The Tonys: Far From “Muted” – A Response to Michael Riedel

Jordan Nickels

With the Tony Awards fast approaching, there are already headlines about one of the major nominees. The revival of Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler, with an impressive 10 nominations, announced its star will not be performing on the broadcast. Due to disputes about staging and live broadcasts with the Tony Committee, producers have decided to have David Hyde Pierce perform instead.

Michael Riedel of the New York Post recently responded to the controversy, expressing concern that the broadcast will be less boisterous than previous years. While the Tony’s will not have showstoppers like Hamilton and The Color Purple, I disagree with Mr. Riedel that this year’s ceremony will be any less spectacular, despite the absence of Dolly.

This theatre season not only achieved new artistic heights but also immense popularity among theatre goers. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is the much buzzed about Off-Broadway musical that transformed Broadway with its immersive staging. Come From Away gave us a new perspective on 9/11 that surprised audiences with a beautiful production. Then there’s Groundhog Day, the unexpected Best Musical nominee. While a new musical, it’s roots to the popular movie starring Bill Murray, will make the story more relatable to audiences than we think. Even Falsettos, which closed in January, brings an all-star cast and inclusion of LGBT relationships that ring true today.

Then there’s Dear Evan Hansen, which provides many introspective songs like “Waving Through a Window”, but also many showstoppers (“You Will Be Found”) and toe-tappers (“Sincerely Me”) that contribute to its diverse score. Despite its internal perspective, “Waving Through a Window” is quickly becoming a popular song in the contemporary musical songbook, and will surely be the most talked about performance on June 11th.

Dear Evan Hansen is a tough ticket, tapping into a teenager struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. However, the uplifting message, strung together by the music of songwriting duo Pasek and Paul, is connecting to a new generation of musical theatre fans. In a world of standing out and being heard, Evan Hansen speaks to the Broadway enthusiast who may not have found their voice yet. Dear Evan Hansen’s message of the soul lost out in the crowd, while “introspective”, echoes on Broadway in a time when inclusion is severely needed.

While Best Play categories are normally not in the spotlight, this year boasts four well-known playwrights making their Broadway debuts. This includes beloved female playwrights Paula Vogel (Indecent) and Lynn Nottage (Sweat), who has just made history as the first female to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama twice. Not only has the race between these two playwrights received much publicity, but both represent important messages of the need for religious tolerance and working-class Americans.

This year’s Tony Awards shape up to shake up American pop culture and politics. We must recognize Broadway royalty like Bette Milder, Patti LuPone, and Christine Ebersole; who paved the way for the dynamic theatre we experience today. However, as they sit on pedestals so rightfully deserved, this year will provide a new array of Broadway talent that will usher in a new era of contemporary theatre.

Sorry Mr. Riedel, this year’s Tony’s will not be “a little muted.” They will be deafening.


Jordan Nickels is a playwright and dramaturg hailing from Terre Haute, Indiana. He previously worked with Nashville Children’s Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Florida Studio Theatre, and The Walt Disney Company. He also served as a Blog Contributor and Managing Editor for two years at Camp Broadway in New York City. Bachelor of Science in Theatrical Studies from Ball State University. Website: Instagram: @jnickels8