Few words generate more excitement than “and the winner is," and not just for the winner of whatever award is being presented.
The name that follows that phrase signifies the kind of quality and craft that is sure to guarantee that show or performance will become an audience favorite that will stand the test of time. Here are seven Tony Award-winning shows which are among the best of the best BroadwayHD has to offer.
“Billy Elliot” first warmed filmgoers’ hearts in 2000 as the film story of a young boy in a British coal mining town who falls in love with ballet and overcomes opposition to pursue his dream. But its stunning musical adaptation, with an electrifying score by the legendary Elton John and Lee Hall with sensational choreography by Peter Darling and sensitive direction by Stephen Daldry, created enough heat (and heart) on Broadway in 2008 to earn it 10 Tony Awards including one shared by the three remarkable boys who created the title role. The play ran for more than three years and garnered a standing ovation from nearly everyone who witnessed its magic.
'Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill'
By the time Lanie Robertson’s musical about the late great Billie Holiday, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” made its overdue debut on Broadway in 2014, its star, Audra McDonald, had already proved she could do anything—drama and musicals—and had five Tony Awards to show for it. But her transformation into the drunken, despondent (yet still mesmerizing) singer—a role unlike any other that McDonald had ever acted or sung onstage—was so on-the-mark, so heartbreaking, so unflinchingly intense that it was far from surprising that she earned her sixth (and now record-breaking) Tony Award.
What could be more fun for an actor than playing an unbelievably egotistical, constantly womanizing and deeply cynical actor? As the great Kevin Kline showed us in his Tony Award-winning portrayal of Garry Essendine in the 2017 revival of Noël Coward’s glorious comedy “Present Laughter,” the answer is "nothing!" Swanning around a beautiful English townhouse, sharing jabs with such top-notch co-stars as Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton and Cobie Smulders meant Kline was in peak form, wringing every laugh out of Coward’s delicious script.
'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby'
To the amazement of many theatergoers, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s two-part, nine-hour adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,” which earned the 1982 Tony Award for Best Play, was anything but a grueling marathon. Under the inventive direction of Trevor Nunn and John Caird, and featuring a truly stunning performance by Roger Rees in the title role (who also won the Tony for his work), the time practically flew by as audiences joined Nicholas on his incredible journey as he keeps his family intact after the death of his father, while fighting social injustice and personal hardship.
Wonderful, wonderful “Copenhagen”: Those words were spoken by many a theatergoer after exiting Michael Frayn’s 2000 Tony-winning best play. Yet, Denmark’s gorgeous capital city was nothing more than a backdrop for this thought-provoking yet deeply human story based on a real-life meeting between world-famous physicists Niels Bohr (and wife Margrethe) and Werner Heisenberg (played by film star Daniel Craig,) as they discuss the pros and cons of building the atomic bomb. Smart, witty and worldly-wise, “Copenhagen” has the potential to make your head explode.
'Elaine Stritch at Liberty'
If you've ever wondered if one person could command a stage for two and a half hours, with only a chair for a prop, a raspy voice and a peerless gift for storytelling, look no further than “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” which deservedly won the Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event in 2002. A deeply personal, brilliantly entertaining autobiographical reflection by one of the world’s most extraordinary actresses this solo play with music tackled everything from Stritch’s lifelong battle with alcohol to working with such fellow legends as Ethel Merman and Stephen Sondheim. It’s a very special love letter to a life in the theater, told by a very special (and much-missed) woman.
Anyone who attends the tale of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s masterful musical “Sweeney Todd,” which earned the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1979, will get everything they bargained for and more. The story of vengeful barber Sweeney Todd (Benjamin Barker) and his meat-pie-making companion Mrs. Lovett, wreaking havoc on the citizens of London, is wickedly funny yet truly terrifying. Meanwhile, Sondheim’s score is among his very finest, from such soaring ballads as “Johanna” and “Not While I’m Around” to comic ditties including “By the Sea,” “The Worst Pies in London” and the ultra-punny “A Little Priest.”
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