NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – “The Band’s Visit” dominated the honors at the 72nd Tony Awards.
Among the show’s big wins: Best Musical and Best Leading Actres Katrina Lenk. Some of the other categories won by the show include Best Book, Best Score, Best Leading Actor and Best Featured Actor Ari’el Stachel, a Broadway newcomer.
The musical, based on a 2007 Israeli film of the same name, is about an Egyptian band that goes to the wrong Israeli town. The show won seven Tonys — best direction, orchestration, sound design, best book of a musical, 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.”
He added: “I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they’d be able to portray their own races, and we’re doing that.”
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.”
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” won the Tony Award for Best Play, as well as best 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.”
The Tony for Leading Actress in a Play went to veteran of film, theater and British Parliament Glenda Jackson for “Three Tall Women.”
Andrew Garfield won Best Leading Actor in a play for a man battling AIDS and visions in “Angels in America,” which also won Best Revival.
Also a Tony winner Sunday, first-time nominee Lindsay Mendez for her featured role in the musical “Carousel.”
The 72nd Annual Tony Awards got off to a humorous start Sunday night with hosts Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban dedicating their opening number to all the people who won’t win.
Neither Bareilles nor Groban have won a Grammy or a Tony despite selling millions of albums and appearing on Broadway in hit shows. 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. “This one’s for the loser inside of you.”
The co-hosts then noted that such noted shows like “Hair” and “Into the Woods” didn’t win the best musical prize. Nor did “Waitress,” the show Bareilles wrote music for.
He previously was nominated for a featured role in “Death of a Salesman” opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Garfield has been nominated for an Oscar for his work in “Hacksaw Ridge.” His other film work includes “The Social Network” in 2010 and the 2012 superhero film “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its 2014 sequel.
He beat out Tom Hollander, Jamie Parker, Mark Rylance and Denzel Washington.
“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.”
Laurie Metcalf won Best Featured Actress In A Play for her role in “Three Tall Women.”
Billy Joel took the stage to present a special Tony Award to Bruce Springsteen.
“This is deeply appreciated and thank you for making me feel so welcome on your block,” Springsteen said.
Amy Schumer presented a performance by the cast of “My Fair Lady.” Schumer made jabs at the character, Henry Higgins.
“The first nominee for best revival of a musical is of ‘Pygmalion,’ a comedy about class and sexism,” she said as the audience laughed. Schumer referred to Henry Higgins as a “man-splaining expert on dialects.” But she complimented the protagonist, Eliza Doolittle, and said, “This interpretation celebrates Eliza’s growing self-confidence and highlights equal rights for women.”
The cast sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Get Me to the Church on Time.”
Tituss Burgess then presented best featured actress in a musical.
“To present best featured actress in a musical, a category in which I have been snubbed many times, is both painful and courageous on my part, to say the least,” he joked.
The award went to Lindsay Mendez for her role in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel.” Mendez talked about the start of her career and said, “I was told to change my last name from Mendez to Matthews or I wouldn’t work … I just want to say how proud I am to be a part of a community that celebrates diversity and individuality.” She finished, “Just be your true self and the world will take note.” Groban and Bareilles introduced a performance of “I’m Not a Loser” by the cast of “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Musical.”
Groban and Bareilles returned to the stage in matching gold outfits and sang to the tune of Sia’s “Chandelier.” The two complained about the schedule of being on Broadway.
“Who in their right minds would schedule the plays to be twice in a day?” they sang together.
“I’ve gotta sing this thing eight times a week,” sang Bareilles. “Sing it eight times a week. I’m holding on for dear life.”
“Someone check on my kids and my wife,” sang Groban.
Katharine McPhee and Eric Bergen presented the award for best book of a musical, which went to Itamar Moses for “The Band’s Visit.” Moses said that though he thanked all of his colleagues for their help, he was looking forward to keeping the award in his home.
