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Tony Awards 2017 updates: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and Bette Midler are among the night’s big winners

“Dear Evan Hansen” was the big winner at the 2017 Tony Awards. The heartwrenching musical centered on a lonely, depressed high-school student at the center of a social-media storm won six awards, including best musical. Star Ben Platt won for lead actor in a musical.

Among the other acting winners were Bette Midler, who won her very first Tony Award, Kevin Kline, Cynthia Nixon and Laurie Metcalf.

August Wilson’s “Jitney” captured the Tony for best revival of a play, while “Hello, Dolly!” scored in the best musical revival category. Best play went to J.T. Rogers’ “Oslo.”

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The big winners, surprise losers and what the Tony Awards means for the theater

Ben Platt and the cast of "Dear Evan Hansen" perform at the Tony Awards in New York on Sunday.
( (Michael Zorn / Invision / Associatd Press))

In February, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul fell just short of Hollywood’s highest honor when “La La Land,” the Southland-set musical they penned the lyrics for, failed to win best picture at the Academy Awards.

No misses this time.

The stars shone for the composer-lyricists and book writer Steven Levenson, as “Dear Evan Hansen” nabbed the Tony Awards’ top honor of best musical at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday night. The trio’s show, an emo-pop piece about an awkward teenager who becomes an accidental hero, won over voters with a story that’s both a timeless tale of teenage anxiety and an of-the-moment examination of social media.

Ben Platt, who plays the title character — and became Broadway’s biggest sensation this season— won the Tony for best actor in a musical. The show won six Tonys, including for book, score, orchestration and featured actress.

“At its core our musical is about wanting to belong, said producer Stacey Mindich in accepting the prize. “You have been seen and heard around the world,” she said, addressing fans who have responded to the production.

If last year was a coronation for the blockbuster musical “Hamilton,” this year’s Tonys was more even-handed with notable wins for a number of shows, including the best play, “Oslo.”

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First-time host Kevin Spacey was playful and surprisingly musical

Host Kevin Spacey performs onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017, in New York City.
(Theo Wargo/AFP/Getty Images)

Kevin Spacey was the somewhat surprising — though certainly not unqualified — host of the 71st running of the Broadway theater-honoring Tony Awards, broadcast Sunday night from New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Having made his first Broadway appearance 35 years ago and, more recently, serving as artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theater for about a decade, he has theater cred to spare.

He even has a Tony himself, awarded in 1991 for Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers.” Most important, he has a sense of play and fun. What mattered all the way through is that he was game.

But unlike last year’s host James Corden, and other recent hosts such as Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman, Spacey is not known for his singing or dancing. And so, naturally, he sang and danced through the first 10 minutes of the broadcast from New York’s Radio City Music Hall in a medley of numbers playing off of current Broadway musicals.

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Ben Platt’s teachers remember the ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ actor’s L.A. high school days

Ben Platt portrays the title character, a high schooler floundering to find his place in the world, in "Dear Evan Hansen."
Ben Platt portrays the title character, a high schooler floundering to find his place in the world, in “Dear Evan Hansen.”
(Matthew Murphy)

In “Dear Evan Hansen,” newly minted Tony winner Ben Platt portrays a high schooler who’s so nervous, unsure and desperately lonely that he seems to fold into himself, as though trying to make himself disappear.

None of this remotely resembles the lead-musical-actor recipient in his own high school years at Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City. Instructors who worked with him until his 2011 graduation say he was confident, always ahead of the game, a natural leader.

Teacher Ted Walch, who directed Platt in several of the actor’s most prominent roles at the school — including an inventive senior-year performance as the title character in “Pippin” — recalls: “Ben was always early, always had done the work between rehearsals that needed to be done, was the first to learn his lines, to learn his music. Yes, he’s wildly talented, but first and foremost he is on top of his game. He knows what it means to be prepared, to do the work you need to do so that your talent can shine through.”

We all knew this was where he was heading and we knew that he would get there. He was so determined.

Michele Spears on Ben Platt

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Bette Midler’s acceptance speech was entertaining in its own right

Bette Midler, right, accepts her Tony Award from presenter Glenn Close.
Bette Midler, right, accepts her Tony Award from presenter Glenn Close.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Throughout her more than 50 years in entertainment, Bette Midler has racked up multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and Grammy awards — and was twice nominated for an Oscar — but she’s never been nominated for an official Tony in a competitive category. (Given her always-present panache, she did earn a special Tony in 1974 for “adding lustre to the Broadway season” that year for “Clams on the Half Shell Revue.”)

