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NYC Broadway, Theater & Tony Award History

Tony Awards New York City Broadway and Theater Awards
Boradway, New York City

Broadway. One of the most evocative words of the English language: bright lights,
music, dancing, intrigue, excitement!
From Broadway's humble beginnings as an Algonquin trade route, to being coined "The Great White Way," New York City's Broadway is a world renowned phenomenon, attracting more than 11.5 million theater-goers annually to marvel at its musical and theatrical performances. Broadway is teeming with a rich and fascinating history.

Enjoy some fun and interesting facts about NYC Broadway and theater, and the prestigious Tony® award!
  • The Tony award, formally the "Antoinette Perry Award," is named in honor of Antoinette Perry, chairman of the board and secretary of the American Theatre Wing throughout World War II. During the first two years of the Tonys (1947-1948), there was no official Tony award; the winners were presented with a scroll and either a cigarette lighter for the men or a compact for the women. In 1949 a medallion depicting the masks of comedy and tragedy on one side and the profile of Antoinette Perry on the other became the official Tony Award. More Tony Award history and trivia
  • Broadway began as an Algonquin trade route called the Wiechquaekeck Trail. Named Heere Straat (High Street) by the Dutch, it was one of two main roads leading north and became an important route linking NY Harbor with upstate NY. 
  • The Playhouse on Broadway was one of the first theaters on Broadway; it opened in the 1730s in lower Manhattan, between Beaver and Exchange Place.
  • The New York Broadway theater district stretches from West 40th Street to West 54th Street, between 6th Avenue and 9th Avenue. 
  • A "Broadway Theater" must have a seating capacity of 500 seats or more, while an Off Broadway theater generally has100-499 seats. Off Off Broadway theaters have fewer than 100 seats.
  • There are only four theaters actually situated on Broadway: The Marquis (46th Street), The Palace (47th Street), The Winter Garden (50th Street) and The Broadway (53rd Street).
  • Most New York City Broadway theaters omit the row "I" in their seating to avoid confusion with the number one. (On a side note, Yankees Stadium skips rows I, O and Q.)
  • Broadway theaters were among the first to wow crowds by using electric bulbs on signs and one theory is that the bright lighting earned Broadway the nickname, “The Great White Way.”
  • The Booth Theatre was named in memory of one of America’s greatest 19th century classical and Shakespearean actors, Edwin Booth (brother of Abraham Lincoln assassin, John Wilkes Booth). In 1864-65 he set a record by giving 100 performances as Hamlet. In 1864 he appeared as Julius Caesar with his brothers John Wilkes and Junius Brutus Booth, Jr.. He donated his home at 16 Gramercy Park South to the Players Club, which he founded. Modeled after London's famed Garrick Club, The Players Club was the first American "gentleman's club" of its kind, created to promote the social and intellectual interactions between men of the theatrical arts and men from other artistic genres. A statue of Booth was erected in 1918 in Gramercy Park, opposite the Players Club.
  • Mae West’s 1926 play Sex, the story of a Montreal prostitute, ran for a year before New York's deputy police commissioner charged the theater company with lewdness and the corruption of youth. She spent 10 days in jail.
  • The first nude Broadway musical was Hair, which opened in 1968 and ran 1750 performances. A year later Oh, Calcutta! debuted on Broadway. In 1976, a revival of Oh, Calcutta! lasted 13 years, briefly becoming the longest running play in Broadway history, running 5959 performances.
  • In 1912 New York City theaters became desegregated.
  • Dustin Hoffman made his Broadway debut in 1961 in A Cook for Mr. General. He studied to become a concert pianist before pursuing a career in theater. In NYC he shared an apartment with Gene Hackman and studied at the Actor’s Studio while working as a janitor and an attendant in a mental hospital.
  • The Actors’ Equity contract was signed on September 6, 1991 after an actors strike right before curtain call lasted almost a month. Actors were angered about their unfair working conditions - rehearsals were unpaid and unlimited.