Tatiana Maslany presented Nathan Lane with the award for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play. Lane thanked all of his colleagues, but especially playwright Tony Kushner. He said, “Even his emails are Pulitzer-worthy. I’m standing here because Tony wrote one of the greatest plays of the 20th century and it is still speaking to us as powerfully as ever in the midst of political insanity.”
“To my dear husband, Devlin Elliott, the greatest blessing in my life,” Lane said as he choked up. “About eight years ago I decided I need to shake things up, I decided I need to challenge myself more again as an actor.” Lane said that his performance in “Angels in America” was the culmination of hard work and dedication.
Mikhail Baryshnikov presented a performance of “Blow High, Blow Low” by the cast of “Carousel,” which was up for best revival of a musical.
Catherine Zuber won best costume design for a musical for “My Fair Lady” and Katrina Lindsay won best costume design for a play for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
Ari’el Stachel won the award for “The Band’s Visit” and recalled a time when he tried to avoid going to events with his parents because he did not want to be seen as Middle-Eastern. “They’re looking at me right now and I can’t believe it,” he said tearfully. He thanked the producers of the show and said he was thankful for “telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time when we need that more than ever. I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they would be able to play their own races and we are doing that.”
Ming-Na Wen presented 2018 excellence in theatre education award to Melody Herzfeld of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who “sheltered 65 of her students in a small office for two hours until help arrived and led all of them to safety” during the massacre.
Matthew Morrison took the stage and presented a performance of “Seasons of Love” by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama department. The teens received a tearful standing ovation by audience members at the Tonys.
Claire Danes presented best leading actress in a play, which went to Glenda Jackson for “Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women.” The performance was Jackson’s first return to Broadway since 1988.She thanked the Broadway community for their generosity and said America has never needed it more.
Monroe Iglehart and the reindeer Sven from “Frozen” took the stage to introduce the company of “Frozen,” but not without interruptions, as Sven whispered into Iglehart’s ear several times.
Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber won Special Tony Awards for lifetime achievement. The Tonys played a montage in tribute to the artists, with Groban and Bareilles singing songs to highlight the careers of Rivera and Webber.
Rivera and Webber joined forces onstage to present best direction of a musical, which went to David Cromer for “The Band’s Visit.” Cromer said, “It has been the great joy of my life to collaborate with the artists in every department on ‘The Band’s Visit.'”
Cromer talked about suicide and said, “One of the things ‘The Band’s Visit’ concerns itself with is people due to loneliness, isolation may have started to lose hope and I wish I had the words or wisdom to say to the people out there whose despair is overwhelming … If you are suffering, please, please call out. For those of us who are fortunate enough to not to be suffering so deeply, let’s make sure that we answer them.”
Jeff Daniels presented best direction of a play, which went to John Tiffany for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” his second Tony. He thanked the choreographer of “Cursed Child” Steven Hoggett and said, “We do all this together, we really, really do.” Then he asked the audience to sing happy birthday to his boyfriend, David Knock, and the audience obliged.
Christopher Jackson presented the “In Memoriam” segment of the show and introduced the company of “Dear Evan Hansen” onstage to sing “For Forever.”
The segment paid tribute to artists like composer Michael Friedman, playwright A.R. Gurney, actors John Heard and John Mahoney, playwright Sam Shepard and producer Stuart Thompson.
The daughters of late singer Donna Summer, Brooklyn Sudano, Amanda Sudano and Mimi Sommer introduced a performance by the company of “Summer.” The cast sang “Last Chance.”
Andrew Rannells, Matt Bomer, Zachary Quinto and Jim Parsons discussed the legacy of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Jimmys, before presenting best play, which was awarded to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two.”
“Thank you to J.K. Rowling for entrusting us with your wizarding world,” said producer Sonia Friedman.
Actor Robert De Niro was applauded in the theater after uttering an invective about President Donald Trump while introducing Bruce Springsteen, who performed a short excerpt of “My Hometown” from his hit show.
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.
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 is 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.
The show got started after stars dazzled on the red carpet.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)