With the 72nd Tony Awards coming up June 10, it’s time to brush up on your history.
The Tony Awards were started by the American Theatre Wing in 1947 to distinguish outstanding works of theatre and the people involved in making them. The awards are named after Antoinette Perry, an actor, director, producer, and head of the American Theatre wing. More than 1,000 people attended the first ceremony, held in the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom, for which tickets were $7.
First broadcast in 1967—also the first year that they were co-hosted by The Broadway League—the awards moved from a ballroom to the Shubert Theatre. CBS has broadcast the ceremony since 1978 and have been broadcast there every year since. Since 1997, the awards have been held at Radio City Music Hall or the Beacon Theatre.
There was no physical “Tony Award” for the first two years of the ceremony. The winners received a scroll and a lighter, a compact, or a money clip. The Tony Award as we now know it was designed by Herman Rosse in 1949. Antoinette Perry is depicted on one side, and the comedy and tragedy masks on the other.
Hamilton (2016) is the most-nominated show in Tony Award history, earning 16 nominations and winning 11 awards, but The Producers (2001) holds the record for most-awarded musical, winning 12 out of the 15 categories in which it was nominated. Billy Elliot was also nominated for 15 Tony Awards, and won in ten of those categories. The most-nominated musical revival of all time is Kiss Me, Kate (2000) with 12, and the most-awarded revival of all time is South Pacific (2008), which won seven. This year, Angels in America became the most-nominated play in Tony history with 11, while The Coast of Utopia (2007) received seven out of ten awards, the most Tonys given to a play in the history of the Awards.
In terms of performers, Audra McDonald is tied with Julie Harris for the most Tony Awards (each of them receiving six, though one of Harris’ was a special Tony Award), but Chita Rivera is the most nominated performer in Tony history, having earned ten nominations (and two awards). Bob Fosse is the most awarded choreographer in Broadway history, with eight Tony Awards for choreography and one for directing. Stephen Sondheim is the most awarded composer, also with eight Tony Awards.
The winner for longest play title is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (1966). It won four Tony Awards and was referred to as Marat/Sade—and featured the Broadway debut of Glenda Jackson, nominated this year for Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women. The Tony-winning play with the shortest title? Da (1978).
For more fun facts, head over to TonyAwards.com!