From Dust to Ashes: The Best Performances of the 2017 Tonys

Jordan Nickel

Last night, the 71st Annual Tony Awards shook Radio City Music Hall with phenomenal musical performances. This year’s nominees and special guests brought us controversial subject matter, legendary performers, vocal polish, and energetic staging. Here are my rankings:

10 – Hello, Dolly!

Here is the problem. When you have a star vehicle like Hello, Dolly, it’s hard not to have Dolly perform at the awards ceremony. Many wondered if Bette Midler’s absence during the performance would be felt, after the public disagreement over the nature of their number between producers of Hello, Dolly and the Tony’s. Unfortunately, it was. David Hyde Pierce is an incredible performer, but his song felt out of place in a night of high energy and big production numbers. Moral of the story, if you are nominated and win for a show footing your billing, you should probably perform.

9 – Groundhog Day the Musical

With a slate of incredible musicals this year, Groundhog Day had a lot of competition. But because the bar was set so high, this show must have seen it’s shadow and faded into the background. It was a beautiful song, led by the amazing Andy Karl, but the pacing was off and vocals not as strong as the shows’ other contenders. Again, not bad, but left me wanting more.

8 - The Radio City Rockettes with Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr.

The Rockettes performed at their home in Radio City Music Hall (with a bizarre introduction from Nick Kroll and John Mulaney of Oh, Hello on Broadway.) The girls payed tribute to New York City, with excellent vocals by last year’s Tony winners Leslie Odom Jr. and Cynthia Erivo. However, it just wasn’t my favorite performance of the night. I wish there was more of Leslie and Cynthia, and less of the chorus line.

7– War Paint

While War Paint was not the best reviewed show of the season and didn’t garnish the amount of Tony nominations it wanted, it did bring us Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone. These legends graced the stage with a performance of “Face to Face,” with vocals and presence that proved why this show belonged on the broadcast. Sometimes, you just have to recognize great performances.

6 – Falsettos

One of the fan favorite shows of the night, I was delighted to hear that the cast of Falsettos would reunite after their production closed in January. I was not disappointed as the likes of Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Tracie Thoms, and more delivered. I appreciated the showcase of LGBTQ+ characters, along with paying tribute to a beloved musical.

5 – Dear Evan Hansen

Before it’s Best Musical win, we got to see Ben Platt again in all his glory, singing the rousing theme “Waving Through a Window.” His vocals were impeccable, given that he has been on vocal rest for the past two days. However, with this song becoming performed so many times, I was hoping for a more creative medley to show off the beautiful nature of this production. Great performance, I just wanted more.

4 – Bandstand

Bandstand was another musical that surprised me tonight. This show flew under the radar until it’s win for Best Choreography and introduction by Jill Biden, which garnered a standing ovation. They put their Tony were their feet were and provided us with the best dancing of the night. It was also good to see favorites Corey Cott and Laura Osnes. You don’t often have swing dancing and big band sound on Broadway anymore, and it was refreshing.

3 – Come From Away

Come From Away transported us to Newfoundland with a shining ensemble and crisp vocals, including nominee Jenn Colella and Memphis’ Chad Kimball. Not seeing much of this musical until tonight, I definitely want to go see it now. It’s no wonder why critics and audiences fell in love, a great story that celebrates humanity in the wake of tragedy.

2 – Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Natasha was one of the most anticipated of the night, with a whopping twelve nominations and singer Josh Groban att the helm. However, the ensemble and immersive nature of the show took the spotlight, giving us an energetic performance the likes of which the Tony’s have never seen. With a look at the rich, historical culture of Russia, Dave Molloy truly celebrated War and Peace while breathing new life into it.

1 – Miss Saigon

This was the surprise knockout performance of the night. Eva Noblezada, who is making her Broadway debut in Miss Saigon, commanded the stage with her vocals. The beginning of their medley showed Tam almost being stabbed, before Kim shot the soldier to protect her son. Such a moving and unusual choice for the Tony Awards, but set the tone for the night in terms of what to expect.


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