The Award Categories
Though they have represented the pinnacle of theatrical excellence since their inception, the American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® have evolved over the years.
In particular, the number and designation of the various categories have changed. For example, although the awards were established in 1947, there was
no Tony for Best Play until the following year when Mister Roberts
by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan was so honored. Similarly, the first Best Musical
award had to wait two years to make its debut. Kiss Me, Kate
was the first musical to receive that award, in 1949. There are currently 26 competitive categories of Tony Awards.
In addition to competitive awards, the Tony Awards Administration Committee
may bestow several varieties of
special honors on deserving individuals or institutions. Each year since 1976, the Tonys have recognized the achievements of resident theatre companies across the U. S.
by giving the Regional Theatre Tony Award to a not-for-profit producing organization outside of New York City, based on the recommendation of the American Theatre Critics
Association. Special Tony Awards for lifetime achievement in the theatre honor an individual for the body of his or her work. The Isabelle Stevenson Award salutes volunteerism.
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations that do not fit into any of the competitive categories.
Tony Honors are announced in the autumn. They are bestowed at a separate ceremony that affords recipients a special moment in the spotlight.
How Voting Works
When the Tony Awards were established in 1947, voting was limited to members of the boards of the American Theatre Wing and entertainment industry performer and craft unions. In 1954,
voting eligibility was expanded to include other theatre professionals, and today there are approximately 700 eligible voters, a number that fluctuates slightly from year to year.
These include voting members of The Broadway League and the board of directors and designated members of the advisory committee of the American Theatre Wing, along with members of
the governing boards of Actors' Equity Association; the Dramatists Guild; SDC, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; United Scenic Artists; and the Association of Theatrical
Press Agents and Managers. Other eligible voters include members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America and members of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee.
Voters are expected to attend all nominated productions; or at least to refrain from voting in any category in which they have not seen all of the nominees.
Ties occur from time to time. For example in 2009, Billy Elliot, the Musical
and Next to Normal
shared top honors in the Best Orchestrations category.
Voting by secret ballot takes place in the weeks before the June awards ceremony. Strict precautions are taken to assure that no one, save a
limited number of representatives from the accounting firm that manages the voting, knows the name of the winners until they are announced on the Tony telecast.
Nominations are determined by the Tony Awards Nominating Committee
. This rotating group of up to 30
theatre professionals is selected by the Tony Awards Administration Committee
. Nominators serve for
overlapping three-year terms. They are asked to see every new Broadway production and then meet shortly after the Tony eligibility deadline.
They determine the nominations based on secret ballots supervised by an accounting firm. The results are announced early the following morning.