The Tony Awards – History and Legacy of The Biggest Prize in Musical Theater

The Tony Awards recognize outstanding performance in the live theater on Broadway. The award is presented annually at a ceremony in Midtown Manhattan. It is jointly administered and presented by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League.

History and Inception

The award was created by Brock Pemberton. It is named after the actress, producer, and theater director who received the first Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical on Broadway on July 1, 1937. 

The trophy consists of a face that is an adaptation of the comedy/tragedy mask mounted on a pewter peg with a black base. 


La Cage aux Folles made history as the first musical to win two Tony Awards for best play and best musical in the same year. Harold Prince has won 21 Tony Awards. He has more than any other actor in Broadway history, including three Best Actor in a Musical. The King also received the highest number of awards of any play of his time produced on Broadway. 

The only production to win the most Tony Awards was Coast to Utopia in 2007. It won 12 awards, including best musical. The Slave Game is one of the few non-musical pieces ever to win more awards than a musical at the Tony Awards. With 7 awards (including Best Play), it’s also the highest Tonys ever won by a non-musical act.

The record number of wins still stands today. The record for most nominations was broken in 2016 when Hamilton received 16. At the 2001 Tony Awards, they won 12 of the 15 nominations. Including the Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, and Best Director. The 12 wins set a record as the most wins in Tony history and meant they became one of the few musicals to win in all the categories for which they were nominated. They took home the awards for Best Actor, Lead Actress, Drama Desk Award, and Drama League Award. 


Audra McDonald has won the most Tony Awards for Best actress with six awards. She is also the only actress to win the statue in all four acting categories. Tommy Tune won 10 Tony Awards, including three for best actor in a musical and two for best actress for his performance in the original Broadway production of the musical “Avenue Q.” 

Two years later, she won the Best Actress in a Musical prize in 1998 for “Ragtime”. Then she won Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2004. And after that – for her performance in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Sergio Trujillo won the award for his performance in “A Raisin in the Sun” He then proceeded to win it for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “The Book of Mormons” in 2009.

The Tony Awards are the standard, the quality staple of musical theater. If you even manage to even win a nomination, then you are on the right way and glory on stage awaits you! 

And these musicals feature service men and women!

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