Sunday evening she took the stage to accept her award for lead actress in a musical for “Hello, Dolly!”

Midler, 71, was considered a shoo-in to win in her category for playing the brassy, flamboyant Dolly Gallagher Levi, a socialite-turned-matchmaker set on snagging a rich husband in 1890s New York.

“I am so privileged, so honored to receive this from you. I hope I don’t cry,” she said, dressed in a sparkly silver number with flow-y mermaid sleeves. Then, kicking off a long list of thank you’s: “I’d like to thank the Tony voters, many of whom I’ve actually dated.”

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Ben Platt’s advice for future Evan Hansen actors

(Evan Agostini / Invision/AP)

Trust the material. It’s easy to get afraid of the difficult places that Evan has to go. Don’t overplay the anxiety, the nervousness, the defensiveness. Play it beat to beat. And really, take it one show at a time.

Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen”

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First-time winner Bette Midler gets emotional about the ‘life-changing’ experience of ‘Hello, Dolly!’

(Michael Zorn / Invision/AP)

A teary Bette Midler appeared backstage at the Tony Awards following her win for lead actress in the musical “Hello, Dolly!”

"[Scott Rudin] made it sound like I had missed something in my life and I would be a changed person if I did this,” said Midler. “And it did change me.”

Midler thanked the Broadway community and noted how things were much different this time around.

“When I started there was no community. When I started it was every man for himself,” said Midler. “But it wasn’t the way it was with this show.”

She commended the rest of the “Hello, Dolly!” cast, explaining that “there’s not a normal person in the bunch.”

“I’ve never seen such dedication and willingness to put yourself through such stress,” said Midler. “This experience has been life-changing.”

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Ben Platt to young people: ‘The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful’

(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

A manic and completely overjoyed Ben Platt gave his thanks with the speed of an auctioneer after winning lead actor in a musical for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“When I was 6 years old, I was a prince in ‘Cinderella,’ and I have spent every day of my life since then just madly in love with musical theater,” said Platt, almost running out of breath.

He went on to thank his parents, who he said were the greatest people on Earth; his “edible, edible, edible” nephews; and his physical therapist for keeping him from becoming a hunchback from an intensely physical performance.

“Dad, you’re my hero. You taught me that I have to be a good person in order to be a good artist,” Platt said to his father, producer Marc Platt.

The 23-year-old actor saved a special message for young people watching, which he delivered at the end of his acceptance speech.

“Don’t waste any time trying to be anyone but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

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Scott Rudin, who was behind two of the night’s big winners, gets his due

(Gary Gershoff / WireImage)

It was a big night for Hollywood producer Scott Rudin, who was behind two of the evening’s biggest winners: “Hello, Dolly!” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

The former took the trophy for best revival of a musical as well as best lead actress in a musical for Bette Midler, and the latter claimed best lead actress in a play for Laurie Metcalf.

“It was a huge honor to do this,” Rudin said, taking the stage after “Hello, Dolly’s!” win. “I saw the show 50 years ago when I was 8. I sat in the last row of the balcony at St. James. It was a remarkable, life-changing evening.”

Rudin was thanked earlier in the evening by Metcalf, who applauded him for recognizing that “A Doll’s House, Part 2" was ready to go straight to Broadway without a trial run.

The night concluded with Midler’s profusive acceptance speech in which she called Rudin “the greatest producer I have ever worked with in my entire life.”

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‘Dear Evan Hansen’ wins best musical

(Matthew Murphy)

“Dear Evan Hansen” won the Tony Award for best musical, Broadway’s highest honor in a year when predicting winners was nearly impossible.

The other nominees were:

  • “Come From Away”
  • “Groundhog Day”
  • “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
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Bette Midler wins lead actress in a musical for ‘Hello, Dolly!’

(Julieta Cervantes)

Hello, Tony! Bette Midler has won the Tony Award — her first — as lead actress in the musical “Hello, Dolly!”

Other nominees in the category were:

  • Denée Benton, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
  • Christine Ebersole, “War Paint”
  • Patti LuPone, “War Paint”
  • Eva Noblezada, “Miss Saigon”

Times staff writer Deborah Vankin has more details on how the Tony win fits into the scope of the Divine Miss M’s career. (Hint: She’s three-quarters of the way to EGOT.) Click through to read more.