  • The original production of The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, was the premier performance at the Majestic Theatre on January 21, 1903; it ran for 293 performances.
  • Economically the 1920s were a peak for theater and the 1927-28 season is the most successful in the history of NYC theater: 264 shows opened in 76 Broadway theaters.
  • When Damon Runyon, sports writer turned reporter, died in 1946, his ashes were scattered over Times Square from a plane high above the Great White Way. The 1950s Broadway musical Guys and Dolls was based on Runyon’s writings.
  • Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show in Broadway history, with over 9100 performances.
  • The second longest running show was Cats, which staged 7485 performances. Cats opened on Broadway in 1982, and continued to live up to its motto of playing "Now and Forever” until 2000. Cats was based on T.S. Eliot’s "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." "Memory" has been recorded by over 150 artists including Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Liberace, and Barry Manilow.
Tony Awards Facts and Trivia
  • Play productions with the most Tony nominations: Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia (2007) and August Wilson's Fences (2010 revival) – 10
  • Play production that has won the most Tony Awards: Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia (2007) – 7
  • Musical productions with the most Tony nominations: The Producers, the new Mel Brooks musical (2001) and Billy Elliot, The Musical (2009) – 15
  • Musical production that has won the most Tonys: The Producers, the new Mel Brooks musical (2001) – 12
  • Musical revival with most Tony Awards: South Pacific (2008) – 7
  • Musical revival with most Tony nominations: Kiss Me, Kate (2000) – 12
  • Performer with most Tony nominations: Julie Harris – 10
  • Performers with the most Tony Awards: Audra McDonald - 6; Julie Harris – 6 including one Special Tony Award; Angela Lansbury – 5
  • Individual who has received most Tony Awards: Harold Prince – 21
  • Composer with most Tony Awards: Stephen Sondheim – 8
  • Choreographer with most Tony Awards: Bob Fosse – 8 (plus one for direction)
  • Host of most Tony Awards telecasts: Angela Lansbury – 5
  • Longest-running Best Musical: The Phantom of the Opera (1988 - )
  • Theatre that housed the most Tony-winning Best Plays and Best Musicals: Richard Rodgers Theatre – 10
  • Number of ties in Tony history – 10
  • Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy The Coast of Utopia (2007) earned seven Tony Awards, more than any other play in Tony history. It also received a record 10 nominations, tied with the 2010 revival of August Wilson's Fences for the most nominations for a play production. 
  • The Producers, the new Mel Brooks musical (2001) and Billy Elliot, The Musical (2009) share the record as the most-nominated productions in Tony history, with 15. The Producers is also the most-winning show, triumphing in 12 categories including Best Musical. The three awards it didn't win were due to its multiple nominations in acting categories. Billy Elliot won 10.
  •  Harold Prince has earned more Tony Awards than anyone else (21 awards), including eight for directing, eight for producing, two as producer of the year's Best Musical, and three special Tony Awards. 
  • Stephen Sondheim has received eight Tony Awards, more than any other composer. He has won seven times: Best Music and Best Lyrics for Company (1971); and Best Score for Follies (1972), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Into the Woods (1988) and Passion (1994). His eighth honor was a 2008 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. 
  • Bob Fosse is the choreographer with the most Tony Awards, with an unprecedented eight Tony Awards for choreography, as well as one for direction. Choreography: The Pajama Game (1955), Damn Yankees (1956), Redhead (1959), Little Me (1963), Sweet Charity (1966), Pippin (1973), Dancin' (1978), and Big Deal (1986). Direction: Pippin (1973). 
  • Angela Lansbury has hosted or co-hosted more Tony telecasts than any other individual, with five telecasts (1968, 1971, 1987, 1988, and 1989). In second place, with four telecasts each, are Neil Patrick Harris (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013) and Hugh Jackman (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2014).
