“Dear Evan Hansen,” a daringly unflinching exploration of loss, lies and loneliness in a high school community, on Sunday won the 2017 Tony Award for best new musical, completing its journey from improbable idea to theatrical triumph.
The challenging and cathartic show, about an anxiety-racked adolescent whose social standing improves when he insinuates himself into the grieving family of a classmate who has killed himself, picked up six awards over the night, including a best leading actor Tony for the twitching-and-tender talk-of-the-town performance by 23-year-old Ben Platt in the title role.
“To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful,” Mr. Platt said while accepting his award.
The victory by “Dear Evan Hansen” capped a night when Broadway, which has been booming, spread its top honors across several plays and musicals, in contrast to last year, when “Hamilton” swept the board. The ceremony, at Radio City Music Hall, was hosted by Kevin Spacey, who generally stayed away from politics, instead choosing to make fun of his own status as a late-in-the-game and unexpected choice as host.
An exuberantly nostalgic production of “Hello, Dolly!” won for best musical revival, and its adored star, Bette Midler, won as best leading actress in a musical — her first competitive Tony — 50 years after she stepped onto a Broadway stage in the original production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
But the night belonged to “Dear Evan Hansen,” which has already made stars not only of Mr. Platt, who previously was best known for appearing in the “Pitch Perfect” films, but also of its young songwriters, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are already at work on multiple Hollywood films, and book writer, Steven Levenson, who recently inked a development deal with 20th Century Fox Television.
In an era when Broadway often means big, “Dear Evan Hansen” is intentionally, insistently intimate — the show has just eight roles and an eight-piece orchestra, and it is being staged in a cozy 984-seat theater. Directed by Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen” is also wholly original — not based on a film, a book or a song catalog — and is one of the first shows on Broadway to integrate social media into its depiction of communication and community.
The musical, with Stacey Mindich as its lead producer, was also budgeted tightly — it cost just $9.5 million to bring to Broadway, which is significantly less than most, and should speed its path to profitability.
Since beginning performances at the Music Box Theater last fall, the show has been doing well at the box office — it is grossing over $1.2 million a week, thanks in part to an average ticket price of $157, and it has succeeded in attracting a relatively youthful audience, which is a rarity on Broadway. A national tour is scheduled to begin in Denver in October 2018.
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