History of the Tony Awards

This poster for “Have you seen Smith?”, a Broadway musical revue and comedy from 1898, is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
This poster for “Have you seen Smith?”, a Broadway musical revue and comedy from 1898, is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923. | Source
This photograph of the New Amsterdam Theatre in the Theatre District of New York City was taken by Beyond My Ken on November 9, 2011.
This photograph of the New Amsterdam Theatre in the Theatre District of New York City was taken by Beyond My Ken on November 9, 2011. | Source

What are the Tony Awards?

The Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre (the Tony Awards) are the Theatre District of New York City's (Broadway's) equivalent of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Academy Awards of Merit (the Oscars) for film.

The Tony Awards are presented by two organizations—the American Theatre Wing, which began life as part of the World War II Allied Relief Fund, and The Broadway League, formerly known as the League of American Theatres and Producers.

American Theatre Wing (ATW)

The American Theatre Wing (ATW) was founded in 1939—during World War II—by a group of Broadway actresses and patrons. The ATW, initially a relief organization whose goal was to assist servicemen and women returning to the United States from their war duties, established the Stage Door Canteen, a recreational center for servicepersons on leave.

After World War II came to an end, the American Theatre Wing evolved into an educational organization, bringing theater to the people, conducting seminars and lectures, awarding scholarships to deserving students in all aspects of the theatrical industry.

The Broadway League, Theater Industry Trade Association

The Broadway League is a theater industry trade association. It is active in all aspects of the theater industry, from negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the theatrical unions to community outreach to charitable efforts to presenting the Tony Awards along with the American Theatre Wing.

Brock Pemberton

The idea for the Tony Awards came from an American Theatre Wing committee headed by Brock Pemberton (1885-1950), a theatrical producer and director, and business partner and rumored lover of Antoinette Perry (1888-1946).

Antoinette Perry

Antoinette Perry—whose nickname was Toni—was an actress, director, producer, and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing. Ms. Perry died in 1946 of a heart attack while directing the long-running Broadway play Harvey. The theater awards were named in her honor.

Neil Patrick Harris Sings a Medley of Broadway Show Tunes

Tony Awards from 1947 to 2012

The first Tony Awards ceremony was held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City on April 6, 1947. The most recent awards ceremony was held at the Beacon Theatre on June 10, 2012. The number and types of awards, as you will see in the following tables, have evolved from less than a dozen to more than two dozen.

1947 Tony Awards

AWARD CATEGORY
WINNER
PRODUCTION
Actor, Supporting or Featured (Musical)
David Wayne
Finian's Rainbow
Actors (Dramatic)
José Ferrer
Cyrano de Bergerac
 
Fredric March
Years Ago
Actresses (Dramatic)
Ingrid Bergman
Joan of Lorraine
 
Helen Hayes
Happy Birthday
Actress, Supporting or Featured (Dramatic)
Patricia Neal
Another Part of the Forest
Author
Arthur Miller
All My Sons
Choreographers
Agnes de Mille
Brigadoon
 
Michael Kidd
Finian's Rainbow
Composer
Kurt Weill
Street Scene
Costumes
Lucinda Ballard
Happy Birthday, Another Part of the Forest, Street Scene, John Loves Mary, The Chocolate Soldier
Director
Elia Kazan
All My Sons
Scenic Designer
David Folks
Henry VIII

1948 Tony Awards

AWARD CATEGORY
WINNER
PRODUCTION
Actor (Musical)
Paul Hartman
Angel in the Wings
Actors (Dramatic)
Henry Fonda
Mister Roberts
 
Paul Kelly
Command Decision
 
Basil Rathbone
The Heiress
Actress (Musical)
Grace Hartman
Angel in the Wings
Actresses (Dramatic)
Judith Anderson
Medea
 
Katherine Cornell
Antony and Cleopatra
 
Jessica Tandy
A Streetcar Named Desire
Authors
Thomas Heggen
Mister Roberts
 
Joshua Logan
Mister Roberts
Choreographer
Jerome Robbins
High Button Shoes
Conductor and Musical Director
Max Meth
Finian's Rainbow
Costumes
Mary Percy Schenck
The Heiress
Director
Joshua Logan
Mister Roberts
Outstanding Foreign Company
Cast members
The Importance of Being Earnest
Outstanding Performance by Newcomers
June Lockhart
For Love or Money
 
