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Ten Major Milestones in Tony Award History

Written by Tatiana Rodriguez

June 5, 2017

The Tony Awards have been a unique and important part of Broadway history for over seventy years. Throughout its evolution, it has grown to be one of the most diverse and inclusive award platforms produced on national television. Here are some of the major milestones featured on the Tony Awards stage.

1. Mary Martin

Mary Martin was the first performer to win an award for playing a character of the opposite sex as the title role of Peter Pan (1955), winning Best Lead Actress in a Musical. Since her performance, only four other actors have won awards for playing characters of the opposite sex in a show.

2. Julie Harris

Julie Harris was the first actor to win 6 Tony Awards (including one Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement) in her career. Her record was recently tied in 2014, by Audra McDonald for most individual Tony Awards won by a performer.

3. Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim broke the record for Composer with the most Tony Awards, receiving 8 total over the course of his career. Some of his awarded work includes A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963), Company (1971), Into the Woods (1988), and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement (2008).

4. Ben Vereen and Patina Miller

Ben Vereen and Patina Miller each won, respectively, Best Actor in a Musical in 1972 and Best Actress in a Musical in 2013 for the role of the Leading Player in Pippin. This was the first time the same role has been won by both a male and female in a Broadway production.

5. Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera holds the record for performer with the most Tony Awards nomination, with 10 nominations, ranging from her first nomination in 1961 for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Bye Bye Birdie, to her most recent nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for The Visit.

6. Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper became the first female to solely win a Tony Award for Best Score for Kinky Boots in 2013.

7. Death of a Salesman

Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller became the first show to win Best Production in four different years. Best Play at the 1949 awards, Best Revival at the 1984 awards (before the award was split into two separate categories for Play and Musical), and Best Revival of a Play at the 1999 and 2012 awards.

8. Fun Home

Fun Home became the first ever show written entirely by women to win the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was written by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori and was based on source material written by Alison Bechdel.

9. Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald was the fifth performer nominated for all four acting categories, and was the first performer to win all four categories, winning Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel (1994) and Ragtime (1998), Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for Master Class (1996) and A Raisin in the Sun (2004), Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Porgy and Bess (2012), and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (2014).


Tatiana Rodriguez is a student and a writer, currently studying at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is working to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Theater, as well as a certificate in Multicultural Theater Practice. She is a stage manager, a playwright, and an aspiring director.
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