'Oslo' - Play About Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks - Wins Best Play at Broadway's Tony Awards

The musical 'Dear Evan Hansen," picked up six Tonys including best musical

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J.T. Rogers, foreground, and the cast and crew of "Oslo" accept the award for best play at the 71st annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York.
J.T. Rogers, foreground, and the cast and crew of "Oslo" accept the award for best play at the 71st annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. Credit: Michael Zorn/Invision/AP

"Oslo," J.T. Rogers' play about the 1993 Middle East peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, was named best new play in New York on Sunday at the Tony Awards ceremony, where Broadway's highest honors are bestowed.

Michael Aronov of "Oslo" was a surprise winner in the featured actor category for his kinetic performance as an Israeli negotiator in the play, a behind-the-scenes look at the peace negotiations.

"Oslo" playwright Rogers, making his Broadway debut, thanked "The ladies and gentlemen who believed in democracy, who believed in peace, who believed in seeing their enemies as humans. I give this up to you."

This surprising story, and the unlikely married couple behind it, Mona Juul and her husband, Terje Rød Larsen, the Norwegian instigators and orchestrators of the talks are the subject of “Oslo,” which premiered off-Broadway in June 2016 before opening on Broadway in April. Critics have hailed “Oslo” for its deft dramatization of the year-long secret negotiations that led to the first agreement between Israel and the PLO. Ben Brantley, writing in The New York Times, praised its “ability to disseminate such intricate details of foreign policy without turning snoozy.”

The surprise hit musical "Dear Evan Hansen," the teen-angst driven musical about a high school outsider, won the top prize for best new musical at the Tonys. The play also garnered honors in the category of best musical actor for 23 year-old newcomer Ben Platt in the title role, featured actress Rachel Bay Jones, as well as best book, score and orchestrations.

As widely predicted, Bette Midler won her first competitive Tony as best actress in a musical for "Hello, Dolly!" Living up to her bawdy reputation, Midler delivered a speech laced with mild profanity to the star-laden audience at Radio City Music Hall, chastising the orchestra as its music welled when she spoke at length.

"Hello, Dolly!" won four Tonys, including best musical revival. "It's a very tough schedule," Midler, 71, said backstage, noting she is "a woman of a certain age." But she said the experience had been "life-affirming and life-changing," telling reporters between tears, "It's more than I deserve." On stage she praised the old-school musical as a balm for "these terrible, terrible times."

Actors Cynthia Nixon, Kevin Kline and Laurie Metcalf all won Tonys for performances in plays. Kline won the lead actor Tony for his turn as an egocentric actor in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter."

"I want to thank everybody," Kline said, adding "we don't do this alone." Like many other winners, he made a pitch for the National Endowment for the Arts, which is facing funding cuts under the Trump administration, saying without it "half the people in this room wouldn't be here."

Former "Roseanne" star Metcalf won her first Tony after several nominations, taking best actress in a play for "A Doll's House, Part 2," a lively, fast-paced sequel to the Henrik Ibsen classic. Nixon was named best featured actress in a play for a revival of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes," about a greedy southern family's underhanded business practices. The actress lauded Hellman for her "eerily prescient play."

Noting one of its lines about people who "eat the Earth" and others who "watch them do it," Nixon praised "the people who in 2017 are refusing to just stand around and watch them do it." Gavin Creel won best featured actor in a musical for "Hello, Dolly!" and "August Wilson's Jitney" won best revival of a play.

First-time Tonys host Kevin Spacey kicked off the show with a medley of songs referencing his self-doubt about successfully hosting the annual awards show compared to past hosts Neil Patrick Harris, James Corden and Hugh Jackman. "Indecent" director Rebecca Taichman won for play directing, and veteran actor James Earl Jones was presented with a lifetime achievement award.

Broadway enjoyed a record-breaking season thanks to last year's Tony winner, pop culture juggernaut "Hamilton," and musicals like "Hello, Dolly!" and "Come From Away," which won a Tony for director Christopher Ashley.

With reporting by Brian Schaefer.