  • Jason Robards Jr. received more Tony Award nominations than any other male actor. His eight nominations were for Long Day's Journey Into Night (1957), The Disenchanted (1959), Toys in the Attic (1960), After the Fall (1964), Hughie (1965), The Country Girl (1972), A Moon for the Misbegotten (1974), and A Touch of the Poet (1978). Out of all of those nominations, he only won one Tony Award, for The Disenchanted.
  • Boyd Gaines and Raúl Esparza are the only men to have been nominated in all four performance categories in which an actor may be eligible: Best Actor in a Play, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Play, and Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Three women have been nominated in all four corresponding performance categories: Angela Lansbury, Jan Maxwell, and Audra McDonald.
  • The revival that won the most Tony Awards was South Pacific (2008), with seven. Kiss Me, Kate (2000) received 12 nominations, the most for any revival, but it only won five Tonys.
  • The musical that fared most poorly on Tony night was The Scottsboro Boys in 2011. The show received 12 nominations but won no awards.
  • The play that fared the worst on Tony night was Indiscretions (1995), which won no awards despite having received nine nominations. 
  • The Best Musical with the longest Broadway run to date is the 1988 winner, The Phantom of the Opera, which opened on January 26, 1988 and is still going strong. 
  • Michael Blakemore is the only director to win Tony Awards as Best Director of a Play and Best Director of a Musical in the same year. He won for Copenhagen (play) and Kiss Me, Kate (musical) in 2000. 
  • Bob Fosse was the only director to win a Tony, an Oscar, and an Emmy in the same year (1973). He won two Tonys (direction and choreography) for Pippin, an Oscar for Cabaret and an Emmy for "Liza with a Z." 
  • Mike Nichols has won more Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play than any other individual. His six nods were for Barefoot in the Park (1964), Luv and The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972), The Real Thing (1984), and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (2012). He has also won in other categories for directing the musical Monty Python's Spamalot (2005), and for producing Annie (1977) and The Real Thing (1984). That makes a total of nine Tonys.
  • Three pairs of performers have shared a single nomination for playing separate roles. Donal Donnelly and Patrick Bedford were jointly nominated as Best Actor for Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1966). John Kani and Winston Ntshona won jointly as Best Actor in a Play for the double bill Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island (1975). Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley (playing a set of Siamese twins) were nominated as Best Actress in a Musical for Side Show (1998).
  • Lauri Peters shared a single 1960 nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical with Kathy Dunn, Evanna Lien, Mary Susan Locke, and Marilyn Rogers-and two boys, William Snowden, and Joseph Stewart. They played various younger Von Trapp children in the original production of The Sound of Music.
  • David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish are the only performers to have jointly won a Tony Award for their alternating performances of a single role: the title character of Billy Elliot, The Musical (2009).
  • Amanda Plummer is the only Tony Award winner whose parents have both won Tonys. She won as Best Featured Actress in a Play for Agnes of God (1982). Her father, Christopher Plummer, won as Best Actor in a Musical for Cyrano (1974) and Best Actor in a Play for Barrymore (1997). Her mother, Tammy Grimes, won as Featured Actress in a Musical for The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1961) and Best Actress in a Play for Private Lives (1970). 
  • Five actresses have won a Tony and an Oscar in the same year. Shirley Booth won a Tony for The Time of the Cuckoo and an Oscar for Come Back, Little Sheba (1953). Audrey Hepburn won a Tony for Ondine and an Oscar for Roman Holiday (1954). Ellen Burstyn won a Tony for Same Time, Next Year and an Oscar for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1975). Mercedes Ruehl won a Tony for Lost in Yonkers and an Oscar for The Fisher King (1991). Judi Dench won a Tony for Amy's View and an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love (1999).
  • Audra McDonald has won six Tony Awards for performance, more than any other individual. She is the only person to have won Tony Awards in four different acting categories. Julie Harris also earned six Tony Awards. She won five competitive awards for performance, and received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
  • Boyd Gaines is the male performer with the most Tony Awards in acting categories. He has won four to date, for The Heidi Chronicles (Featured Actor in a Play, 1989); She Loves Me (Lead Actor in a Musical, 1994); Contact (Featured Actor in a Musical, 2000); and Gypsy (Featured Actor in a Musical, 2008).