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Ben Platt wins leading actor in a musical for ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

(Nathan Johnson)

Evan Hansen, you have been found. Ben Platt, already crowned the breakout star of the Broadway season, will take home another title Sunday night: Tony Award winner for lead actor in a musical.

As the hyper-anxious, depression-afflicted high school senior at the center of “Dear Evan Hansen,” Platt bested a field of Broadway veterans and marquee names. The other nominees were:

  • Christian Borle, “Falsettos”
  • Josh Groban, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
  • Andy Karl, “Groundhog Day”
  • David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!”

Times staff writer Daryl Miller interviewed Platt for an early-season feature story on the songwriters of “Dear Evan Hansen.” Miller also recently spoke with Platt’s acting teachers when he was a high school student in L.A. Click through to read more of what the teachers had to say about young Ben.

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La Jolla Playhouse wins big at the Tonys

Christopher Ashley in the press room during the Tonys on June 11, 2017.
(Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Southern California’s La Jolla Playhouse was well represented at Radio City Music Hall during Sunday night’s Tony Awards. The winners in both directing categories were not considered front-runners, but were outright surprises -- Rebecca Taichman for the play “Indecent” and Christopher Ashley for the musical “Come From Away.”

And both productions debuted at La Jolla Playhouse before heading to Broadway.

“Come From Away,” written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, chronicles the true story of a Canadian town, Gander, Newfoundland, that sheltered thousands of airline passengers whose flights had been diverted on Sept. 11, 2001. It had its world premiere at La Jolla in June 2015.

“Indecent,” written by Paula Vogel, is a play about a play, 1906’s “The God of Vengeance.” It premiered at La Jolla in November 2015.

As expected, the La Jolla’s Twitter feed was overflowing with congratulations and pride, especially for La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Ashley.

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‘Hello, Dolly!’ wins best musical revival

(Julieta Cervantes)

The irrepressible Bette Midler and the rambunctious Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” cap a big Tony Awards night with a win for best musical revival.

The other nominees:

  • “Falsettos”
  • “Miss Saigon”
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‘Oslo’ wins best play

(T. Charles Erickson)

“Oslo” by J.T. Rogers wins the Tony Award for best play, edging out Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2" in a category loaded with top talents all making their Broadway debuts.

The nominees were:

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Oscar vs. Tony? ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ songwriters say there’s no comparison

(Dirty Sugar Photography)

Backstage after “Dear Evan Hansen” won the score, book and orchestrations categories, songwriters Justin Paul and Benj Pasek compared their Tony victory with their Oscar as composers of “La La Land.”

Said Paul: “This is sacred ground to us! And nothing compares to this!”

Added Pasek: “We were BFA majors at the University in Michigan, and how to spell Frank Loesser and what was the seating capacity of the Vivian Beaumont theater -- those questions were on the test.”

Pasek said he and his writing partner interned for Jeff Marx [“Avenue Q”] and spent a summer getting his dry cleaning. “He gave us a loan that allowed us stay in New York,” Pasek said. “And we promised to pay him back if we ever had a show on Broadway, and we thought he lost his money. “

Steven Levenson, who wrote the show’s book, said that when they started the show, “we were all about social media and everybody telling us a half-version of the truth. People of our generation glommed onto tragedy and finding meaning in that. People so desperate for connection that they will use that nefariousness. [But] We fell in love with the character and his need to belong and need to connect. The show [eventually] got to a very human place.”

Read the Times interview with Pasek and Paul.

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Here are the winners for scenic design, costume design, lighting and choreography

Tony winners in the scenic design, costume, lighting and sound categories:

Scenic design of a play went to Nigel Hook for “The Play That Goes Wrong.” The other nominees were:

  • David Gallo, “Jitney”
  • Douglas W. Schmidt, “The Front Page”
  • Michael Yeargan, “Oslo”

Scenic design of a musical went to Mimi Lien for “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” The other nominees were:

  • Rob Howell, “Groundhog Day”
  • David Korins, “War Paint”
  • Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!”

