Fact: The Producers shattered Tony history when it won a record-setting 12 statues in 2001—even Hamilton fell one short of that accomplishment in 2016.
But what if we look at titles—plays and musicals—throughout their life span on Broadway, including revivals? What are the most Tony-winning pieces of literature in history? Playbill dove into the archives to determine the shows that—over time—have taken home the most Tony trophies.
Beginning with the pieces that earned the most Tonys and working backwards, we calculated 17 shows earned nine awards or more in the history of theatre’s top honor. Does The Producers still stay on top? Read the list below to find out.
(Note: Within each category below, shows are listed in reverse chronological order as the more recent shows have had less time to accumulate Tony hardware.)
And don’t forget to tune in to the 71st Annual Tony Awards one CBS June 11 to find out if this year’s leading nominee (The Great Comet with 12 nominations) will join these ranks.
For more information visit TonyAwards.com.
9 TONY AWARDS
17. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows, Willie Gilbert, and Jack Weinstock
This satirical look at then-relatively-new office culture premiered on Broadway in 1961. The production took home seven 1962 Tony Awards, for Best Leading Actor in Musical (Robert Morse), Featured Actor in a musical (Charles Nelson Reilly), Author (Burrows, Weinstock, and Gilbert), Conductor and Musical Director (Elliot Lawrence), Direction of a Musical (Burrows), Producer (Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin), and Musical. Matthew Broderick won Best Leading Actor in a musical for his performance in the 1995 revival, while the 2011 production starring Daniel Radcliffe saw a Featured Actor win for John Larroquette.
16. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Since its premiere in 1962, Albee’s classic three-act drama following the marital struggles of a middle-aged couple as they entertain a colleague and his wife—and drink heavily—has been revived on Broadway three times: 1976, 2005, and 2012. The original production won five 1963 Tony Awards for Best Leading Actor in a Play (Arthur Hill), Leading Actress in a Play (Uta Hagen), Direction of a Play (Alan Schneider), Producer (Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder), and Play. Bill Irwin won Best Leading Actor in a Play for the 2005 revival, while the 2013 production took home awards for Leading Actor in a Play (Tracy Letts), Direction of a Play (Pam MacKinnon), and Revival.
15. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, by Stephen Sondheim, Larry Gelbart, and Burt Shevelove
This musical—Sondheim’s first on Broadway to feature both his lyrics and music—is a hilarious farce that tells the story of a Greek slave who will stop at nothing to win his freedom. The show opened on Broadway in 1962, and at the 1963 Tony Awards, it won six awards for Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Zero Mostel), Featured Actor in a Musical (David Burns), Author (Shevelove and Gelbart), Direction of a Musical (George Abbott), Producer (Harold Prince), and Musical. A 1972 revival took home Tonys for Best Leading Actor in a Musical and Featured Actor in a Musical as well, for Phil Silvers and Larry Blyden respectively. The most recent revival, in 1996, won Nathan Lane his first Tony Award, for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, which means every actor portraying the role of Pseudolus has won a Tony Award for their performance thus far.
14. Pippin, by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson
Telling the tale of the young son of Charlemagne who tries his hand at war, love, and other joys before settling down, Pippin premiered in 1972. At the 1973 Tony Awards, it won five trophies: Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Ben Vereen), Choreographer (Bob Fosse), Direction of a Musical (Fosse), Lighting Design (Jules Fisher), and Scenic Design (Tony Walton). A 2013 revival won four: Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Patina Miller), Featured Actress in a Musical (Andrea Martin), Direction of a Musical (Diane Paulus), and Revival of a Musical.
13. A Chorus Line, by Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, Nicholas Dante, and James Kirkwood
This Broadway classic about ensemble dancers at an audition for a Broadway musical was, for quite some time, the longest-running Broadway musical, with 6,137 performances running from 1975 to 1990 at the Shubert Theatre. Though it had one revival (in 2007), all of its Tony wins are from the original production, including Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Sammy Williams), Featured Actress in a Musical (Carole Bishop, now Kelly Bishop), Leading Actress in a Musical (Donna McKechnie), Book of a Musical (Kirkwood and Dante), Choreographer (Michael Bennett and Bob Avian), Direction of a Musical (Bennett), Lighting Design (Tharon Musser), Original Score Written for the Theatre (Hamlisch and Kleban), and Musical.
