When it comes to Tony records, we usually focus on winners—but what about nominations? We’ve dug into Tony Award history to uncover the most-nominated theatre artists in several categories. You’ll find many familiar names, though there are some surprises in store....
The Most-Nominated Actor: Jason Robards, Jr., with 8 nominations
Considering all nominations in both Leading and Featured Actor categories (Musical and Play), Jason Robards comes out on top with eight nominations. He was nominated and won a Best Leading Actor in a Play Tony Award in 1959 for The Disenchanted, and was nominated in the same category in 1960 for Toys in the Attic, 1964 for After the Fall, 1965 for Hughie, 1972 for The Country Girl, 1974 for A Moon for the Misbegotten, and 1978 for A Touch of the Poet. Robards was also nominated for a Best Featured Actor in a Play Tony Award in 1957 for Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
The Most-Nominated Actress: Julie Harris and Chita Rivera, with 10 nominations
Julie Harris and Chita Rivera have both been “nominated” for Tony Awards as performers ten times. Harris’ first Tony Award was given to her in 1952, before Tony categories had announced nominees, though since she was given the award, if the committee had been nominating performers, she would have scored a nod here. That award, in the Best Leading Actress in a Play Category, was given for Harris’ performance as Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera. Harris was nominated and won in the Leading Actress in a Play category in 1956 for The Lark, 1969 for Forty Carats, 1973 for The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, and in 1977 for The Belle of Amherst, and she was nominated in the same category in 1964 for Marathon ’33, 1974 for The Au Pair Man, 1991 for Lucifer’s Child, and 1997 for The Gin Game. Harris was also nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical in 1966 for her performance in Skyscraper. Though it does not count to this tally, Harris received the special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2002.
Rivera was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 1961 for Bye Bye Birdie, and in 2003 for Nine. She was nominated in the Leading category in 1976 for Chicago, 1981 for Bring Back Birdie, 1983 for Merlin, 1986 for Jerry’s Girls, 2006 for Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, and 2015 for The Visit. She was nominated and won in the Leading category in 1984 for The Rink and 1993 for Kiss of the Spider Woman. Though it does not count towards her nominations total, this year she is receiving the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Most-Nominated Director: Harold Prince, with 16 nominations
With a staggering 21 career Tony awards as a producer and director on Broadway, it’s no surprise that Harold Prince is the most-nominated director in Tony Awards history. His 16 nominations as a director recognize his work on such shows as She Loves Me in 1964, Zorba in 1969, A Little Night Music in 1973, Pacific Overtures in 1976, On the Twentieth Century in 1978, Grind in 1985, Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993, and Parade in 1999. He was nominated and won Best Director of a Musical in 1967 for Cabaret, 1971 for Company, 1972 for Follies (along with co-director Michael Bennett), 1974 for Candide, 1979 for Sweeney Todd, 1980 for Evita, 1988 for The Phantom of the Opera, and 1995 for Show Boat. Separately, he has been the recipient of two Special Tony Awards and the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award.
The Most-Nominated Choreographer: Bob Fosse, with 11 nominations
This legendary director-choreographer received 20 career Tony nominations, but the 11 he got for Best Choreography make him the most-nominated choreographer in Tony Awards history. Like Julie Harris, his first win in 1955 for The Pajama Game pre-dates announced nominees, but he went on to be nominated and win in 1956 for Damn Yankees, 1959 for Redhead, 1963 for Little Me, 1966 for Sweet Charity, 1973 for Pippin, 1978 for Dancin’, and 1986 for Big Deal. Fosse was also nominated in 1957 for Bells are Ringing (with co-choreographer Jerome Robbins), 1958 for New Girl in Town, and 1976 for Chicago.
The Most-Nominated Playwright: Neil Simon, with 12 nominations
For this distinction, we looked at every Tony Award category that honors playwrights, including Best Author (a category that later became Best Book of a Musical), Best Book of a Musical, and Best Play (which is technically co-awarded to the play’s author and producers). Neil Simon tops this pack of writers, with 12 nominations. Simon was nominated for Best Book of a Musical in 1963 for Little Me and 1979 for They’re Playing Our Song, and was nominated for Best Play in 1964 for Barefoot in the Park, 1968 for Plaza Suite, 1970 for The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, 1972 for The Prisoner of Second Avenue, 1973 for The Sunshine Boys, 1978 for Chapter Two, and 1987 for Broadway Bound. He was nominated and won Best Play in 1965 for The Odd Couple, 1985 for Biloxi Blues, and 1991 for Lost in Yonkers.
The Most-Nominated Songwriter: Stephen Sondheim, John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, each with 11 nominations
When it comes to composers and lyricists at the Tony Awards, there is a four-way tie for the distinction of being the most nominated, though it bears mentioning that Sondheim earns his spot due to the fact that in 1971 the award was split into two separate categories, Best Music and Best Lyrics. Sondheim was nominated and won both Best Music and Best Lyrics in 1971 for Company, and won Best Original Score in 1972 for Follies, 1973 for A Little Night Music, 1979 for Sweeney Todd, 1988 for Into the Woods, and 1994 for Passion. He was nominated in the same category in 1965 for Do I Hear a Waltz?, 1976 for Pacific Overtures, 1982 for Merrily We Roll Along, and 1984 for Sunday in the Park with George.
