Happy Tony Awards eve! Today is all about what’s brand new on Broadway. This year’s nominees for Best Play and Best Musical tell stories that run the gamut. For Best Play there’s a sequel to a 19th century play, a look at the 1993 Middle East peace talks in Oslo, a Pulitzer-winning play about the working class in Reading, PA, and a play about the controversial debut of another play. For Best Musical we visit a remote town in Canada dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, 19th century Russia, the inner workings of an anxious teen’s mind, and the greatest small town in the USA.
As you can see, that’s a lot to cover. So if you don’t mind, I’ll dive right in with this year’s nominees for Best Play and Best Musical.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2”
We’ve all wondered what happened next for some of our favorite characters. This aptly named sequel follow’s up on the characters of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” Set fifteen years after the original, “A Doll’s House,” it answers the long, long, long unanswered question, “What happened after the door slammed shut?”.
This behind-the-scenes look at the negotiations that went on as part of the 90’s Oslo Peace Accords tells an incredibly timely tale about international relations. The story behind how the play came to be is almost as riveting as the story the play tells, with a chance connection (the plays director, Bartlett Sher) between the playwright, J.T. Rogers, and the play’s central character diplomat Terje Rød-Larsen. This relevant story shows the struggle and occasional triumphs of different worlds trying to reconcile their differences.
You know it’s a good year for plays when the Pulitzer winning nominee isn’t a shoo-in for the Tony. Based on interview’s conducted by award-winning playwright Lynne Nottage, this play set in Reading, PA is a story about the workers of America. It brings to light their everyday struggle and resiliency against seemingly insurmountable odds.
This play about a play revisits the controversy surrounding the Broadway debut of “God of Vengeance” by Sholem Asch in the 1920’s. If you’re wondering how controversial a play could be, well the entire cast was arrested for, as you might have guessed—indecency. It’s a story about colliding cultures, and reminds us that intolerance is not just a thing of the past.
“Come From Away”
This little musical that could tells a different kind of 9/11 story. This feel good musical tells the story of the community of Gander, Newfoundland that pulled together to host the passengers of 38 planes grounded by the events of 9/11. Somewhat removed from the true horror of that day, it presents a different somewhat hopeful look at the future after our nation’s greatest tragedy.
“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”
Next up for the musicals is the glamour, delicious, gorgeous Great Comet. You don’t just watch this show, you experience it. Based on a part of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” this musical combines all kinds of storytelling, music, and effects to entertain and tell the story of Natasha, Pierre and the rest of this character driven Russian novel.
“Dear Evan Hansen”
By far the most popular of this year’s musical nominees, “Dear Evan Hansen,” delves into serious issues of adolescence. Battling a social anxiety disorder and dealing with the death of a classmate, the title character shows hope and resiliency that we could all use a little more of.
Based on the popular film, this musical is a far cry from your usual film-based Broadway musical. Its music is surprising (in a good way), its staging is refreshing, its casting diverse, and its story universal.