Costume design of a musical went to Santo Loquasto for “Hello, Dolly!” The other nominees were:

  • Linda Cho, “Anastasia”
  • Paloma Young, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
  • Catherine Zuber, “War Paint”

Costume design of a play went to Jane Greenwood for “The Little Foxes.” The other nominees were:

  • Susan Hilferty, “Present Laughter”
  • Toni-Leslie James, “Jitney”
  • David Zinn, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Lighting design of a musical went to Bradley King for “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” The other nominees were:

  • Howell Binkley, “Come From Away”
  • Natasha Katz, “Hello, Dolly!”
  • Japhy Weideman, “Dear Evan Hansen”

Lighting design of a play went to Christopher Akerlind for “Indecent.” The other nominees were:

  • Jane Cox, “Jitney”
  • Donald Holder, “Oslo”
  • Jennifer Tipton, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

The Tony for choreography went to Andy Blankenbuehler for “Bandstand.” The other nominees were:

  • Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, “Groundhog Day the Musical”
  • Kelly Devine, “Come From Away”
  • Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, “The New Irving Berlin Musical”
  • Sam Pinkleton, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
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‘Jitney’ wins revival of a play

(Joan Marcus)

“Jitney,” the late August Wilson’s 1982 play finally having its Broadway debut, beat a star-powered production of Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” to claim the Tony Award for best revival of a play.

The nominees were:

  • “Jitney”
  • “The Little Foxes”
  • “Present Laughter”
  • “Six Degrees of Separation”
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Rebecca Taichman shows her shock with win, talks about the importance of social justice

(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

A shocked Rebecca Taichman accepted the Tony for direction of a play for “Indecent,” making her one of only a few women to win in that category.

Attempting to gather her wits, Taichman made it clear that playwright Paula Vogel’s story of defiance in the face of censorship spoke to the importance of social justice in an unjust world.

“It’s a story about love in a perilous time, and speaking out and making art when one is at great danger,” Taichman said, after trying multiple times to get the words out through her surprise.

Later in the evening while answering reporters’ questions backstage, Taichman talked about the scarcity of women to win a Tony for directing.

“I was always such an unlikely candidate for it. I remember with great clarity in 1998 when Julie Taymor and Garry Hynes won and I thought, ‘Wow, women can win’,” she said. “It made it visible, and making it visible suddenly made it possible. The amazing thing is that it encourages women of every color ... and viewpoint to make theater that tell stories that deeply matter to them.”

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Rebecca Taichman and Christopher Ashley win for direction of a musical and direction of a play

Director Rebecca Taichman.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Rebecca Taichman and Christopher Ashley have won the Tony Awards for direction -- Ashley for the musical “Come From Away,” Taichman for the play “Indecent.”

The nominees for direction of a musical were:

  • WINNER: Christopher Ashley, “Come From Away”
  • Rachel Chavkin, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
  • Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen”
  • Matthew Warchus, “Groundhog Day the Musical”
  • Jerry Zaks, “Hello, Dolly!”

The nominees for direction of a play were:

  • Sam Gold, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
  • Ruben Santiago-Hudson, “Jitney”
  • Bartlett Sher, “Oslo”
  • Daniel Sullivan, “The Little Foxes”
  • WINNER: Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent”
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Rachel Bay Jones’ Nana sold her engagement ring for Jones’ acting career

(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

Rachel Bay Jones owes her Tony to her Nana. Literally.

During her acceptance speech for featured actress in a musical for her role in “Dear Evan Hansen,” the giddy actress told the audience that her Nana sold her engagement ring so Jones could move to New York to become an actress.

She also thanked her parents “for cursing me with a love of the theater, which I have resented them for for 35 years, and tonight I totally forgive you.”

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Laurie Metcalf wins leading actress in a play for ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2'

(Brigitte Lacombe)

In arguably tightest race at the Tony Awards this year, Laurie Metcalf has won lead actress in a play for her master-class of comedy in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” edging out Laura Linney, Sally Field and Cate Blanchett.

With a single facial expression or subtle shift in body position, Metcalf has Broadway audiences erupting in laughter as Nora Helmer, the Henrik Ibsen character brought back to life by playwright Lucas Hnath. Times theater critic Charles McNulty said “A Doll’s House, Part 2" lets Metcalf unleash her acting sorcery, showing her mastery at shifting between “fearless extremes.”

This is Metcalf’s first win after three previous nominations: lead actress in 2016 for “Misery,” lead actress in 2013 for “The Other Place” and featured actress in 2008 for “November.”

