In 1947, the originating committee devised a voting system whose eligible voters were members of the board of the American Theatre Wing, representing management, and the performer and craft unions of the entertainment field. In 1954, voting eligibility was expanded to include theatre professionals who were not members of the American Theatre Wing. Today the system has been further enlarged. Persons eligible to vote for winners of the Tony Awards, besides the board of directors of the American Theatre Wing and its Advisory Board, are members of the governing boards of Actors' Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, United Scenic Artists and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers; those persons whose names appear on the first night press list; members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America; and certain active members of the The Broadway League. There are approximately 725 Tony voters.
The Tony, named in honor of Antoinette Perry, remains one of the theatre's most coveted awards and is annually bestowed on professionals for "distinguished achievement" in the theatre. When Antoinette Perry died on June 28, 1946 at the age of 58, many people who knew her were determined that she not be forgotten. As chairman of the board and secretary of the American Theatre Wing throughout World War II, Antoinette Perry insisted on perfection and high standards of quality. Her dedication and tireless efforts to broaden the scope of theatre through the many programs of the American Theatre Wing affected thousands of people.
The 2012 Tony Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris,attracted what’s believed to be the franchise’s smallest audience on record. Only about 6 million people tuned in.
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).
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.
By winning the Tony for best actress in a play, Phylicia Rashad became the first black actress to win a Tony for a dramatic leading role in " A Raisin in the Sun."
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.
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.
An American Theatre Wing committee that Brock Pemberton formed decided that any memorial honoring the recently deceased Antoinette Perry should not be a structure or a monument "but take the form of annual awards that would be a living and self-renewing memorial." The awards were to be "by theatre people, for theatre people."
The first Tony Awards were held on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947, at a 9 PM dinner dance in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria with 1,200 members of the Broadway family attending. Tickets were $7.50, including tax.