James Whitmore
Command Decision
Play
Thomas Heggen
Mister Roberts
 
Joshua Logan
Mister Roberts
Producer
LelandHayward
Mister Roberts
Scenic Designer
Horace Armistead
The Medium

2012 Tony Awards

AWARD CATEGORY
WINNER
PRODUCTION
Actor (Musical)
Steve Kazee
Once
Actress (Musical)
Audra McDonald
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bass
Actor (Play)
James Corden
One Man, Two Guvnors
Actress (Play)
Nina Arianda
Venus in Fur
Actor (Featured Role - Musical)
Michael McGrath
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Actress (Featured Role - Musical)
Judy Kaye
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Actor (Featured Role - Play)
Christian Borle
Peter and the Starcatcher
Actress (Featured Role - Play)
Judith Light
Other Desert Cities
Book of a Musical
Enda Walsh
Once
Choreographer
Christopher Gattelli
Newsies
Costume Design (Musical)
Greg Barnes
Follies
Costume Design (Play)
Paloma Young
Peter and the Starcatcher
Director (Musical)
John Tiffany
Once
Director (Play)
Mike Nichols
Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Lighting Design (Musical)
Natasha Katz
Once
Lighting Design (Play)
Darron L. West
Peter and the Starcatcher
Musical
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart, Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G. Wilson, Orin Wolf, The Shubert Organization, Robert Cole, New York Theatre Workshop
Once
Orchestrations
Martin Lowe
Once
Play
Author: Bruce Norris; Producers: Jujamcyn Theaters, Jane Bergère, Roger Berlind/Quintet Productions, Eric Falkenstein/Dan Frishwasser, Ruth Hendel/Harris Karma Productions, JTG Theatricals, Daryl Roth, Jon B. Platt, Center Theatre Group, Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons
Clybourne Park
Revival (Musical)
Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Rebecca Gold, Howard Kagan, Cheryl Wiesenfeld/Brunish Trinchero/Lucio Simons TBC, Joseph & Matthew Deitch, Mark S. Golub & David S. Golub, Terry Schnuck, Freitag Productions/Koenigsberg Filerman, The Leonore S. Gershwin 1987 Trust, Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Ken Mahoney, Judith Resnick, Tulchin/Bartner/ATG, Paper Boy Productions, Christopher Hart, Alden Badway, Broadway Across America, Irene Gandy, Will Trice, American Repertory Theater
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bass
Revival (Play)
Producers: Scott Rudin, Stuart Thompson, Jon B. Platt, Columbia Pictures, Jean Doumanian, Merritt Forrest Baer, Roger Berlind, Scott M. Delman, Sonia Friedman Productions, Ruth Hendel, Carl Moellenberg, Scott & Brian Zeilinger, Eli Bush
Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Scenic Design (Musical)
Bob Crowley
Once
Scenic Design (Play)
Donyale Werle
Peter and the Starcatcher
Score (Music and/or Lyrics)
Alan Menken
Newsies
 
Jack Feldman
Newsies
Sound Design (Musical)
Clive Goodwin
Once
Sound Design (Play)
Darron L. West
Peter and the Starcatcher

2012 Best Musical: Once (Performance at theTony Awards Presentation)

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Comments 30 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

Daisy, I really didn't know of the origins of the Tony Awards, but you did a great job elaborating on this. Very interesting and informative indeed. Have of course voted, shared and tweeted too!!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Daisy - You've written an outstanding hub on the history of the Tony Awards. My background is in Musical Theater so I really enjoyed this. I'm sharing this with my students as well as the "regulars." Thanks so much - fantastic job!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Janine,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub and tweeting it. I'm glad you found my article to be informative.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey (vocalcoach),

Thanks for reading yet another of my performing arts articles and commenting in it. I'm thrilled to receive high praise from a professional such as you.

I found it interesting to see how the Tony Awards have grown from their inception in 1947 to what they are today. I'm glad the awards were *split* so that there can be a winner in the musical field and a winner in the dramatic field for the same category of award.

I was so pleased to find the Audra McDonald video. What a talent!

I attended a concert version of Porgy and Bess several years ago at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Even without all the staging, it was a wonderful production.


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Daisy,

Another great offering. I notice that there's much less success in the crossover from Hollywood to Broadway in recent years than in the Fredric March era. It's either because of the quality of Hollywood actor has gone down, the Hollywood actor can't take the stress and strain of performing nightly, or the quality of the Broadway actor exceeds that of the Hollywood offerings. My guess is all of the above. Great Job!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rich (rcrumple),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I appreciate your continued support of my work.