  • Angela Lansbury and Gwen Verdon have each won four Tony Awards in the musical categories, more than any other actress. Ms. Lansbury won for Mame (1966), Dear World (1969), Gypsy (1975), and Sweeney Todd (1979). She earned a fifth Tony for her work in the Noël Coward play Blithe Spirit in 2009. Ms. Verdon won for Can-Can (1954), Damn Yankees (1956), New Girl in Town (1958) and Redhead (1959). 
  • Eight performers have won the Tony and later the Oscar for the same role: José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac (Tony: 1947/Oscar: 1950), Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba (1950/1953), Yul Brynner in The King and I (1952/1956), Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1957/1964), Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker (1960/1962), Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons (1962/1966), Jack Albertson in The Subject Was Roses (1965/1968) and Joel Grey in Cabaret (1967/1973). Lila Kedrova did it the other way around. She won an Oscar for Zorba the Greek, and 20 years later won a Tony for the same role in Zorba (1964 Oscar/1984 Tony).
  • The Tony Award-winning play with the longest title was The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (1966). That's 151 letters, 26 words, 44 syllables (and four Tonys). It was known as Marat/Sade for short.
  • The Tony Award-winning play with the shortest title was Da (1978).
  • Five actors in Tony history have been nominated in two different performance categories in the same year.
    • Amanda Plummer was the first in 1982, when she was nominated as Best Actress in a Play for A Taste of Honey and Best Featured Actress in a Play for Agnes of God. She won for Agnes of God.
    • Dana Ivey made history in 1984 for being nominated for her work in both a play and a musical. She was nominated as Best Featured Actress in a Play for Heartbreak House and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Sunday in the Park with George. She didn't win in either category.
    • Neither did Kate Burton, who was nominated in 2002 as Best Actress in a Play for Hedda Gabler and Best Featured Actress in a Play for The Elephant Man.
    • Jan Maxwell was nominated twice in 2010, as Best Actress in a Play for The Royal Family and as Beat Featured Actress in a Play for Lend Me a Tenor.
    • Mark Rylance snagged two nominations in 2014, for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (featured) and Richard III (lead). He won for Twelfth Night.
  • Ben Vereen and Patina Miller are the only pair of individuals of different genders to win a Tony Award for portraying the same character. They were honored for their performances as "Leading Player" in Pippin, he in 1973 for the original Broadway production (Best Actor in a Musical); she for the 2013 revival (Best Actress in a Musical).
  • Three sets of family members have been nominated for Tonys in the same category in the same year: Richard Rodgers and daughter Mary Rodgers were both nominated as the composer of the Best Musical in 1960; he for The Sound of Music and she for Once Upon a Mattress. He won. Lynn Redgrave and niece Natasha Richardson were both nominated for Best Actress in a Play in 1993; Ms. Redgrave for Shakespeare for My Father and Ms. Richardson for Anna Christie. Jennifer Ehle and her mother, Rosemary Harris, were both nominated for Best Actress in a Play in 2000. Ms. Ehle won for her performance in The Real Thing. Harris had appeared in Waiting in the Wings
  • Adam Guettel is the only Tony winner who is both the grandson of another winner and the son of a Tony nominee. Guettel earned two Tonys in 2005: Best Score and Best Orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza. His grandfather, Richard Rodgers, won six Tonys as a composer and producer of such shows as South Pacific, The King and I, No Strings, and The Sound of Music. He also received three Special Tony Awards. Guettel's mother, Mary Rodgers-Richard's daughter-is a 1960 Tony nominee as the composer of Once Upon a Mattress
  • Only one cast replacement has ever been nominated for a Tony Award in a competitive category. Larry Kert was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Company (1971). Dean Jones originated the role (and can be heard on the cast album) but left the production soon after the opening. 
