On May 2, when the Tony nominations were announced, 34 nominees celebrated their first nomination. (Of those, 17 earned that nod for a Broadway debut.) During the 71st Annual Tony Awards, eight of those first-time nominees walked away winners.
Nigel Hook, Scenic Design of a Play
Hook was the lone nominee of the British farce The Play That Goes Wrong, and he took home the trophy for the transatlantic production. His work on the show marks his Broadway debut and simultaneous first win.
Mimi Lien, Scenic Design of a Musical
The entire creative team of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 was recognized with nominations this year. In fact, the show led the nominations with a total of 12. Mimi Lien earned the trophy for her design that called for a full renovation of the Imperial Theatre, from lobby to Russian lounge. Lien also won the Drama Desk Award for her design on June 4.
Bradley King, Lighting Design of a Musical
Lien’s collaborator, King, took home the second and final of Great Comet’s awards for the evening. As the duo told Playbill on our Tony Awards Red Carpet live stream, King and Lien worked in tandem to build the chandeliers and titular comet, the structure of the lighting, the table-set lamps, and more.
Michael Aronov, Featured Actor in a Play
Aronov made his Broadway debut in Lincoln Center’s Golden Boy and made his second Broadway appearance in Oslo. During his acceptance speech, Aronov called the win “the biggest honor of my life.”
Rebecca Taichman, Direction of a Play
“Firstly and honestly, I’m genuinely in shock and overwhelmed, so that’s real,” said Taichman as she walked into the Tony media room. “I think I never did dream because I was such an unlikely candidate for such a thing.” Indecent marks Taichman’s Broadway directorial debut. She is the sixth woman to win a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play. “I remember in great clarity in 1998 watching the Tony Awards when Julie Taymor and Garry Hynes won, and I thought, ‘Wow, a woman can win!’ It made it visible, and I think what is visible becomes possible.”
Rachel Bay Jones, Featured Actress in a Musical
Jones first created buzz for her performance as Catherine in the Diane Paulus-helmed revival of Pippin, though she made her Broadway debut as a youngster in Meet Me in St. Louis. As for playing Heidi Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen, the role appealed to Jones much for its richness. When asked in the press room what she looks for in a role, she replied, “Complexity and something that defies stereotype.”
Ben Platt, Leading Actor in a Musical
While Platt made his Broadway debut as Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon, Evan Hansen marks the first time originating a role on Broadway. People have called his work in the Tony-winning Dear Evan Hansen “the performance of a lifetime,” and Platt spoke to Playbill on the red carpet about establishing a role that will now be part of the musical theatre canon. He reminded the young viewers out there that “the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”
Bette Midler, Leading Actress in a Musical
Though she has a Special Tony Award, this was her first nomination in a competitive category. In the press room, Midler revealed that she received advice from Carol Channing and Jerry Herman before playing the role, and clearly it paid off. She calls this experience “life-changing and life-affirming.”