Westport native Justin Paul is having a big year. The 2003 Staples High School graduate added two Tony Awards this week to an Oscar won just months ago. And he is not the only Connecticut connection to the Tony Awards, announced on Sunday night.
Paul won in the Best Original Score category for his work on Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen,” along with writing partner Benj Pasek. Before the night was out, the writers were back on the Radio City Music Hall stage to share another Tony for Best Musical for “Dear Evan Hansen.” In all, the play won six Tonys. Paul was the show’s co-composer, co-lyricist and co-creator.
Rebecca Taichman won for directing “Indecent,” the klezmer-scored historical drama about the Yiddish Theater that she co-created with playwright Paula Vogel. “Indecent” had its world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven in 2015. The play began as Taichman’s thesis project for the Yale School of Drama in 2001. “Indecent” also won for best lighting for a play.
The 9/11-themed musical “Come From Away” won for best direction of a musical, Yale University graduate Christopher Ashley. It had a significant early reading at Goodspeed Musicals’ Festival of New Artists in 2013. One of the show’s producers spoke about “Come From Away” at this year’s Goodspeed festival, just prior to the Broadway production opening.
Paul won an Oscar Award in February for Best Original Song during the Academy Awards for “City of Stars” from “La La Land.” At that ceremony, he thanked Westport’s education and arts communities in his speech: “I was educated in public schools where arts and culture were valued and recognized and a resource,” said Paul. “I am so grateful to all my teachers who taught so much and gave so much to us.” Paul shared the award for the song “City of Stars,” from the film “La La Land,” with fellow lyricist Benj Pasek and composer Justin Hurwitz, and Hurwitz’s score from the film also won an Oscar.
Additional Connecticut connections at the Tony Awards: the revival of “Hello, Dolly!” won awards for best revival of a musical, actress, featured actor and costumes. The show is based on a play by Thornton Wilder, who lived a large part of his life in the New Haven area. And the late August Wilson’s “Jitney” won a Tony for best revival of a play. The majority of the 10 plays in Wilson’s “Century Cycle” (though not “Jitney”) were developed at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford and the Yale Repertory Theatre.