  • Tommy Tune and Harvey Fierstein are the only individuals to receive Tony Awards in four different categories. Tune received Tonys as Best Actor in a Musical (My One and Only), Best Featured Actor in a Musical Seesaw), Best Choreography (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, My One and Only, Grand Hotel: The Musical, and The Will Rogers Follies), and Best Director of a Musical (Nine, Grand Hotel: The Musical, and The Will Rogers Follies). Fierstein received Tonys as Best Actor and as the author of the Best Play for Torch Song Trilogy; he also won as the author of the Best Book of a Musical (La Cage aux Folles) and Best Actor in a Musical (Hairspray). 
  • The Tony Awards ceremony has been presented at the Shubert Theatre eight times, more than at any other Broadway house.
  • The Richard Rodgers Theatre (formerly the 46th Street Theatre) has housed the most Tony Award-winning Best Plays and Best Musicals: 10, including Guys and Dolls (1951), Damn Yankees (1956), Redhead (1959), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1962), 1776 (1969), Raisin (1974), Nine (1982), Fences (1987), Lost in Yonkers (1991), and In The Heights (2008). 
  • Passion (1994) was the Tony Award winning Best Musical with the shortest run (280 performances), and Rags (1987) was the Tony-nominated Best Musical with the fewest regular performances (it closed after only four). 
  • Oliver Smith is the scenic designer with the most Tony Awards. He collected eight Tonys, all within a nine-year period: My Fair Lady (1957), West Side Story (1958), The Sound of Music (1960), Becket (1961), Camelot (1961), Hello, Dolly! (1964) and Baker Street (1965), as well as a special Tony Award (1965). 
  • Jules Fisher has won nine Tony Awards, more than any other lighting designer. He won for Pippin (1973), Ulysses in Nighttown (1974), Dancin' (1978), Grand Hotel: the Musical (1990), The Will Rogers Follies (1991), Jelly's Last Jam (1992), and, with Peggy Eisenhauer, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk (1996), Assassins (2004), and Lucky Guy (2013). He has received a total of 20 nominations as a lighting designer and one as a producer, of Dancin’.
  • There have been a number of ties in Tony Awards history, including:
    • Actress in a Musical (1958): Gwen Verdon, New Girl in Town and Thelma Ritter, New Girl in Town
    • Musical (1960): The Sound of Music and Fiorello!
    • Actress in a Musical (1962): Anna Maria Alberghetti, Carnival! and Diahann Carroll, No Strings
    • Actress in a Musical (1968): Patricia Routledge, Darling of the Day and Leslie Uggams, Hallelujah, Baby!
    • Costume Design (1977): Theoni V. Aldredge, Annie and Santo Loquasto, The Cherry Orchard
    • Actress in a Play (1979): Constance Cummings, Wings and Carole Shelley, The Elephant Man
    • Scenic Design (1980): John Lee Beatty, Talley's Folly and David Mitchell, Barnum
    • Score (1993): John Kander/Fred Ebb, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Pete Townshend, The Who's Tommy
    • Orchestrations (2009): Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical and Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal
  • Dolores Gray performed the shortest-lived Tony Award-winning role. She won a Tony Award for her performance in Carnival in Flanders (1953), a musical that ran only six performances.
  • Some of the husbands-and-wife couples who have both won Tony Awards:
    • Hume Cronyn won for featured actor in a play for Hamlet (1964). His wife, Jessica Tandy, won three Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Play: for A Streetcar Named Desire (1948), The Gin Game (1978), and Foxfire 1983.
    • Phyllis Newman won for Best Actress in a Musical for Subways Are for Sleeping (1962). Her husband, Adolph Green, won Tony Awards for the book and/or lyrics for Wonderful Town (1953), Hallelujah, Baby! (1968), Applause (1970), On The Twentieth Century (1978), and The Will Rogers Follies (1991).
