2018 Tony Awards Recap

June 13, 2018 | By Isabelle Hahn

It’s safe to say that the 2018 Tony Awards felt a little more hushed than usual. There were no stand-out original productions or narratives that soared off the stage. All four of the nominations for Best Musical were adaptations, and none had the solid following that “Hamilton”, “Dear Evan Hansen”, and even “Waitress” brought last year and the year prior.


“The Band’s Visit” was the big winner of the night, taking home 10 of its 11 nominations, including Best Musical. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” won Best Play, which wasn’t a shock considering it is the only Tony-contender that hasn’t closed. Tony Kushner’s revival of “Angels in America” and the electric “Once on this Island” took home Best Revival in their perspective categories.

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Photo Courtesy of CBS

While “The Band’s Visit” seemed lackluster compared to the high-spirited and better known productions of “Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” and “Mean Girls,” it stood out in a meaningful way. In a season where production value and commercialization made Broadway feel a little off-kilter, “The Band’s Visit” brought integrity and raw emotion. Katrina Lenk, who won for Lead Actress in a Musical, stunned the audience with her nostalgic performance of “Omar Sharif.” “The Band’s Visit” follows members of an Egyptian police band who find themselves in a remote Israeli village after a mix-up at the Egypt-Israel border. 


In her performance, Lenk sits at a table with Tony Shalhoub and tells him of the entrancing Egyptian movies she used to watch with her mother starring the famous Egyptian actor, Omar Sharif. She transported everyone to the town of Bet Hatikva in a way only a seasoned pro is capable of. It was the true stand out performance against a dancing four-legged Squidward and the spinning high school cafeteria tables of “Mean Girls”.


Hosts Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban opened the night with a subtle yet humorous duet dedicated to the losers of the night, since neither of them have taken a Tony home for themselves. Sitting at two back-to-back grand pianos, they sang about the 90 percent of participants who leave empty handed. The humor was heartfelt, and focused on uplifting the unknown members of the casts who don’t receive the same spotlight as the night’s winners. It wasn’t the spectacle seasoned Tony watchers have grown to expect, but it fit with the tone of the rest of the show.


Because of the loser-focused opening number, this wouldn’t be a proper review without also noting the biggest losers of the night. “Mean Girls” tied the record for most Tony Award losses by winning zero of the 12 it was nominated for. It was a little surprising, since Tina Fey is basically an industry darling, but she didn’t seem too thrown by it.


“All of this year’s Best Musical nominees are based on films, but only one of those films has paid for my boat,” said Fey as she introduced a performance from the “Mean Girls” cast.


Overall, there weren’t many surprises throughout the ceremony. One notable snub might have been “Spongebob the Musical” star’s Adam Slater, who was nominated for Lead Actor in a Musical and has received unanimous acclaim for his title-role performance.


Many felt as though “Once on This Island” beating out “My Fair Lady” and “Carousel” for Best Musical Revival was also a huge upset. “Once on This Island” is a tale that is a little less known than the other two musicals, but it brought life to the show that the other two lacked. The choreography, done by Camille A. Brown, breathed life and originality to the stage. Plus, there was a live goat.


As per any awards ceremony in the Trump era, there were political notes sprinkled in with the talent. Robert De Niro served two unexpected F-bombs towards Trump while introducing Bruce Springsteen’s performance of “My Hometown.” CBS, of course, bleeped them from the broadcast.


Outside of De Niro’s outburst, the rest of the politics were personal. After Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, accepted the Excellence in Theater Education prize, 15 of her drama students sang an emotional rendition of “Seasons of Love,” from the musical “Rent”. The audience was left misty eyed, and gave the students a well-deserved standing ovation.


Ari’el Satchel gave a memorable speech after winning Featured Actor for his role as Haled in “The Band’s Visit.” He reflected on his Middle Eastern heritage, and how thankful he is to be part of a cast that is telling a story on Broadway about Arab people. 


Even with the calm tone and lack of explosive performances, the show still brought the euphoria that any Tony Awards is capable of bringing. It comes from the talent, emotion, and support that exudes from theater people. And who doesn’t love theater people?