The Drama League threw its weight behind a handful of Tony Awards frontrunners, announcing a batch of winners for the group’s 2017 Drama League Awards that included “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Hello, Dolly!,” Ben Platt and, in a special achievement award, Bette Midler.
“Dear Evan Hansen” has been the title to beat at the Tonys since the musical opened to glowing reviews and strong sales in the fall. While there’s now some competition on the field — particularly sentimental favorite “Come From Away” — “Dear Evan Hansen” still has plenty supporters. That’s evidenced in the show’s win for the League’s award for new musical, as well as the win for “Evan Hansen” star Platt in the organization’s distinguished performance category.
Box office-busting revival “Hello, Dolly!” scored the musical revival nod, as many expect it to do at the Tonys as well, and Midler, a frontrunner in the lead actress in a musical category, was anointed with a previously announced award for distinguished achievement in musical theater.
With the Tony race looking tight for new play, the Drama League chose J.T. Rogers’ “Oslo” over all three of its Tony competitors: “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “Sweat” and “Indecent.” “Jitney,” which looks like it has a good chance in play revival at the Tonys, scored for play revival at the Drama League.
The annual Drama League Awards Ceremony and Luncheon is one of the major stops along the Tony campaign trail, giving the season’s nominees a chance to schmooze and charm voters in the room. Midler, for instance, cracked up the crowd in her acceptance speech. “I’ll add it to my mantelpiece, even though it doesn’t help me spell EGOT,” she said of her award.
Other special awards went to stage animal trainer Bill Berlusconi and to Michael Greif, the busy director (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “War Paint”) who took the League’s Founders Award for excellence in directing.
The Drama League is a longstanding nonprofit that provides developmental support and services for audiences and creatives alike. The organization is best known for is Directors Project, which taps promising directors for an entree into the industry.