The other nominees in this category were:

  • Cate Blanchett, “The Present”
  • Jennifer Ehle, “Oslo”
  • Sally Field, “The Glass Menagerie”
  • Laura Linney, “The Little Foxes”

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Cynthia Nixon and Rachel Bay Jones win for featured actress, play and musical

(Boneau / Bryan-Brown)

Cynthia Nixon has won the Tony Award for featured actress in a play for her role in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes,” and Rachel Bay Jones has won the Tony for featured actress in a musical for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The nominees for featured actress in a play were:

  • Johanna Day, “Sweat”
  • Jayne Houdyshell, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
  • WINNER: Cynthia Nixon, “The Little Foxes”
  • Condola Rashad, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
  • Michelle Wilson, “Sweat”

The nomines for featured actress in a musical were:

  • Kate Baldwin, “Hello, Dolly!”
  • Stephanie J. Block, “Falsettos”
  • Jenn Colella, “Come From Away”
  • WINNER: Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen”
  • Mary Beth Peil, “Anastasia”
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Kevin Kline gives a shout-out to the NEA and NEH

(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

In a year when the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were threatened by the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for 2018, Kevin Kline made sure to tip his hat to both.

Accepting the Tony for lead actor in a play for his work in “Present Laughter,” Kline said he wanted to thank “a couple of organizations without whom half the people in this room wouldn’t be here; and that would be the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

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‘Dear Evan Hansen’ wins for book, score and orchestrations

Those looking for clues to who might win the Tony Awards’ best musical category can look for possible early clues in the book and score categories, where “Dear Evan Hansen” won for Steven Levenson’s book and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s score.

The nominees for book of a musical were:

  • “Come From Away,” Irene Sankoff and David Hein
  • WINNER: “Dear Evan Hansen,” Steven Levenson
  • “Groundhog Day the Musical,” Danny Rubin
  • “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” Dave Malloy

The nominees for original score (music and/or lyrics) written for the theater:

  • “Come From Away,” music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
  • WINNER: “Dear Evan Hansen,” music and lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
  • “Groundhog Day the Musical,” music and lyrics by Tim Minchin
  • “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” music and lyrics by Dave Malloy

In a third musical category, the Tony for orchestrations went to Alex Lacamoire for “Dear Evan Hansen.” The other nominees were:

  • Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, “Bandstand”
  • Larry Hochman, “Hello, Dolly!”
  • Dave Malloy, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
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Michael Aronov backstage: ‘You have to stand up’

(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Backstage at the Tony Awards, fresh off his win for featured actor in the play “Oslo,” Michael Aronov thanked his parents again because he was “a bit of a troublemaker” in his youth.

He added that “they pushed me to maintain integrity and to fight for the underdog, to not allow bullying to happen. No matter where it happens, whether onstage or in school. You have to stand up.”

Complete list of winners and nominees >

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Kevin Kline wins leading actor in a play

Nearly 40 years after Kevin Kline won his first Tony Award, the actor won another -- this time for his lead role in “Present Laughter.”

Kline’s first Tony came in 1978 for his featured role in the musical “On the Twentieth Century.” Kline won his second Tony just three years later as lead actor in a musical for “The Pirates of Penzance.” His third and most recent nomination was in 2004 for his star turn in “Henry IV.”

That year he lost to Jefferson Mays (“I Am My Own Wife”), again one of the contenders this year. Kline’s fellow nominees were:

  • Denis Arndt, “Heisenberg”
  • Chris Cooper, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”
  • Corey Hawkins, “Six Degrees of Separation”
  • Jefferson Mays, “Oslo”
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Cynthia Nixon calls ‘The Little Foxes’ ‘eerily prescient’

(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

Cynthia Nixon did not hesitate to nod to the fraught state of politics in her acceptance speech for featured actress in a play for her role as Regina in “The Little Foxes.”

“It is a privilege to appear in Lillian Hellman’s eerily prescient play at this moment in time,” she said, before reciting a quote from Hellman about powerful people who want to “eat the earth and the people on it.”

Nixon continued, “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 eat.”

Backstage, Nixon spoke about the contemporary relevance of Hellman’s political message: “The women’s marches all over the country and all over the world have been astonishing. Astonishing in scope, creativity, and good humor. Astonishing because it was not a political organization but a woman with an idea in Hawaii.”

On arts funding: “We have to fund artists not just in New York and California but all over the country. You don’t have funding tied to political points of view. You fund people because they’re good artists, not because they support your point of view.”

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Gavin Creel thanks his education for his win as featured actor in ‘Hello, Dolly!’

(Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press)

An effusive Gavin Creel didn’t thank his agents, managers, parents or significant other for his win when he accepted the Tony for featured actor in a musical for his role as Cornelius Hackl in “Hello, Dolly!”

