A theme of acceptance imbues the two musicals that dominated the last two Tony Awards.
Since its official opening on December 4, 2016, at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, Dear Evan Hansen has been applauded for its spotlight on topics of mental illness, suicide and the impact of social media. The story centers on high school senior Evan Hansen, who has severe social anxiety and a desire to fit in at school. Through a series of unfortunate events, the musical illustrates how the titular character’s small fib changes the lives of those around him.
The original Broadway cast won awards for Best Musical, Score, Book, Orchestrations, Actor and Featured Actress in 2017. Ben Platt originated the role of Evan Hansen. His song at the end of the first act, You Will Be Found, is both melancholy and uplifting — imparting the pervasive mood of Dear Evan Hansen. While the musical covers a serious and often sad subject matter, the resounding ideas throughout are positivity and human kindness. As Evan says, “All you gotta do is just believe you can be who you want to be.”
The big winner at the 2018 Tony Awards, The Band’s Visit, is still going strong at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City and will kick off a national tour in June. Debuting in November 2017, The Band’s Visit captures what happens over a 24-hour period when a small band of musicians is stranded in a small town. As the female lead — winningly played by actress Katrina Lenk — says, “Once, not long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”
The musical may refer to its story as unimportant, but the nuanced glimpses of people from different cultures coming together is anything but simple. “(It’s) about the underlying ocean that connects everyone to everything,” said David Yazbek, who created the music and lyrics.
The critics agreed; the show garnered 10 Tony Awards, including “The Big Six,” won by only four musicals in Broadway history: Best Musical, Score, Book, Performance by a Leading Actor, Performance by a Leading Actress and Direction. Audiences unfailingly are moved during showstopper “Answer Me” and as the lights dim for the concert performance.