Philadelphians figured in the two major Tony Awards for excellence on Broadway, presented at Radio City Music Hall in a national broadcast Sunday night.
The award for best new play went to “Oslo,” an impressive account of dangerous behind-the-scenes intrigue leading to the first Mideast peace accord in 1993. That play had its initial life here at a reading by professional actors in July 2015, and another reading four months later after it was retooled. It fast-tracked to Lincoln Center, where the Broadway production runs now.
The best new musical is “Dear Evan Hansen,” about a high-school boy at the center of a lie that social media greatly magnifies and complicates. The show won six awards in all — the most given to any single production. Ardmore native Benj Pasek and his writing partner Justin Paul wrote the score for the musical, based loosely on the death of a student at Friends Central when Pasek was enrolled there.
That award added to a banner year for the writing duo, who picked up Oscars for their score for the film “La La Land” at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre in February. On Sunday night, they won the Tony for best score for “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Oslo” is by playwright J. T. Rogers, who developed it with the help of PlayPenn, an incubator for new plays located in Center City and run by Paul Meshejian, its founder and artistic director. PlayPenn has been instrumental in birthing more than 100 plays since it began operations 13 years ago, and many have been produced arounsd the country. “Oslo” is the first of them to be staged on Broadway.
Both “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Oslo” are daring risks that proved to be sound artistic choices for their creators and audiences alike. Each challenges audiences with difficult subjects and more than a little gravitas – the musical has a disquieting theme and the play is a complex look at history’s backstage. Broadway audiences appear eager for the challenges. “Dear Evan Hansen” is a top seller and “Oslo” has done well – both bolstered by audience buzz on top of critical acclaim.