    • Actress Anne Bancroft won Tony Awards for Two for the Seesaw (1958) and The Miracle Worker (1960). Her husband, Mel Brooks, won three Tonys in 2001 for The Producers, the new Mel Brooks musical. He took home medallions for Best Book of a Musical, Best Score, and Best Musical (as a producer).
    • In 1996, Zoe Caldwell won the Tony (her fourth) as Best Actress in a Play for her work in Master Class. The production was honored as that year's Best Play, which earned her husband, Robert Whitehead, his third Tony Award, as one of its producers.
    • Director, choreographer, and nine-time Tony-winner Bob Fosse was married to four-time Best Actress in a Musical winner Gwen Verdon.
  • Twin brothers Peter Shaffer and the late Anthony Shaffer both won Tony Awards in the Best Play category. Anthony was honored for Sleuth (1971). Peter earned Tony Awards for Equus (1975) and Amadeus (1981). 
  • The only one-person play to win the Best Play Tony Award was I Am My Own Wife by Douglas Wright (2004). Its star, Jefferson Mays, also won a Tony that year, as Best Actor in a Play. 
  • 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), and Amadeus (Tony, 1981; Oscar, 1984). Though they were both based on the same notorious shipwreck, the 1997 Best Musical Titanic is not otherwise connected with the film of the same title that won the Best Picture award in the same year. The original Broadway production of Chicago didn't win any Tony Awards in 1976, but in 1997 a new production won the Tony as Best Revival, and an Oscar-winning Best Picture followed in 2002.
  • Only a few artists have won all four of the entertainment industry's top competitive honors: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. The list of these multi-talented "EGOTs" includes:
    • Performers John Gielgud, Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, and Rita Moreno
    • Director Mike Nichols
    • Composers Robert Lopez (won daytime Emmys), Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch
    • Orchestrator Jonathan Tunick
    • Performer/writer/composer/producer Mel Brooks
    • Performer/Producer Whoopi Goldberg (won daytime Emmys)
    • Producer Scott Rudin
    • James Earl Jones, Liza Minnelli, and Barbra Streisand have each won three of these awards and received a special, non-competitive version of the fourth.
    • Andrew Lloyd Webber has won Tony, Oscar, and Grammy Awards, while his production company, Really Useful Films, has received an International Emmy Award.
  • Barbara Cook received her first Tony Award and nomination in 1958, for creating the role of Marian (the Librarian) Paroo in The Music Man. She was next nominated in 2010 for her performance in Sondheim on Sondheim. That’s a 52-year gap, the longest any individual has had to wait between nominations (though in the interim, she starred in the 2002 revue Barbara Cook in Mostly Sondheim, which earned a nomination as Best Special Theatrical Event for the show’s producers). Cook beat out Jane Fonda, who received her first nomination in 1960 and her second 49 years later, in 2009.
  • Past Tony-winners Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy were both Tony-nominated in 2007 for playing a pair of past Tony-winners. They starred in the musical LoveMusik, in which Cerveris played composer Kurt Weill (Best Score for Street Scene in 1947) and Murphy portrayed his wife, performer Lotte Lenya (Featured Actress in a Musical for Threepenny Opera, 1956).
  • The only play to have won a Best Revival Tony in two different productions is Death of a Salesman, in 1984 and 1999. In addition, the original production of Arthur Miller's drama won the Best Play award in 1949.
  • Tickets to the first Tony Awards ceremony in 1947 cost $7.00 each. Given the event's overwhelming success, the price shot up the very next year, to $10.
  • The first Tony ceremony began with supper at 9:00 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Entertainment and dancing continued until midnight, at which time the awards were announced live over the radio.
  • The Tony Award itself is a disk-shaped silver medallion with the masks of comedy and tragedy on one side and the profile of Antoinette Perry on the other. Since 1967 the medallion has been mounted on a curved armature atop a black pedestal.

    Tony Awards Trivia courtesy of

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