Don’t Blink! Some of Broadway’s Shortest Runs Earned the Biggest Awards

Special Features   Don’t Blink! Some of Broadway’s Shortest Runs Earned the Biggest Awards
 
Captivating moments on stage that outlasted an all-too-brief Broadway run.
Marian Seldes in the 2003 Off-Broadway production of Beckett/Albee.
Marian Seldes in the 2003 Off-Broadway production of Beckett/Albee. Carol Rosegg

Phantom of the Opera has been running for nearly 30 years—which only makes sense considering that it won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical. But not all award winners have long runs. Here is a look back at some big award-winning performances, shows and designs that went by Broadway in a flash.

Last season Broadway had only a little over two months to see Frank Langella’s acclaimed performance in The Father—a role that earned him the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. There are many notable examples of shows and performances whose impact on Broadway history outlasted their brief runs. A select few went on to win prestigious awards. You had to look quick because they were soon gone.

Frank Langella and Kathryn Erbe
Frank Langella and Kathryn Erbe Joan Marcus

Jason Robert Brown won his first Tony for Best Original Score for Parade, which marched for only 85 regular performances.

Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello
Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello Joan Marcus
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Darling of the Day

Patricia Routledge tied with Leslie Uggams for the Best Actress in a Musical Tony in 1968. Routledge did it the hard way; her Darling of the Day, had run only 31 regular performances, whereas Uggams’ Hallelujah, Baby! ran for 293 regular performances.

Grover Dale’s choreography got a Drama Desk nomination and Brian Stokes Mitchell received a Theatre World Award for 1988’s Mail, which ended after 36 regular performances.

Antonia Ellis, Michael Rupert and Mara Getz in <i>Mail</i>, 1988
Antonia Ellis, Michael Rupert and Mara Getz in Mail, 1988 Ron Scherl

Maureen Delany got a 1959 Featured Actress Tony nomination and Larry Hagman won a Theatre World Award for God and Kate Murphy, which ran 12 regular performances.

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Nowhere to Go But Up

Annie’s future Miss Hannigan Dorothy Loudon won a 1963 Theatre World Award for Nowhere to Go But Up. The title was appropriate, as it ran just 9 regular performances. Loudon also got a 1969 Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award for The Fig Leaves Are Falling, which fell after 4 regular performances.

Dolores Gray took home 1954’s Leading Actress in a Musical Tony for Carnival in Flanders, which ran only 6 regular performances.

The shortest run of any Tony-winning Best Musical was Stephen Sondheim’s 1994 Passion, with a still-respectable 280 regular performances. Among the shows it beat was Beauty and the Beast, which ran 5,461 regular performances, the longest run of any new musical to open in the 1990s.

There are many examples of artists who earned nominations for prestigious awards, but the ultimate example may be the theatre’s late grande dame, Marian Seldes, who won a Drama Desk Award and earned a Best Actress Tony nomination for 1971’s Father’s Day, which ran just a single regular performance.

Press agent Susan L. Schulman, who represented the show, recalled, “No one told Marian the show had closed and she turned up at the theatre the second night.” Seldes later turned up at the Drama Desks to collect her award.

Its author, Oliver Hailey, also got just a single regular Broadway performance each out of 1981’s I Won’t Dance and 1996’s First One Asleep, Whistle.

<i>First One Asleep, Whistle</i>
First One Asleep, Whistle

A reviewer once called Hailey the “most produced, least successful” playwright in the New York theatre, and Mrs. Hailey vigorously agreed with the assessment. She said that her husband often joked to friends about the distinction of having each of his Broadway productions open and close the same day. “He used to say, ‘They ran all evening’,” she remembered.

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