Jewish shows fared well at the Tony Awards last night, with The Band’s Visit reigning supreme amongst musicals and the revival of Angels in America holding its own amongst new and revived plays alike.
The Band’s Visit won a whopping 10 awards total—in fact, the only award it lost was Scenic Design. Other than Best Musical, the winners were David Cromer for direction, Itamar Moses for book, Jamshied Sharifi for orchestrations, Tyler Micoleau for lighting, Kai Harada for sound design, and three acting awards: Ari’el Stachel for Featured Actor, Tony Shalhoub for Leading actor, and Katrina Lenk for Leading Actress in a Musical. All three performers had moving speeches—Stachel talked about his former denial of his Middle Eastern heritage and the power of the musical’s diversity (“I am part of a cast of actors who thought we’d never get to play our own races,” he said). Shalhoub spoke about his father landing as a boy on Ellis Island. Lenk thanked the late, great Ronit Elkabetz—the Israeli star who originated the role of Dina in the 2007 film.
The award speech for Best Musical at the end of the night even included some butchered Hebrew (it seems a producer was just trying to say “I love you” to his kids), and echoed the recurring themes of the evening of diversity and tolerance (“In the end we are far more alike than different.”).
Rachel Brosnahan, the marvelous Mrs. Maisel herself, even introduced the show’s performance, since Tony Shalhoub is her TV dad.
Angels in America won three Tonys, far less by comparison, but it was second only to Harry Potter in the realm of plays. Its major award was Best Revival, meaning that Tony Kushner got to speak, both urging voters to heal our democracy, and wishing a happy birthday to Judy Garland. The other awards were for performers: Jewish actor Andrew Garfield took home Best Actor, and Nathan Lane took Featured Actor for portraying Roy Cohn.
While I can’t confirm that honorary award recipient (for theater education) Melody Herzfeld was Jewish, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas drama teacher’s moment was a highlight of the night; a choir of Parkland students sang a moving “Seasons of Love.”
All in all, the evening was pleasant, if not particularly dynamic. The not-quite Jewish co-hosts, Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles, were delightful, if aggressively wholesome. Once again relegated to backstage where she was clearly having more fun than everyone else, Rachel Bloom, patron saint of Tony fans, was a rock, including asking Amy Schumer if the Tony nominee was Jewish. Unfortunately, someone seems to have made Bloom change out of her custom T-shirt depicting Stephen Sondheim smoking a joint (luckily, we can all buy one online. And it’s actually designed by Jason Segel’s sister, Alison!).
Other Jewish performers included nominees Ethan Slater and Caissie Levy, and Billy Joel showed up to introduce his friend—The Boss—Bruce Springsteen, performing a number from his one-man show.
Other winners with Jewish connections include one Tony (for costume design) for the revival of Jewish songwriting team Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady, Best Revival to Once on This Island (Jewish lyricist Lynn Ahrens), and two awards for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel (including a Featured Actress win for Jewish actor Lindsay Mendez).
But ultimately, the awards distribution was (almost) as uneven as American capitalism, and The Band’s Visit made out like a robber baron. Mazel tov, kids.
Gabriela Geselowitz is a writer and the former editor of Jewcy.com.