The Tony Awards- A History and Fun Facts

May 31, 2017 / Blog
By Jenna Harris

With The Tony Awards approaching June 11, we're diving into the history behind this famous award show with some fun facts along the way.


By The Numbers:

This year marks The American Theatre Wing's 71st annual Tony Awards presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. 

The show with the most nominations is Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 with a whopping 12 nominations including:

  • Best Musical
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
  • Best Book of a Musical
  • Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
  • Best Scenic Design of a Musical
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical
  • Best Direction of a Musical
  • Best Choreography
  • Best Orchestrations


Following closely behind is Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler with 10 nominations. 


Miss Saigon has two nominations including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical-- Eva Noblezada. We are cheering on Eva Noblezada (who was the 2013 Blumey Awards winner for Best Actress, performed at The Jimmy Awards, made her West End debut in Miss Saigon and finally received a Tony nomination for her role in Broadway's Miss Saigon). Cheer her on with us at our free Tony Awards watch party (more info at the end of the Blog post).  


The Name:

The Tony Awards is actually named after a woman, not a man. According to the Tony Awards official website, the Tony Awards are named after "Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing." 


Antoinette Perry

The Award:

"The Tony Awards made their official debut at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947." Yet the first two years, they did not hand out awards to winners except for "a scroll... and a gold money clip (for the men) and a compact (for the women)."


 In 1949, the designers' union, United Scenic Artists, sponsored a contest to create an award. Herman Rosse won the contest with "a disk-shaped medallion featuring masks of comedy and tragedy on one side and the profile of Antoinette Perry on the other. The medallion was initiated that year at the third annual dinner. It continues to be the official Tony Award." Yes, the award also spins!

Fun Facts:

Tony Award-winning Best Plays and Best Musicals that were turned into Academy Award-winning Best Pictures include:

  • My Fair Lady (Tony, 1957; Oscar, 1964)
  • The Sound of Music (Tony 1960; Oscar 1965),
  • A Man for All Seasons (Tony, 1962; Oscar, 1966)
  • Amadeus (Tony, 1981; Oscar, 1984).

Individual who has received most Tony Awards:

Harold Prince - 21 Tony Awards

Longest-running Best Musical:

The Phantom of the Opera (1988 -present)

Theatre that housed the most Tony-winning Best Plays and Best Musicals:

Richard Rodgers Theatre with 11 shows

Performers with the most Tony Awards:

Audra McDonald – 6 Tony Awards


Julie Harris – 6 including one Special Tony Award


Now that you know some history about the Tony Awards, join your fellow theater lovers at our FREE Tony Awards watch party June 11 at McGlohon Theater. Doors open at 7:00p.m. and there will be free snacks and drinks, prizes and more! For more information, click here.