12. The Book of Mormon, by Robert Lopez, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone
This Broadway hit, a hilarious tale of Mormon missionaries in Uganda, is still running on Broadway. The show was a big smash at the Tony Awards after it opened in 2011, taking home awards for Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus), Direction of a Musical (Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker), Sound Design of a Musical (Brian Ronan), Lighting Design of a Musical (Brian MacDevitt), Scenic Design of a Musical (Scott Pask), Featured Actress in a Musical (Nikki M. James), Original Score Written for the Theatre and Book of a Musical (both for Lopez, Parker, and Stone), and Musical.
10 TONY AWARDS
11. Kiss Me, Kate, by Cole Porter and Bella and Sam Spewack
This modern musical telling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew has been a classic since its Broadway premiere in 1948. The original production won five 1949 Tony Awards, including Best Author (for the Spewacks), Composer and Lyricist (Porter), Costume Designer (Lemuel Ayers), Producers (Saint Subber and Ayers), and Musical. A 2000 revival took home five awards as well, for Best Costume Design for a Musical (Martin Pakledinaz), Orchestrations (Don Sebesky), Leading Actor in a Musical (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Direction of a Musical (Michael Blakemore), and Revival of a Musical.
10. Hello, Dolly!, by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart
Based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, Dolly tells the story of a meddlesome matchmaker who works to find mates for her clients but also herself. The original production was a big winner at the 1964 Tony Awards, taking home Tonys for Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Carol Channing), Author (Stewart), Choreographer (Gower Champion), Composer and Lyricist (Herman), Conductor and Musical Director (Shepard Coleman), Costume Design (Freddy Wittop), Scenic Design (Oliver Smith), Direction of a Musical (Champion), Producer (David Merrick), and Musical. While subsequent revivals did not receive Tony love, the show is currently back on Broadway in a new production starring Bette Midler that just received ten Tony nominations earlier this week, so this particular show might just be moving up the list come June 11.
9. Fiddler on the Roof, by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein
This classic musical about a Jewish milkman and his tradition-bucking daughters is one of Broadway’s most frequent for revivals—there have been five since its premiere in 1964—so it should be no surprise to find it on this list. The original production won eight 1965 Tony Awards for Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Zero Mostel), Leading Actress in a Musical (Maria Karnilova), Author (Stein), Composer and Lyricist (Bock and Harnick), Costume Design (Patricia Zipprodt), Direction of a Musical (Jerome Robbins), Producer (Harold Prince), and Musical. A 1991 revival won Best Revival of a Musical as well. Its four other revival productions received nominations, but no other wins.
8. Sweeney Todd, by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
Everyone’s favorite musical about revenge and cannibalism, Sweeney Todd debuted in 1979 and nearly swept the Tony Awards that year. The production won eights awards for Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Len Cariou), Leading Actress in a Musical (Angela Lansbury), Book of a Musical (Wheeler), Original Score Written for the Theatre (Sondheim), Scenic Design (Eugene Lee), Costume Design (Franne Lee), Direction of a Musical (Harold Prince), and Musical. A 2006 revival won two: Best Orchestrations (Sarah Travis) and Direction of a Musical (John Doyle).
7. Billy Elliot, by Elton John and Lee Hall
Based on the movie of the same name telling the story of a little boy who desperately wants to go to ballet school, this show debuted in 2008 and was the big winner at the 2009 Tony Awards. The production won Best Actor (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish), Featured Actor in a Musical (Gregory Jbara), Choreographer (Peter Darling), Direction of a Musical (Stephen Daldry), Scenic Design of a Musical (Ian MacNeil), Costume Design of a Musical (Nicky Gillibrand), Sound Design of a Musical (Paul Arditti), Orchestrations (Martin Koch), Book (Hall), and Musical.
11 TONY AWARDS
6. La Cage Aux Folles, by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein
For 1983, a musical about gay parents and drag queens must have been risqué, but that didn’t stop the 1984 Tony Awards from accepting it with open arms. The original production won Tonys for Best Leading Actor in a Musical (George Hearn), Book of a Musical (Fierstein), Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge), Direction of a Musical (Arthur Laurents), Score (Herman), and Musical. A 2005 revival won Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell) and Revival, while the 2010 production took home awards for Actor (Douglas Hodge), Director (Terry Johnson), and Revival.
5. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda
As any Playbill reader should know well by now, Hamilton opened last season and continues a highly-successful run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. To the surprise of exactly no one, the show was last year’s big winner at the Tony Awards. There was initially speculation that it might equal The Producers’ record of 12 wins which did not come to pass, but it nevertheless did incredibly well with wins for Leading Actor in a Musical (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Featured Actor in a Musical (Daveed Diggs), Featured Actress in a Musical (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Costume Design of a Musical (Paul Tazewell), Lighting Design of a Musical (Howell Binkley), Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire), Direction of a Musical (Thomas Kail), Choreographer (Andy Blankenbuehler), Score (Miranda), Book of a Musical (Miranda), and Musical.
12 TONY AWARDS
4. Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
Another frequently revived piece, Salesman is the sad tale of Willy Loman whose career is crumbling, and it’s had six Broadway productions and six chances at Tony Awards since its premiere in 1949. The original production won Best Featured Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner), Author (Miller), Director (Elia Kazan), Producers (Kermit Bloomgarden and Walter Fried), and Play. The 1975 revival did not take home any wins, but the 1984, 1999, and 2012 revivals all won Best Revival, while the 1999 production also took home Best Actor in a Play (Brian Dennehy), Featured Actress in a Play (Elizabeth Franz), and Direction of a Play (Robert Falls).
3. Cabaret, by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff
A gritty exploration of Weimar Germany during the rise of the Nazi party, Cabaret has had four Broadway productions including its 1966 premiere. The original production won Tonys for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Joel Grey), Featured Actress in a Musical (Peg Murray), Choreographer (Ron Field), Composer and Lyricist (Kander and Ebb), Costume Design (Patricia Zipprodt), Scenic Design (Boris Aronson), Direction of a Musical (Harold Prince), and Musical. The 1998 revival won Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Ron Rifkin), Actor in a Musical (Alan Cumming), Actress in a Musical (Natasha Richardson), and Revival.
2. The Producers, by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
The record holder for the most Tony wins by one production is unsurprisingly near the top of the list. The Producers, a hilarious musical about two conniving Broadway producers who endeavor to make money by fraudulently and purposefully producing a horrible musical, won Tony Awards in 2001 for Best Actor in a Musical (Nathan Lane), Featured Actor in a Musical (Gary Beach), Featured Actress in a Musical (Cady Huffman), Scenic Design (Robin Wagner), Costume Design (William Ivey Long), Lighting Design (Peter Kaczorowski), Orchestrations (Doug Besterman), Direction of a Musical (Susan Stroman), Choreography (Stroman), Book of a Musical (Brooks and Meehan), Score (Brooks), and Musical.
17 TONY AWARDS
1. South Pacific, by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan
When it comes to Tony-winning pieces of literature, nothing even comes close to beating South Pacific. This classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical follows the lives of U.S. military men, nurses, and residents in—you guessed it—the South Pacific, during World War II. It’s only had two Broadway productions (plus a brief revival at City Center) since its premiere in 1949, but both did extremely well at the Tony Awards. In a bizarre situation, the original production’s scenic designer Jo Mielziner won a Tony in 1949 for her work across Broadway that season, including both South Pacific and Death of a Salesman, but the production’s other Tonys were awarded at the 1950 ceremony. The production won Best Actor in a Musical (Ezio Pinza), Actress in a Musical (Mary Martin), Featured Actor in a Musical (Myron McCormick), Featured Actress in a Musical (Juanita Hall), Director (Logan), Original Score (Rodgers and Hammerstein), Libretto (Hammerstein and Logan), Producers (Leland Hayward, Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Logan), and Musical. Lincoln Center’s 2008 revival took home awards for Best Actor in a Musical (Paulo Szot), Direction of a Musical (Bartlett Sher), Scenic Design of a Musical (Michael Yeargan), Costume Design of a Musical (Catherine Zuber), Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder), Sound Design of a Musical (Scott Lehrer), and Revival.
Logan Culwell-Block is a musical theatre historian, Playbill's manager of research, and curator of Playbill Vault. Please visit LoganCulwellBlock.com.
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