As the 71st Annual Tony Awards approached, there were some categories that seemed locked up—Bette Midler for Leading Actress in a Musical, Ben Platt for Leading Actor in a Musical. In a highly competitive season, many categories were up for grabs, although there were still favorites. This year's winners were spread among the numerous plays and musicals that bowed in the 2016–2017 season. Here are three of the most unexpected wins of the night, in order of the presentation of awards:
Featured Actor in a Play, Michael Aronov
While there didn’t seem to be a favorite in this category, Aronov was up against two big names—Nathan Lane (The Front Page) and Danny DeVito (The Price)—and two theatrical veterans—Richard Thomas (The Little Foxes) and John Douglas Thompson (Jitney). In the end, his portrayal of Uri Savir, an Israeli diplomat who negotiated in the 1993 Oslo Accords, in Oslo won out. This was Aronov’s second Broadway credit, his first nomination, and first win.
Direction of a Play, Rebecca Taichman
The co-conceiver and director of Indecent looked like she would faint when she heard her name called at Radio City Music Hall. She was the only woman nominated in the category—nominated for her Broadway debut, no less. Last week, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Direction of a Play went to Taichman’s competition, Jitney director Ruben Santiago-Hudson. She was also up against seasoned directors; this marked Daniel Sullivan’s eighth nomination (he has one previous win) and Bartlett Sher’s seventh (he won for the revival of South Pacific). Many thought with the success of A Doll’s House, Part 2, Sam Gold was a frontrunner, but in the end, Taichman’s singular vision earned her the statue. She also becomes the sixth woman to win Best Direction of a Play (Mary Zimmerman, Anna D. Shapiro, Marianne Elliott, Pam McKinnon, and Garry Hynes before her).
Direction of a Musical, Christopher Ashley
This category was largely thought to be a competition between Dear Evan Hansen’s Michael Greif and The Great Comet’s Rachel Chavkin. This marks Greif’s fourth nomination, including one for Pulitzer Prize winner Rent and another for Pulitzer Prize winner Next to Normal. Chavkin created a groundbreaking piece of immersive theatre in a fully renovated Imperial Theatre. But Ashley’s precision and pacing for Come From Away beat out those two, plus veteran director Jerry Zaks (Hello, Dolly!) and Matthew Warchus (Groundhog Day).