New York Times
At the Tony Awards, Avoiding Politics for the Most Part
By DANIEL VICTOR and GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
JUNE 12, 2017
Despite the hyperpartisan times, the Tony Awards skirted politics, for the most part.
While recent awards shows have featured full-blown attacks on President Trump, including Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes, few presenters or winners on Sunday chose to address the new administration or other hot-button issues in their appearances.
But a whiff of opinion did circle the theater. Here are a few speeches that touched on issues of the day.
The most direct nod to Mr. Trump came from Stephen Colbert, the late-night comedian who did not veer far from his usual anti-Trump fare while introducing the best revival of a musical category.
“It’s my honor to be here tonight presenting the Tony for best revival of a musical. And it’s been a great year for revivals in general, especially that one they revived down in Washington, D.C. It started off-Broadway in the ’80s. Way off Broadway, over on Fifth Avenue. Huge production values, a couple problems: The main character is totally unbelievable, and the hair and makeup — yeesh. No, no.
This D.C. production is supposed to have a four-year run, but reviews have not been kind. Could close early. We don’t know, we don’t know. Best of luck to everyone involved.”
“Dear Evan Hansen,” one of the night’s favorites with nine nominations, turned out to also be its biggest winner. The musical took six awards, including best score, best actor and best musical.
Ms. Midler, who won best actress in a musical for her performance in “Hello, Dolly!” spent most of her acceptance speech thanking a lot of people. But in a bid to sell tickets, she appeared to express a dim view of the political environment.
“This thing has the ability to lift your spirits in these terrible, terrible times,” she said.
Mr. Spacey, the host of the program, put on a semi-convincing Bill Clinton impersonation, sneaking in a plug for “House of Cards,” his Netflix show, before talking directly to Ben Platt, the star of “Dear Evan Hansen.”
“I love the Tonys, I do. I love that ‘House of Cards,’ too. I do me love me some good political theater, I tell ya. This season’s been full of drama — we’ve already had some surprising winners, haven’t we? I’m not even talking about the Tony Awards.
“Now we’ve had some exciting young performers this season. Ben Platt was named one of Time magazine’s most 100 influential people. That’s very impressive. I was on that list a list a couple of times. But Ben, you know who you bumped off that list? My wife. No, it’s all right. Now, between you and me, you might be a better singer, but after seeing your show, there’s no doubt that Hillary’s much better at creating fake email accounts than you. [laughs] I just wanted to do a joke nobody would ever think I’d do. Oh, that was fun. Yeah, but I’m going to get in trouble when I get home, that’s for sure.”
Dr. Biden, the wife of former vice president Joe Biden, was decidedly nonpolitical while introducing a performance from “Bandstand,” but she received one of the night’s strongest standing ovations as she began her remarks.
“Thank you. In the armed forces, ‘Got your six’ means, “I’ve got your back.” I am so proud to say that ‘Got Your Six,’ which works to empower veterans, has partnered with the thrilling musical ‘Bandstand’ to highlight the experiences and talents of America’s veterans. As the daughter of a World War II signalman and the mother of an Army major, I’ve seen how the scars of service can haunt, even in the best of situations. Too many of America’s veterans are struggling to find a new mission in life. Their stories need to be told.
“‘Bandstand’ is set just after World War II. As a group of veterans cope with returning to civilian life, they form a band unlike any the nation has ever seen, and discover the power of music to find their voice, their purpose and redemption. I’m honored to say to our veterans, on behalf of Joe, myself, the company of ‘Bandstand’ and everybody here tonight, we’ve got your six.”
Ms. Nixon, who won best featured actress in a play for her performance in “The Little Foxes,” did not level any specific political criticism, but her remarks appeared to be referring to the political climate.
“It is a privilege to appear in Lillian Hellman’s eerily prescient play at this specific moment in history. Eighty years ago, she wrote, ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, and other people who just stand around and watch them do it.’ My love, my gratitude and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it. Thank you.”