By Jim Kierstead.
It’s that time of year, folks! The beginning of May marks the announcement that every theatre fan waits for. That’s right… it’s the Tony Award nominations! It truly is Broadway’s biggest honor.
The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards® got their start back in 1947 when this legendary awards program was created to celebrate excellence in the theatre. The award is named for Antoinette Perry, who was an actress, director, producer, and also a wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing. The Tonys began at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel back in 1947 on Easter Sunday. Perry’s successor, Vera Allen, presided over this evening of celebration which included dinner, dancing, and a special show that highlighted performers such as Mickey Rooney, Herb Shriner, Ethel Waters, and David Wayne. That evening, eleven Tony awards were presented in seven categories and over 1,000 guests attended the celebration.
In the eighteen years that followed, the ceremony got bigger and took place in various venues including the Plaza, the Waldorf Astoria, and the Astor. The ceremony was broadcast on the radio on WOR and Mutual network and it started being telecast in 1956 for the first time.
When the chairwoman, Helen Menken, passed away, Isabelle Stevenson, the new president, began to present the awards in 1967 and, for the first time, was broadcast to a national audience and was produced by Alexander Cohen. Also for the first time, the awards were moved from a traditional hotel ballroom to the Shubert Theatre on Broadway.
In 1978, CBS began to broadcast the awards and has broadcast the awards nationally every year since. The Tony program has become so artistic that it has received numerous Emmy Awards and is broadcast each June in many countries around the world.
During the first two years of the Tonys, there was actually no Tony Award statuette so winners were presented with a scroll and various gifts including a gold money clip for men and, for women, a compact. In 1949, United Scenic Artists sponsored a contest to come up with an actual model for the award. The winning design, a disk-shaped medallion, depicted the masks of comedy and tragedy on one side and the profile of Antoinette Perry on the other. It continues to be the official award to this day.
This year, the Tony award nominations will be announced on May 3rd at 8:30am on CBS. The award ceremony itself will be broadcast live on Sunday, June 12th at 8pm on CBS, as well. The awards include recognition of many categories including Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, Best Revival of a Musical, and the coveted Best Musical award. It also honors acting talent in several different categories, as well as Scenic Design, Lighting Design, and Costume Design.
The Tonys are a night to celebrate the year-long accomplishments of the theatre community in true Broadway fashion. At the end of the day, it’s a perfect commercial for New York Theatre and Tony awards equate to big dollars at the box office.
This year, everyone is anticipating big wins from the hit musical HAMILTON and a healthy race for awards in the other categories. If you are a theatre fan, I highly recommend tuning into the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 12th. It promises to be an amazing evening, indeed!
Until next time… break a leg!
Editor’s Note: Jim Kierstead is a true Broadway Insider. He’s producer of a number of shows and is a Tony winner for Kinky Boots.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BEST OF THE BEST
CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OF RESIDENT INSIDER