TONY TALK #4: The History of... The Tony Awards!

The most glamorous night in the American theatre calendar is the Tony Awards and this year is the 70th anniversary of the Tony Awards, being held this year at the Beacon Theatre. But the Tony Awards haven't always been that way. From 1997 to 2010, the ceremony was held annually at Radio City Music Hall, except from in 1999 when it was held at the Gershwin Theatre instead.

The ceremony was held at the Beacon Theatre - where it will be held tonight - in both 2011 and 2012 before returning to Radio City for a further three years. The awards ceremony has been televised live on American television since 1967 when it was held at the Shubert Theatre and presented by Mary Martin. Before that, the show was broadcast live on radio apart from the 11th and 12th ceremonies in 1957 and 1958 respectively. Interestingly, the ceremony was always a small affair in a hotel until it was televised in 1967 and started being held in Broadway theatres. This changed in 1997 when it started to be held at Radio City, which is not a Broadway theatre.

If you're wondering where the name "Tony Award" comes from, it's named after co-founder of the American Theatre Wing Antoinette Perry, who passed in 1946, the year before the first Tony Awards were held. The reason the awards were nicknamed the Tonys was because Antoinette was also nicknamed Tony and when the first award was handed out, it was nicknamed a "Tony Award" by accident and the name stuck. For the first two years of the awards, the winners received "a scroll, a cigarette lighter and articles of jewellery such as 14-carat gold compacts and bracelets for the women, and money clips for the men". It wasn't until 1949 that the first medallion was awarded to a winner.
In 2014, Audra McDonald because the most Tony-lauded actor in history with a total of six Tony Awards
Awards are given to performers and other specific people, apart from in the Best Show categories. In those categories, the author of the show and two of the leading producers are given awards for free. From there on in, all other members of the "above the title" production team have the option to buy an award. For the past few years, this fee has been around $2,500. 

The awards have also seen many milestones and records be set over the years. This year, Hamilton became the most Tony-nominated show in Broadway history with 16 nominations, narrowly beating out Billy Elliot and The Producers who previously held 15 nominations each. When it comes to most wins for a show, The Producers won 12 awards in 2001. This is a hard feat to beat as, without ties, a musical can now only win a possible 13 awards which seems difficult for Hamilton to do as it would have to win in every single category it is nominated in and The Color Purple's Cynthia Erivo seems to be standing in the way of that happening.
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick star in The Producers, the most Tony-winning show in history
In history, only South Pacific, Sweeney Todd and Hairspray have managed to win the "big six" awards: Best Musical, Best Book, Best Lyrics, Leading Actor, Leading Actress and Best Director. Harold Prince has the most Tony Awards to his name with 21 under his belt, while Audra McDonald has the most acting awards under hers with 6. In 2014, she also became the first and only person in history to have won a Tony Award in every acting category she possibly could. In a similar way, the original production of South Pacific remains to be the only show in history have won the acting award in all four possible categories.

The Tony Awards always have been and always will be the highlight of the Broadway calendar. Be it the glamour they exude, the performances they give us or the random facts they give me the ability to crack out, I will forever love them and aspire to be a part of their fantastic history.

Today is Tonys Day! You can read my essay on diversity on Broadway, my first "Tony Talk" post on cast albums from this season, my second one on snubs at the Tonys 2016 and my third one on the top 10 best Tonys performances of all time right now.

No comments