Televising the Tony Awards

Originally, the Tony Awards ceremony was broadcast over WOR radio and The Mutual Network. 1956 was the first year the awards ceremony was televised, but only locally on the DuMont Television Network. Since 1967, the ceremony has been broadcast nationally, in a live program including songs, video clips, and presentations associated with the nominees. With…

Originally, the Tony Awards ceremony was broadcast over WOR radio and The Mutual Network. 1956 was the first year the awards ceremony was televised, but only locally on the DuMont Television Network. Since 1967, the ceremony has been broadcast nationally, in a live program including songs, video clips, and presentations associated with the nominees. With the exception of the 1999 ceremony held at the Gershwin Theater, since 1997, the ceremony has been broadcast live on CBS from New York's Radio City Music Hall, usually during the first week of June.

Until 1978, the broadcast had aired on various television networks from year to year, but beginning then, the Tonys made CBS their home network. For the first six years, however, CBS partnered with PBS for the latter station to broadcast the first ten awards during the first hour of the ceremony, with the remaining two hour broadcast taking place on CBS. The partnership continued until 2003, when CBS finally allocated an entire 3 hour time slot to the ceremony, allowing for an uninterrupted presentation.

In 1997, the awards ceremony shifted away from its Broadway locale, and was broadcast from the 6000-seat Radio City Music Hall for the first time, which not only enabled the ceremony to welcome cast and crew for each nominated show, but also to invite members of the general public as attendants, The Tonys have been held there ever since, with the exception of 2009, when the hall was closed for renovations.

Typically, the number of viewers for the Tony Awards do not match the viewership of the comparable ceremonies for film, television, or music, despite being considered the highest honor rewarded in American theater. Neverheless, CBS treasures its position as home of the telecast, as the wealthy, intelligent, affluent audience that the Tony Awards show does draw is highly valued by the premium advertisers who appreciate the upscale viewers, thus dominating the expensive advertising slots offered through the broadcast . Corresponding to this upscale audience, the glamorous mask trophies are a step above the standard crystal award .

There are certain notable Tony Award record breakers.

• The record-holder for the most Tony Awards won is Harold Prince, with 21 honors during the course of his theater career: eight for Best Direction, eight for Best Production, two for Best Musical, and three special Tony Awards.

• Stephen Sondheim held the record for the most Tony Awards won of any composer, with eight to his name.

• Bob Fosse holds the record for the most Tony Awards won of any choreographer, with eight.

• Angela Lansbury is the only actress in the history of the Tony Awards to be nominated in all four performance awards: Best Actress in a Musical (for Mame in 1966, Dear World in1969, Gypsy in 1975, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 1979), Best Actress in a Play (for Deuce in 2007), Best Featured Actress in a Play (for Blithe Spirit in 2009), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (for A Little Night Music in 2010). She is also tied with Julie Harris for the most total wins for performance Tony Awards, of which they both have five.

• Thus far, in Tony Awards history, the musical to receive the most Tony Awards has been The Producers, winning twelve awards out of its fifteen nominations in the 2001 ceremony, the prized Best Musical award among them. The Producers is also tied with Billy Elliot The Musical for the most nominations for a single musical, which also had fifteen nominations in 2009.

• The record for the greatest number of awards received by a single non-musical play goes to The Coast of Utopia, winning seven rewards, Best Play among them, in 2007.

• So far in the history of the Awards show, three musicals have won all six of the most coveted honors, (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Leading Actor, Best Actress, and Best Direction): Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in 1979; South Pacific, in 2008; and Hairspray, in 2002.

• As of 2010, the first show to win the Tony for Best Production three times is La Cage aux Folles, with its original staging winning in 1984, as well as its later versions winning in 2005 and 2010.