A Tony by any other name is still a Tony, but how often do Tonys, Anthonys, and Tonis get to take home the Tony Award® medallion?
The Tony Award®, of course, is not a Tony or even an Anthony, but an Antoinette — as in the actress, director and philanthropist Antoinette Perry. Ms. Perry was Chairman of the American Theatre Wing, who named their annual awards for excellence in theatre after “Toni,” as she was nicknamed. Toni became “Tony,” and for the next 55 years the Antoinette Perry Awards®, known informally as Tonys®, have been awarded to Julies, Stephens, Harolds, Zoes, and yes, even Tonys.
In fact, if you count all the Anthonys, Antonys, Tonis and other variations on the name, the list of Tony®’s Tonys is quite extensive. Since the awards were established in 1947, the most frequently nominated Tony has been set and costume designer Tony Walton, who has heard Tony® and Tony strung together 16 times over the last thirtysome years. He’s also the most winning Tony, with three set design awards under his belt. Walton’s Tony® wins have coincidentally fallen once a decade — in 1973 for Pippin, in 1986 for House of Blue Leaves, and 1992 for Guys and Dolls.
Writer-performer Anthony Newley, director Joseph Anthony, and actor-producer Tony Randall follow Tony Walton with five, five, and four nominations, respectively. Newley was nominated for his Stop the World, I Want to Get Off and The Smell of the Greasepaint, the Roar of the Crowd in the mid-1960s, while director Anthony had a string of best director nominations in the late fifties and early sixties for The Most Happy Fella, the original production of The Best Man, and Rhinoceros. Randall’s the only one of these three Tonys still practicing theatre (this season he produced Judgment at Nuremberg with his National Actors Theatre). His nominations came with the company’s recent revivals of St. Joan, Inherit the Wind and The Gin Game. Randall also earned a nomination as a leading actor in the musical O Captain! (1958). Aside from Randall, a number of other Broadway stars who also made it big in Hollywood have copped Tony® nominations. Anthony Perkins was tapped in 1958 for Best Actor (Dramatic) in Look Homeward, Angel at the start of his Hollywood film career. Pre-Zorba, Anthony Quinn starred in 1961’s Becket (the martyred English priest, not the cantankerous Irish playwright), earning a Best Actor nomination. Tony Roberts was going by Anthony when he received a Best Actor in a Musical nomination for How Now, Dow Jones, and his next nomination, for 1968’s Play It Again, Sam, would help kick off his Hollywood career by cementing his relationship with Woody Allen. Most recently, filmdom’s Anthony LaPaglia reappeared on Broadway in 1998, winning a Best Actor in a Play Award as the fiery and conflicted Eddie in A View from the Bridge.
Other Tony®-winning Tonys include Tony Kushner (Best Play for each half of Angels in America), Tony Straiges (Best Scenic Design, Sunday in the Park With George), and Anthony Crivello (Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman).
Two Tonys even found themselves competing for the same award one year. In 1956, Anthony Franciosa of A Hatful of Rain and Anthony Quayle of Tamburlaine the Great were both up for Best Featured Actor (Dramatic). Neither won; the very un-Tonyish Ed Begley, Sr. took home the medallion for his performance as attorney Matthew Harrison Brady in Inherit the Wind.
Like Antoinette Perry herself, not all Tonys have been gentlemen. In 2000, Toni Collette heard her name mentioned for the Best Actress Award for her work as jazz baby Queenie in The Wild Party. Costume designer Toni-Leslie James earned a nomination for her recreation of Jelly Roll Morton’s clothing at the beginning of the last century in Jelly's Last Jam.
And who can forget Tonya Pinkins, a Best Featured Actress winner for Jelly’s Last Jam and a nominee for Play On!, or Anne Pitoniak (Pi-TONI-ak), twice a nominee, for 'night, Mother and Picnic?
A list of other Tonys on whom the Tony® has smiled follows:
• Tony Azito, nominee in 1981 for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for Pirates of Penzance
• Anthony Creighton, nominee in 1959 for Best Play for Epitaph for George Dillon, with co-author John Osborne
• Adrian and Tony Duquette, winners in 1961 for Best Costume Design of a Musical for Camelot
• Tony Lo Bianco, nominee in 1983 for Best Actor in a Play for A View From the Bridge
• Anthony Page, 1997 winner for Best Director of a Play for A Doll's House
• Anthony Powell, Best Scenic Design (nominee) and Best Costume Design (winner) for The School for Scandal in 1963 and a nominee in 1995 for Best Costume Design for Sunset Boulevard
• Tony Shalhoub, nominee in 1992 for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Conversations With My Father
• Antony Sher, 1997 nominee as Best Actor in a Play for Stanley
• Tony Tanner, Best Director and Best Choreographer nominee in 1982 for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
• Anthony Ward, nominee in 1996 for Best Scenic Designer for A Midsummer Night's Dream
• Dick Anthony Williams, Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee for What the Wine-Sellers Buy in 1974 and Black Picture Show, 1975
The Tony Awards® are presented by the League of American Theatres and Producers and the American Theatre Wing.
— By Christine Ehren