U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance Alumni Shine at 2017 Tony Awards

By Sydney Hawkins, U-M Manager of Communications for Arts & Culture

This year’s 71st annual Tony Awards, which took place on June 11 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, produced many big moments for University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) alumni.

Gavin Creel (BFA ’98, musical theatre), who won “Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play” for his portrayal of Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly!, dedicated his award to SMTD’s Musical Theatre department. In his acceptance speech, Creel encouraged the audience to start scholarships for young people in theatre, stating “…my education there [at U-M] as a young person changed my life forever.”


Creel is one of six U-M alums involved in the production of Hello Dolly!, which won a 2017 Tony for “Best Revival of a Musical.” Will Burton, Michael Hartung and Robert Hartwell were part of the cast, and John Miller (musical coordination), and Matt Rego (producer, The Araca Group) were part of the production’s creative team.*

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (BFA ’06, musical theatre) – a songwriting duo who won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe earlier this year for “Best Original Song” for “City of Stars” from the film La La Land – had another big night at the Tony Awards. Their original musical, Dear Evan Hansen, earned nine nominations, winning in six categories, including “Best Musical,” “Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre,” “Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical,” “Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical,” “Best Book of a Musical,” and “Best Orchestrations.”

The Dear Evan Hansen cast, which included Jennifer Laura Thompson (BFA ’91, musical theatre), performed “Waving Through a Window”one of the songs written by Pasek and Paul – at the awards show.

And finally, James Earl Jones (BFA ’55), was awarded the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. In his acceptance speech, which was not aired on the ive broadcast, he thanked his father Robert Earl Jones, the NYPD, and his late wife Cecilia “Cece” Hart.


*An earlier version of this post indicated Rachel Hoffman (BFA ’99, musical theatre/casting, The Telsey Company) as the casting director for Hello Dolly! She was actually the casting director for the seven-time Tony nominated musical “Come From Away” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a new musical that debuted on Broadway in April 2017.