TheaterMania Logo
Special Reports

5 Things You Missed at the 2017 Drama Desk Awards

New York Theater's most exciting night actually happens a week before the Tony Awards. Here's the inside scoop.

While the Tony Awards honor the best of Broadway, the Drama Desk Awards honor the best of New York theater in its entirety: That's Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway, and shows that defy categorization. For one night, the magic-makers of the stage converge at Town Hall for a celebration of theater that is truly without equal. You may have enjoyed the livestream of the event on TheaterMania, but here are the things you could have only seen if you were there in person.

Andy Karl won the 2017 Drama Desk for Outstanding Actor in a Musical for his performance in Groundhog Day.
(© David Gordon)

1. Andy Karl's pratfall
As Groundhog Day star Andy Karl bounded onstage to accept his award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, he appeared to trip and fall, causing a collective gasp in the audience. But like Willy Wonka emerging from his factory, he immediately shot back up to give his acceptance speech. "I saw an opportunity and I went for it," Karl said at the after-party, insisting that this pratfall was completely spontaneous. A true comedian, he knows that it's all about timing and circumstance: Karl suffered an ill-timed A.C.L. tear right before the April opening night of Groundhog Day, but has miraculously remained in the show, missing only a few performances. He now performs with a knee brace, which he hopes to have removed over the summer. "This is the best pity award I've ever gotten," he joked to the crowd while accepting his trophy.

The Lightning Thief star Chris McCarrell models shoes that he designed himself.
(© Zachary Stewart)

2. Percy Jackson's shoes
Viewers at home may have noticed Chris McCarrell's ostentatious light-rimmed sneakers during his performance with the cast of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. What they may not know is where those shoes came from: "I designed them myself," McCarrell proudly shared at the after-party. He not only sings like a beast, but he also designs footwear. We sincerely hope he got a chance to chat with Special Award winner Phil LaDuca, a man who revolutionized dance shoes for the stage.

Harold Prince presented the 2017 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical and Revival of a Musical.
(© David Gordon)

3. Hal Prince: backstage buddy
Observant presenters and award winners might have noticed a very special presence backstage at Town Hall: Legendary director, producer, and 10-time Drama Desk Award winner Harold Prince spent much of the evening seated unassumingly in the wings. He was on hand to present the awards for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Revival of a Musical. While accepting the latter prize for Hello, Dolly!, even Broadway mega-producer Scott Rudin seemed starstruck in the presence of the original director of both Cabaret and The Phantom of the Opera. Still, there he was, hanging out backstage at the Desks. Fans of Prince's career will have a chance to celebrate the highlights when Prince of Broadway opens this August on the Great White Way.

Bette Midler wasn't at the 2017 Drama Desk Awards, but here's a photo of her from 2013, when she starred in I'll Eat You Last on Broadway.
(© David Gordon)

4. Bette Midler
When Danny Burstein announced that Bette Midler had won the Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her performance in Hello, Dolly!, thunderous applause echoed through Town Hall. This ovation was quickly replaced by a communal groan of disappointment when Burstein informed the crowd that Midler was not present to accept her award. Revelers at the after-party expressed dismay at Midler's absence from the proceedings, especially since she is giving one of the most joyous and fresh Broadway performances in recent memory. Midler seems like a lock to win the Best Actress in a Musical Award at next week's Tonys ceremony, but one wonders if her elusive nature might diminish her chances.

David Yazbek won two Drama Desk Awards for his music and lyrics for The Band's Visit, set to open on Broadway this coming fall.
(© David Gordon)

5. The Band's Visit quietly announces its heavyweight status on Broadway
The top award of the night went to Broadway's Come From Away, but the Atlantic Theater Company production of The Band's Visit came from behind to win three awards (for David Cromer's direction, and for David Yazbek's music and his lyrics). That's a pretty decent haul for an off-Broadway musical that has been closed since January. Of course, The Band's Visit is set to open on Broadway this fall, where it is likely to become a highlight of the season. While next week's Tony Award for Best Musical is shaping up to be a contest between Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen (considered at last year's Desks), those in the know are already setting their sights on Broadway's next big thing, a status solidified by a respectable showing at the Drama Desk Awards.

Click here to watch the 2017 Drama Desk Awards.