ever Tony Award hosting gig with grace and self-deprecating wit, dancing, singing and joking his way through an opening number that linked all four best new musical nominees and doing his best Glenn Close impersonation.
Spacey, who was named Tony host after several other celebrities turned down the job, laughed at himself in the 10-minute opening song, in which he gradually grew comfortable with hosting duties despite what he fears will be nasty tweets directed at him.
Watch it here:
The show's comedy had zings for Democrats and Republicans alike, with Colbert mocking President Donald Trump as if he were a show from Washington with bad hair and makeup that will be "closing early" due to poor reviews. Spacey, as Clinton, joked about his wife's fake email accounts.
In an attempt to shake up the show, producers asked the Rockettes back on a Tony stage after 13 years and asked all four playwrights nominated for best play Tonys appear to present their works.
The Rockettes had their own number and got to dance with the cast of Come From Away, a feel-good Canadian musical set against the horror of 9/11. It earned Christopher Ashley the Tony for best direction of a musical. He dedicated it to 9/11 first responders and all those who were generous on that terrible day.
The year after Hamilton took many prizes, Spacey jokingly pointed out that the subjects on Broadway this season included infidelity, suicide, greed, 9/11 and economic upheaval. His Frank Underwood from House of Cards made a late appearance, striding onto the stage with his TV wife played by Robin Wright. Later, he and Patti LuPone closed the show with a lovely duet of The Curtain Falls by Bobby Darin, a role he played onscreen.
Other winners included August Wilson's Jitney, which drove away with the Tony for best play revival. Gavin Creel won his first Tony for featured actor in a musical in Hello, Dolly.
See a select list of winners here:
Best Musical: "Dear Evan Hansen."
Best Play: "Oslo."
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics): "Dear Evan Hansen."
Best Revival of a Play: "August Wilson's Jitney."
Best Revival of a Musical: "Hello, Dolly!"
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Kevin Kline, "Present Laughter."
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, "A Doll's House, Part 2."
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Michael Aronov, "Oslo."
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Cynthia Nixon, "Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes."
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Ben Platt, "Dear Evan Hansen."
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Bette Midler, "Hello, Dolly!"
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Gavin Creel, "Hello, Dolly!"
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Rachel Bay Jones, "Dear Evan Hansen."