Tonys: 'The Band's Visit' Wins Best Musical

The Band's Visit Production Still 2 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

The deserving favorite, with 11 nominations in total, beat out fierce competition — including 'Mean Girls' and 'SpongeBob Squarepants: The Musical.'

Though Mean Girls and the equally nostalgia-appeasing SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical led the 2018 Tony nominations with 12 apiece, neither show went home with the highly coveted award for best musical on Sunday night. That honor went to The Band's Visit, a deserving favorite with 11 noms, based on a little-seen 2007 Israeli film about brief but powerful cross-cultural connections in the Middle East.

The Band's Visit, featuring a book by Itamar Moses (The Fortress of Solitude), score by David Yazbek (The Full MontyDirty Rotten Scoundrels) and direction by David Cromer (Our Town), premiered in 2016 at off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company and then transferred to the Great White Way in October.

Overall, the show won a total of 10 Tonys, including wins for Moses, Yazbek and Cromer. In addition, stars Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk and Ari'el Stachel were recognized in their respective categories. Other wins came for Tyler Micoleau (lighting design), Kai Harada (sound design) and Jamshied Sharifi (orchestrations).

Since its debut at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, the production has grossed $32 million and has become adored by audiences and critics alike. Reviewing the show for The Hollywood Reporter, chief theater critic David Rooney highlighted the performance of Shalhoub as the emotionally complex orchestra leader Tewfiq.

"Shalhoub has possibly never been better, his every tiny gesture and brief glance revealing something of Tewfiq's broken pride, his self-censure and his deep sadness and regret, all of which he reluctantly lays out for [Katrina Lenk's character] Dina, while never abandoning his careful composure," Rooney wrote of the theater vet, who was nominated for best lead actor in a musical.

In a recent interview with THR, Shalhoub opened up about the surprising success of The Band's Visit and his unexpected starring role.

"I didn't think they were crazy for doing it. I thought they were crazy for coming to me. But it was artful, and unusual for the fact that it's a quieter musical. It's not a big splashy vehicle. I didn't really think it was commercially viable," the Emmy-winning Monk actor said. "But that's obviously not always a reason to do something. It was a leap of faith."