He thanked his education and the musical theater department at the University of Michigan.

“My education as a young person there changed my life forever,” Creel said, before adding, “If you’re out there and you have money, and I know some people in this room have a lot of it, start a scholarship fund.”

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Michael Aronov and Gavin Creel win for featured actor, play and musical

Michael Aronov
(Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images)

Michael Aronov and Gavin Creel were winners in the first two Tony Awards categories of the night, winning the featured actor categories for play and musical, respectively.

The nominees for featured actor in a play were:

  • WINNER: Michael Aronov, “Oslo”
  • Danny DeVito, “The Price”
  • Nathan Lane, “The Front Page”
  • Richard Thomas, “The Little Foxes”
  • John Douglas Thompson, “Jitney”

The nominees for featured actor in a musical were:

  • WINNER: Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!”
  • Mike Faist, “Dear Evan Hansen”
  • Andrew Rannells, “Falsettos”
  • Lucas Steele, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
  • Brandon Uranowitz, “Falsettos”
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Kevin Spacey’s opening number is a huge hit inside Radio City Music Hall

Kevin Spacey’s opening production number in which he performed bits from the four best-musical nominees may have left those who haven’t seen the shows scratching their heads. But Times reporter Steven Zeitchik, who is reporting from the ceremony audience, says, “These jokes are way inside but they are slaying in the room.”

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Nominees, like Ben Platt, and even the Rockettes are walking the red carpet for the Tonys at Radio City Music Hall

No event at Radio City Music Hall would be complete without the Rockettes gracing the red carpet, and they made their presence felt early at the 2017 Tony Awards alongside nominees taking in the splendor of theater’s big night.

Ben Platt, actor and nominee for "Dear Evan Hansen."
(Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images)
The Radio City Rockettes
(Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
Producer Jordan Roth
(Getty Images)

See the entire red carpet gallery here >>

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Why this year’s Tony Awards are so impossible to predict

Denée Benton, left, in "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812," Jenn Colella in "Come From Away" and Ben Platt from "Dear Evan Hansen."
(From left: Chad Batka, Kevin Berne, Matthew Murphy)

You know it’s an interesting year for the Tony Awards when a critic is still arguing with himself in June over what should win best musical and best play.

I’m divided between “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Natasha, Pierre and & the Great Comet of 1812,” the two leading contenders in a musical category that also includes “Groundhog Day” and “Come From Away.” As for best play, I’m down to flipping a coin between “A Doll’s House, Part 2” and “Oslo,” though just admitting that brings a twinge of regret for “Sweat” and “Indecent,” the other worthy plays in contention.

My indecision shouldn’t be mistaken for halfheartedness. I admire these works, but they succeed and stumble on their own terms. Singling out a winner seems indefensibly capricious, like deciding a pet beauty contest that includes dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and goldfish.

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For eight-time nominee Jerry Zaks, directing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ is a lifelong dream come true

(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

Jerry Zaks, director of the hit Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!,” has known success before. His Tony Award nomination for “Dolly” is his eighth, and he’s already taken home four Tonys for such shows as the 1990 production of “Six Degrees of Separation” and the 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls.”

But nothing prepared him for directing Bette Midler and the “Dolly” juggernaut, which has won critical praise, earned 10 Tony nominations and broke the box-office record for first-day ticket sales. The top ticket price of $748 is second only to “Hamilton” and its $849 premium seats.

Few Broadway shows boast the pedigree of 1964’s “ Hello, Dolly!” starring Carol Channing as lovable 1890s New York matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, with music and lyrics by the legendary Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart and direction by Gower Champion. That show took home 10 Tony Awards including best musical and was on Broadway for seven years.

As Zaks laughs his way through an interview, it is clear how much the 70-year-old actor-turned-director relishes his turn at the helm. Enamored of “Hello, Dolly!” since college, he says directing the show has been “a lifelong dream come true.”

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Here is the complete list of Tony nominees

Josh Groban in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.”
(Chad Batka / Matt Ross Public Relations)

Here is a quick recap of the 2017 Tony Award nominations: “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” leads the pack with 12 nods, including for best musical.

The Bette Midler revival of “Hello, Dolly!” follows with 10 nominations and the emotionally complicated coming-of-age musical “Dear Evan Hansen” earned nine. Rounding out the top nominees are “A Doll’s House, Part 2” with eight and “Come From Away,” “Groundhog Day” and “Oslo,” each with seven.

Best musical

Best play

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