Longtime writing partners John Kander and Fred Ebb worked together on all of their 11 Tony-nominated scores. They were nominated and won Best Original Score in 1967 for Cabaret, 1981 for Woman of the Year, and 1993 for Kiss of the Spider Woman, and were nominated in 1968 for The Happy Time, 1976 for Chicago, 1978 for The Act, 1984 for The Rink, 1997 for Steel Pier, 2007 for Curtains, 2011 for The Scottsboro Boys, and 2015 for The Visit.
Andrew Lloyd Webber was nominated for and won Best Original Score in 1980 for Evita, 1983 for Cats, and 1995 for Sunset Boulevard, and was nominated in the same category in 1972 for Jesus Christ Superstar, 1982 for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, 1986 for Song & Dance, 1987 for Starlight Express, 1988 for The Phantom of the Opera, 1990 for Aspects of Love, 2006 for The Woman in White, and 2016 for School of Rock – The Musical. Lloyd Webber is also the recipient of a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award.
The Most-Nominated Scenic Designer: John Lee Beatty, with 15 nominations
When it comes to scenic design for both musicals and plays, nobody has more nominations than John Lee Beatty. He was nominated for and won Best Scenic Design in 1980 for Talley’s Folly, and won Best Scenic Design of a Play in 2013 for The Nance. Beatty was also nominated in 1981 for Fifth of July, 1992 for A Small Family Business, 1993 for Redwood Curtain, 1995 for The Heiress, 1996 for A Delicate Balance, 1997 for The Little Foxes, 2002 for Morning’s at Seven, 2003 for Dinner at Eight, 2005 for Doubt, 2006 for Rabbit Hole and The Color Purple, 2010 for The Royal Family, and 2012 for Other Desert Cities.
The Most-Nominated Costume Designer: Jane Greenwood, with 21 nominations
With a huge body of work designing costumes for Broadway musicals and plays, Jane Greenwood holds the record as the most Tony-nominated costume designer in Tony Awards history. She was nominated in 1965 for Tartuffe, 1968 for More Stately Mansions, 1971 for Hay Fever and Les Blancs, 1982 for Medea, 1984 for Heartbreak House, 1989 for Our Town, 1992 for Two Shakespearean Actors, 1993 for The Sisters Rosensweig, 1994 for She Loves Me (with David Charles) and Passion, 1995 for The Heiress, 1996 for A Delicate Balance, 2002 for Morning’s at Seven, 2005 for Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 2007 for Heartbreak House, 2009 for Waiting for Godot, 2014 for Act One, 2015 for You Can’t Take It With You, and in 2016 for Long Day’s Journey Into Night. She finally won Best Costume Design of a Play in 2017, for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, though she was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2014.
The Most-Nominated Lighting Designer: Jules Fisher, with 23 nominations
These days, lighting designer Jules Fisher is mostly known for his work with co-lighting designer Peggy Eisenhauer—with whom he has collaborated on Broadway since Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk in 1996. But thanks to a prolific solo design career before his work with Eisenhauer, Fisher alone holds the distinction as the most-nominated lighting designer in Tony Awards history. He was nominated for and won Tonys in 1973 for Pippin, 1974 for Ulysses in Nighttown, 1978 for Dancin’, 1990 for Grand Hotel, 1991 for The Will Rogers Follies, 1992 for Jelly’s Last Jam, 1996 for Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk, 2004 for Assassins, and 2013 for Lucky Guy. He was additionally nominated in 1972 for Jesus Christ Superstar, 1976 for Chicago, 1978 for Beatlemania, 1984 for La Cage Aux Folles, 1986 for Song and Dance, 1993 for Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, 1994 for Angels in America: Perestroika, 1998 for Ragtime, 2000 for The Wild Party and Marie Christine, 2001 for Jane Eyre, and 2016 for Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, and is nominated twice this year for Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh and Once On This Island.
The Most-Nominated Sound Designer: Brian Ronan, with 6 nominations
Sound design is a newer category to the Tony Awards; Best Sound Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Musical were awarded from 2008 to 2014 before they were eliminated, but both categories are back for the 2018 ceremony. Even in the short time sound design has been honored by the Tonys, Brian Ronan has racked up six nominations, making him the most-nominated sound designer in Tony history. He won Tonys in 2011 for The Book of Mormon and 2014 for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and was nominated in 2009 for Next to Normal, 2011 for Anything Goes, 2012 for Nice Work If You Can Get It, and 2018 for Mean Girls.
The Most-Nominated Orchestrator: Jonathan Tunick, with 11 nominations
Jonathan Tunick is one of Broadway’s most prolific and celebrated orchestrators—and the most-nominated. He was nominated and won in 1997 for Titanic, and was nominated in 2000 for Marie Christine, 2001 for Follies, 2003 for Nine, 2005 for Pacific Overtures, 2007 for LoveMusik and 110 in the Shade, 2008 for A Catered Affair, 2010 for Promises, Promises, 2014 for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and 2018 for Carousel.