Like all awards, the Tony Awards are a funny thing. Every year we wait with bated breath to see who will take home the gold, as if winning were everything. While some performers find their careers skyrocketing after winning a Tony, for others, years may pass before they tread the boards again. And then there are the proverbial perennial bridesmaids. This season's The King and I marks Kelli O'Hara's sixth Tony nomination in 10 years and regardless of her fate June 7, the popular star will surely remain one of Broadway's foremost leading ladies for years to come. But what about those other stories, the Tony winners who seem to disappear from Broadway after their triumph? Do they seek success elsewhere? Do they find it?
10. John Lloyd Young
In 2005, John Lloyd Young won the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for his unforgettable performance as Frankie Valli in the smash hit Four Seasons musical, Jersey Boys, still running at the August Wilson Theatre. With his sharp acting abilities, charisma and looks — not to mention a gorgeous voice capable of stratospheric falsetto feats — Young seemed poised for a long career at the forefront of musical theatre. Surprisingly, his only return to Broadway has been a short run reprising the role. In the meantime, he recreated his Frankie Valli in the West End and has delivered a number of film and television performances (including his signature role in Clint Eastwood's feature film "Jersey Boys"), but still, no new roles on Broadway. Young is still, excuse the expression, not old, so it should only be a matter of time.
Before her Tony-winning 1960 Broadway debut in Irma La Douce, Elizabeth Seal starred in Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game and Camino Real as well as Irma La Douce on the West End. She then took years off from theatre to raise a family. In the 1970s, she became once again a fixture on the London stage playing many roles including Roxie in Chicago. The years since have seen her bring her trademark innocently seductive spark to variety of roles on stage and screen as well as cabaret appearances and teaching, but a Broadway return continues to elude her. Hey, Mr. (and Ms.) Producers…
Virginia Capers had already been an intelligent and soulful presence on Broadway in both Jamaica and Saratoga before her Tony-winning turn in the 1972 musical Raisin as Lena Younger (Walter Younger's mother, the role Phylicia Rashad won a Tony for in the 2004 revival of the original Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun, on which Raisin is based). After Raisin closed in 1975, Capers never appeared in Broadway show again. She was a familiar face in movies and TV until her death in 2004.
7. Ted Ross
Ted Ross also appeared on Broadway in Raisin, as well as in Purlie. He won his Tony for creating the role of the Lion in The Wiz, the 1974 hit Motown resetting of "The Wizard of Oz," and went on to play the part again in the 1978 movie alongside Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Lena Horne. Ross had a varied career on television and film, but never came back to Broadway after The Wiz. He passed away in 2002. His easygoing warmth and effortless authority have been sorely missed.
When Robert Lindsay brought his Olivier Award-winning performance in Me And My Girl to Broadway, he won the 1987 Tony for Best Actor in a Musical and the hearts of the herds of ticket-buyers flocking to catch the hit show. While Lindsay has continued to strut his stuff (a striking combination of legitimate theatre chops and snazzy show business know-how) in a slew of leading roles on stage and screen in Great Britain, he hasn't come back to Broadway. What are you waiting for, Bob?
Child prodigy soprano Anna Maria Alberghetti made a successful transition to adult stardom, becoming something of a sweetheart to American audiences with over 50 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" alone. She was well primed for her 1961 Broadway debut starring in Carnival, for which she won the Tony. Oddly, though, despite continued regular television gigs and numerous leading roles in musicals around the country, she never came back to Broadway.
In 2003, Bernadette Peters fans were enraged when Marissa Jaret Winokur took home the trophy for Hairspray over Peters for Gypsy. Such questions are, by nature, subjective, but Winokur's brassy, ballsy, beaming performance as Tracy Turnblad was unquestionably (pardon the pun) winning. She had previously paid her dues as a replacement Jan in the 1994 revival of Grease, but she has yet to visit the Great White Way again.
3. Daisy Eagan
In the early 1990s, a generation of Broadway lovers took heart when a kid who seemed like any other kid, both onstage and off, won a Tony and, soon after, stopped the show in "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall." Daisy Eagan was unlike most child actors in that she brought a compellingly natural quality and tremendous likability to her role as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Perhaps these qualities became less rare as her contemporaries matured and caught up with her. Broadway has only seen her back once, in James Joyce's The Dead in 2000. We, Daisy's loyal fans, wait, but not patiently, contending in the meantime with her hilariously biting solo performances and Twitter feed.
Yet another youthful diva to tread our boards but once, Frances Ruffelle made history (and won the Tony) introducing the prototypical pop opera power ballad, "On My Own," to Broadway audiences after having already brought the roof down in the original London production of Les Misérables. The decades since have seen a lot of other people sing this song (countless thousands… maybe millions!), but no one has ever eclipsed her inimitable rendtion. Something like a legato Lauper (Cyndi), Ruffelle's classic recording rings resonantly with no signs of abating. She has come back to New York with a fabulously entertaining 54 Below show, but nothing on the Broadway stage as of yet.
Without a doubt, the most extreme example of an iconic, game changing, Tony-winning musical performance by an actor who has not originated another role on Broadway is Jennifer Holliday's in Dreamgirls. While fans can enjoy the diva's many stage and screen reprises of big song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," there is no substitute for the full theatrical sequence as captured in context (preceded by the ensemble number "The Argument") on the 1982 Tony Awards. Holliday is a tiger, stalking, drooling, reaching, failing, crying out in pain, stunning human vulnerability pulsating over the footlights, through the camera lens, commanding complete attention wherever, whenever this video clip plays. Perhaps no part has come along with the opportunity for such magic. Nonetheless, a fan can hope.
(Ben Rimalower is the author and star of the critically acclaimed solo plays Patti Issues and Bad with Money. Read Playbill's coverage of the show here. Visit him at benrimalower.com and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)