I wonder if the crossover now is from television to stage acting. I know Audra McDonald and Judith Light from television.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

You never leave anything out! Who really knew about the Tony Awards? Not many of us. It was so interesting to see the shows from '47 and '48. As the song, New York, New York says, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere"....Broadway's still got it! A showcase of talent that never ends.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (tillsontitan),

Thanks for reading and commenting in my article. I enjoy writing Hubs in which I learn from writing and my readers learn from reading .

There are so many great Broadway musicals which didn't win Tony Awards, I'm currently researching and writing an article about those productions.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

What a great reference piece! You offer a comprehensive look at the History of the Tony Awards. I have learned a ton of information here. I really appreciate the work that went into putting the tables together! All kinds of ups and sharing!

Hubhugs~


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

India (K9keystrokes),

Thanks for reading and commenting in yet another of my articles. Thanks for sharing my Hub, too. I appreciate your continued support of my writing.

I got to thinking about all the great musicals which were nominated for Best Musical, but that didn't win. I'm currently creating some tables in which to present the information. One example is 1958. West Side Story was nominated that year, but didn't win. The Music Man won.


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

A wonderful write on the Tony awards. These usually don't get as much attention as the Grammys, Academy Awards or even the Emmys. Thanks for the well researched information!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Michelle (midget38),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I appreciate your continued support of my work.

I agree with you about the Tony Awards. They just don't seem to get as much support and publicity as the other performing arts awards.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Always like to learn something new.. Your hubs are a delight in that respect, Daisy I didn't know the history of Tony awards. thanks for the info .. really enjoyed reading this. Westend and Broadway have always enjoyed close links... mutually exchanging productions that travel both ways. up/shared.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

It amazes me to think of the time it took you to research and write this very informative Hub.

I voted this Hub Up, etc. shared.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

You've provided me with a lot of information about the Tonys which I didn't know. Well done. Voting this Up and Interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mohan (Docmo),

Thanks for reading my article, adding your comment, and sharing my Hub. Thanks, too, for being one of the greatest supporters of my writing.

As you and I have discussed, you're a polymath, and I especially like to write articles in which my readers learn something new. I'm happy that I've written about a subject which has added to your collection of knowledge.

My next article will be about the many wonderful Broadway musicals which have been nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award...and have lost.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (mary615),

Thanks for reading my Hub, adding a comment, and then sharing the article. The most time-consuming part of the research for this article was finding photographs and videos I could use. There weren't very many available. I spent "hours" looking for the ones I did find.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Aurelio (alocsin),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I'm glad I added to your knowledge of the Tony Awards.

Have you attended any performances at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa? There is a Tony Award on display in the lobby. The South Coast Rep received the Tony a number of years ago for being the best regional theatre.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I have not watched these in quite awhile, but your sharing has brought back many good memories of actors who do deserve the attention.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Dianna (teaches12345),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I really enjoy watching the Tony Awards presentation on television. I get to see quite a few performances from the current year's productions.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I enjoyed this hub. It’s fascinating to see how the Tony Awards have grown over the decades. I was so pleased to see the return of Porgy & Bess and Death of a Salesman…such gems can’t stay forgotten for long. :-)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Genna,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading and commenting in my Hub.

Every year, it seems there is more and more interest in revivals. Like you, I'm glad there is renewed interest in the *classic* musicals and plays.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi Daisy, I loved reading about the Tony Awards and I noticed one of my favorite films of all times in the 1947 category, Brigadoon! loved that film and watch it whenever it comes on TV. And Finians Rainbow! makes me want to watch that one again too. Really interesting, and voted up! nell


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nell (or Melanie, as the case may be),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I'm glad that so many of the earlier productions have been made into films. Doing so helps keep the classic stories alive.


Cathy Fidelibus profile image

Cathy Fidelibus 4 years ago from NJ

Thanks for teaching me something new.

This is a very entertaining and informative hub and now I am a little bit smarter, thanks to you!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Cathy,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I try to write Hubs which are educational in a gentle sort of way. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this one.


Anil and Honey profile image

Anil and Honey 4 years ago from Kerala

This is a new aware to me thanks.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Anil and Honey,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I'm glad you learned something new from reading my Hub.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Great article Daisy!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I appreciate it.

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