Theatre is an ephemeral medium, and it's impossible to experience a legendary performance once the show has closed. However, in many cases American Theatre Wing Tony Award®-winning actors eventually re-created their roles in Hollywood versions of the plays and musicals that brought them acclaim. Other shows were taped for television.
We thought you might also like to catch up with, or re-live the memory of, some Tony-winning performances of the past. Here's a handy list of those that were captured on video, or re-imagined for film. All of them are currently available on DVD. Clicking on any of the titles listed will take you to Amazon.com. At the end of this article, you'll find a list of the Best Plays and Best Musicals that were adapted for film or television.
Let's begin with the Tony Award-winners who went on to win Academy Awards for playing the same role on film.
Moving to Tony winning performances from the past few years, 2007's Best Actor in a Play, Frank Langella, impersonated the troubled former US President for a second time in the movie version of Frost/Nixon.
Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald, respectively, repeated their Best Actress and Featured Actress Tony winning roles, along with several other members of the 2004 Broadway revival cast, including Sean Combs, in the 2008 television movie version of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.
The Tony-winning performances of Nathan Lane as shyster showman Max Bialystock and Gary Beach as the flamboyant stage director Roger de Bris can be seen in the 2005 movie version of The Producers, the new Mel Brooks musical. Past-winner Matthew Broderick also recreates his role as accountant Leo Bloom.
Richard Griffiths (Best Actor 2006) as the beleaguered professor and Best Featured Actress Frances de la Tour as the only woman on the faculty, along with most of the original cast of Alan Bennett's The History Boys repeat their roles in the movie version.
Shuler Hensley was featured as Jud Fry in the 1998 London production of Oklahoma! That staging was taped for television before it came to Broadway where Hensley reprised his role and nabbed a Tony in 2002.
Most of the original cast of Rent recreated their roles for the musical's feature film, including Wilson Jermaine Heredia who won a 1996 Tony Award for his "angelic" performance (as Angel Dumott Schunard).
You can catch musical theatre icon and multiple Tony winner Angela Lansbury in her 1979 Best Actress Tony winning performance as Mrs. Lovett in a taped version of the first national tour of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd opposite George Hearn (Tony-winner Len Cariou's Broadway replacement). Similarly, a television version of Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods captures Joanna Gleason's 1988 Tony-winning performance as the Baker's Wife.
If these whet your appetite for more great Tony-winning musical performances of yesteryear, consider the following:
On the dramatic side, a series of Hollywood versions of plays feature Tony-winning performances re-imagined for the screen: You won't want to miss James Earl Jones' breakout in The Great White Hope, or his co-star Jane Alexander's 1969 Featured Actress Tony-winning performance; 1983 winner Harvey Fierstein's tour de force as a drag queen with pride and dignity in Torch Song Trilogy; or Beryl Reid's ground-breaking 1967 performance as a lesbian television soap star in The Killing of Sister George. There's also a film version of Ralph Bellamy (1958 Tony) as a young F.D.R. in Sunrise at Campobello, and one of I Am A Camera - the play that was later musicalized as Cabaret - starring Julie Harris (1952 Tony).
According to the old adage, there are no small roles in the theatre. Tony-winners in the featured categories have certainly left indelible marks in theatregoers' memory. A number of them have been preserved on film:
Hume Cronyn won a Tony for playing Polonius and then recreated the role in the 1964 film version of Hamlet, starring Richard Burton in the title role. Tony Award-winner Trazana Beverly (1977) can be seen in the movie version of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf.
The 1981 Featured Actress in a Play winner Swoosie Kurtz recreated her role in Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July videotaped for the PBS American Playhouse series, and Jeffrey Wright (1994) became the only original cast member to join the star-studded cast of HBO's cable television version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. John Glover (1995) played both a good and evil twin in Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!, and Rita Moreno (1975) starred as a wannabe chanteuse in The Ritz, McNally's gay bathhouse farce, which was turned into a movie the following year.
A film series titled American Film Theater was responsible for the preservation of several Tony winning performances. These screen re-creations of notable stage productions of the 1960s and '70s were released in cinemas as a limited-run subscription series in the mid-1970s.
To close our list, let's celebrate some of the Tony performances that made us laugh (and sometimes cry at the same time):
And speaking of everybody's beloved aunt, let's remember the recently departed comedienne Bea Arthur through her memorable 1966 Tony-winning featured performance as the martini-tossing, wise-cracking Vera Charles in the movie version of the Jerry Herman musical Mame.
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1948 Mister Roberts (1955 film)
1951 The Rose Tattoo (1955 film)
1953 The Crucible (1996 film)
1954 The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956 film)
1955 The Desperate Hours (1955 film)
1956 The Diary of Anne Frank (1959 film)
1960 The Miracle Worker (1962 film)
1961 Becket (1964 film)
1962 A Man for all Seasons (1966 film)
1963 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966 film)
1964 Luther (1973 film)
1965 The Odd Couple (1968 film)
1966 Marat/Sade (1966 film)
1967 The Homecoming (1973 film)
1968 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1991 film)
1969 The Great White Hope (1970 film)
1971 Sleuth (1972 film)
1973 That Championship Season (1983 film)
1974 The River Niger (1976 film)
1975 Equus (1977 film)
1979 The Elephant Man (1980 film)
1980 Children of a Lesser God (1986 film)
1981 Amadeus (1984 film)
1982 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1983 film)
1983 Torch Song Trilogy (1988 film)
1985 Biloxi Blues (1985 film)
1986 I'm Not Rappaport (1996 film)
1988 M. Butterfly (1993 film)
1991 Lost in Yonkers (1993 film)
1993, 1994 Angels in America (2003 Made for TV movie)
1995 Love! Valour! Compassion! (1997 film)
2001 Proof (2005 film)
2005 Doubt (2008 film)
2006 The History Boys (2006 film)
2009 Carnage (2011 film based on the play God of Carnage)
1951 Guys and Dolls (1955 film)
1952 The King and I (1956 film)
1954 Kismet (1955 film)
1955 The Pajama Game (1957 film)
1956 Damn Yankees (1958 film)
1957 My Fair Lady (1964 film)
1960 The Sound of Music (1965 film)
1962 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967 film)
1963 A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum (1966 film)
1964 Hello Dolly! (1969 film)
1965 Fiddler on the Roof (1971 film)
1966 Man of La Mancha (1973 film)
1967 Cabaret (1972 film)
1969 1776 (1972 film)
1971 Company (2007 Broadway revival taping)
1973 A Little Night Music (1978 film)
1975 The Wiz (1978 film)
1976 A Chorus Line (1985 film)
1980 Evita (1997 film)
1982 Nine (2009 film)
1983 Cats (1998 theatrical taping)
1994 Passion (1996 film)
1999 Fosse (2002 film)
2001 The Producers, the new Mel Brooks Musical (2005 film)
2003 Hairspray (2007 film)
2010 Memphis (2012 Broadway taping)Revised April 23, 2012