We love musicals and we love the Tony Awards, which are typically aired in the summer. Still, some folks celebrate “Christmas in July” so we are celebrating the Tony Awards in the Winter. Here is a list of some of our favorite Tony Award winning musicals!
1. The Sound of Music
We have gone over the classic love story between would-be nun Maria and the father of the children she governs, Captain VonTrapp, many times in this blog. Yet, just as we love to watch it repeatedly, this a story that never grows old for us.
It is based on the true-life love story of Maria von Trapp and her husband Captain von Trapp who had seven children from a previous marriage. The real family barely escaped the Nazi regime as they took over Austria. The VonTrapp family this story was based on were, in fact, singers.
Utilizing Maria’s memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Rodgers and Hammerstein, penned a musical that has become the story of legend. The songs are recognizable by most people, old and young. With tunes like “Edelweiss”, “Do-Re-Mi”, and the title track “The Sound of Music” this musical is the textbook version of a classic.
The original Broadway production of this musical premiered at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1959 and moved one time to the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1962, after giving nearly fifteen hundred performances. That year The Sound of Music received four Tony Awards.
2. My Fair Lady
Based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, who is a poor working class woman who speaks with a cockney accent. Professor Henry Higgins attempts to prove to his friend Colonel Pickering that he can change this low-class creature to thing of beauty and high-class, and, he insists, no one would know the difference. They go through a series of tests and lessons and although it seems like Eliza will never learn how to present herself as a cultured member of high society, she does.
She fools them all and Henry Higgins takes all the credit without ever acknowledging all the work Eliza did to change herself. She is heartbroken at his selfishness but still realizes that she loves him. Eliza is courted by a suitor who would most likely treat her with more respect and dignity than Henry Hill could muster for anyone, let alone a lowly flower girl.
Still, Eliza chooses to return to Professor Hill instead of marrying the young man that has fallen in love with her. Eliza realizes that even though a marriage to the young man would mean security and a new life, she doesn’t care. Eliza would rather stay with her abusive instructor.
In 1957 My Fair Lady was nominated for ten Tony Awards taking home six including Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Rex Harrison), Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Choreography.
Originally a movie by John Waters this story tells the tale of Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teeny bopper in the sixties right as the civil rights movement begins. Tracy lives in Baltimore and goes to school with her friend Penny. Corny Collins hosts the hottest dance show on local television and the stars of the show are Amber VonTussle and Link Larkin.
They announce that the Corny Collins Show is looking for new talent and Tracy convinces Penny to skip school with her and audition. At the audition Tracy “wows” everyone but Amber and her mother Velma, who is the producer of the show. Meanwhile, a racist theme emerges when we realize that not only are the dancers primarily white kids, the black teens are only allowed one day dubbed “Negro Day” and the white groups keep stealing their songs.
Tracy, Link, and Penny become friends with the black teens and decide it’s time to take a stand. The Corny Collins show will be integrated! Link backs out but Tracy refuses. She becomes a fugitive from the police and goes into hiding. Still, her sense of right and wrong over power her fear and Tracy shows up on the Corny Collins show with new hair and a message.
Not only did Hairspray win the several Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score, it was also presented with The Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Book of a Musical, and Outstanding Music. The London production won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Set in 1931 Berlin, Brian Roberts, a Cambridge University student moves there to further his study of the German language. His plans are to teach English while he supports himself. While living inexpensively he becomes friends with another American Sally Bowles.
Bowles is a fun and outrageous woman who sings at the local and quite risky Kit Kat Club. The style of the venue is cabaret, hence the title. Brian gets sucked into her world and she tries to seduce him but Brian is homosexual who hasn’t been with a man yet. They still have a love affair.
Next, we have Fritz Wendel, who is poor and has no other desire than to live off rich women for the rest of his life. He befriends Natalia, who is an heir to a fortune, and he tries to woo her for her money. Ironically he falls in love with her but she rejects him because she suspects his motives. Natalia is also Jewish and cannot see past his religious leanings.
Nominated for eleven Tony Awards in 1967, Cabaret won eight of them including Best Musical and Best Original Score.
5. Guys and Dolls
Nathan Detroit is a New York City hoodlum who hosts a traveling crap game for all the other street folk. Unfortunately, this time, he doesn’t have the “cool grand” he needs to get a new game going or a place to hold it. While dealing with that stress he has his fourteen-year girlfriend Adelaide hounding him to get married. What’s a musical hoodlum to do?
His buddy Sky Masterson, is in town looking for some action. Sky is known to take on any bet so Nathan says that he, Sky, can’t take a woman of Nathan’s choosing to Cuba for dinner that night. Sky, loving the challenge accepts the bet for one thousand dollars. To Sky’s dismay, Nathan picks Sarah Brown, the head of the local mission who continually tries to save sinners.
Sky, to win his bet with Nathan, proposes to Sarah that if she were to go to Cuba with him he would fill her mission with sinners. He does this when learning that the higher ups are threatening to shut her down due to low attendance. She agrees and they go.
Meanwhile, Nathan is disappointed in losing the bet especially because he doesn’t have the thousand dollars to pay his debt to Sky. He decides to hold his musical traveling crap game in the mission while they are gone.
When in Cuba Sky and Sarah fall in love, but she finds out about the crap game when they return and she blames Sky.
Premiering on Broadway in 1950 this musical had a long run with 1200 shows performed. The next year Guys and Dolls was nominated for five Tony Awards and won them all which included Best Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Direction of a Musical.
Now learn more about these four musical shows that pushed the boundaries of the musical theatre industry!