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SOUND OFF Special Edition: Thrills, Chills & Ties - The Most Unique & Unusual Tony Awards Wins

Awards shows are utter catnip for entertainment enthusiasts around the world not only because they are a celebration of the best of the breed in whatever medium or genre the presentation recognizes but also because a live telecast with so many stars and so many categories allows for ample room for entertainment - and retrospective error. In TONY AWARDS history, there have been a few unmistakably unmissable moments that live on thanks to the magic of Youtube for a variety of reasons - thrilling battles to the finish in tight categories, chilling reactions from non-winners when the top prize is announced, and, of course, some very unusual albeit unforgettable ties and inconsistent category tweaks. Nevertheless, the TONY AWARDS is always the biggest night of the year for Broadway babies and this year should prove to be no exception with the hot competition and spectacular stars scheduled to appear on June 7 at Radio City Music Hall and presented to the world, once again, via CBS at 8 PM. But, before then, let's consider some wholly unique categories and unfathomable feats achieved in the years leading up until now.

1. 1960 - THE SOUND OF MUSIC and FIORELLO! tie for Best Musical. Picaresque family favorite THE SOUND OF MUSIC by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein tied with Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's musical paean to one of New York City's most famous mayors, FIORELLO!, at the 1960 ceremony in the only Best Musical tie to date. To further add to the historical intrigue, FIORELLO! went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well. And, nearly impossible to believe now given its elevated status, but astute aficionados will also note that GYPSY premiered the same season as these two shows but did not qualify for the win - even in a tie.

2. 1995 - SUNSET BOULEVARD wins Best Score and Best Book. As if presenting the TONY AWARDS telecast on the actual set of SUNSET BOULEVARD was not enough promotion for the lavish sold-out spectacle, the musical was awarded Best Book and Best Score Of A Musical although there was no competition nominated in either category. Given that SMOKEY JOE'S CAFÉ featured pre-existing songs and that was the only other new musical nominated for Best Musical, perhaps it makes sense given the circumstances, but it remains a bit of a head-scratcher. After all, how can there be a best if there is no worst - or even another competitor?!

3. 1993 - KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and THE WHO'S TOMMY tie for Best Score. John Kander and Fred Ebb shared the top composing prize at the Tonys that year with none other than The Who guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, who memorably recounted in his speech what a huge fan he was of Kander & Ebb's show - and, by that point, how much he "hated" his own show. As always, leave it to the rockers to bring some humor and sassiness to the TONY AWARDS telecast!

4. Best Special Theatrical Event. From 1999 to 2009 (excluding 2004, 2006 and 2008), the TONY AWARDS gave out an annual special citation to the productions that defied traditional description and were therefore deemed Special Theatrical Events. From FOOL MOON to BILLY CRYSTAL: 700 SUNDAYS to ELAINE STRITCH AT LIBERTY to DEF POETRY JAM to LIZA'S AT THE PALACE, this category nonetheless represented some of the finest entertainment vehicles in those seasons and gave some of Broadway's best the acknowledgement they so richly deserved. We'll all drink to that!

5. Best Replacement. A particular CURIOSITY even in TONY AWARDS history is the implementation of a brand new category in 2005 that was unceremoniously retired shortly thereafter - Best Performance By An Actor Or Actress In A Recreated Role. The award category was in existence from 2005-2006 with the plan to have it be in effect for three seasons on a trial basis, but failed to engender enough votes for any single performer in order to qualify for the award in its inaugural year so was thusly eschewed after that. History notes that Jonathan Pryce in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS and Harvey Fierstein in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF nearly made the cut, but the TONY AWARDS committee required a minimum of 16 out of 24 votes according to the rules set down and neither performer managed to rack up enough to win.

6. LA CAGE AUX FOLLES wins Best Musical and Best Revival twice. While 1984 was a notable year for its epic match-up BETWEEN Jerry Herman's LA CAGE and Stephen Sondheim's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, history has proven that LA CAGE is the gift that keeps on giving - besides winning Best Musical when it debuted, both the 2005 and 2010 Best Revival Of A Musical awards were given to the gay-friendly tuner, too. The best of times is now whenever LA CAGE is onstage, apparently.

7. BILLY ELLIOT wins Best Actor In A Musical three times. The only instance in TONY AWARDS history that a role in a musical has been won by multiple performers for the same original opening night performance run was in 2009 when BILLY ELLIOT was awarded for all three of its alternating title role players - David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish. Previously, both Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner shared a single Best Actress In A Musical nomination for their playing of conjoined twins in SIDE SHOW, while the 1975 Best Actor In A Play award was given to two men who had co-authored and starred in two plays that season, John Kani and Winston Ntshona.

8. SOUTH PACIFIC wins Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Featured Actor and Best Featured Actress In A Musical in 1950. The only play or musical in TONY AWARDS history to ever win all four of the acting awards - although with slightly altered titles different than those they are afforded now - is SOUTH PACIFIC, which saw Mary Martin, Ezio Pinza, Myron McCormick and Juanita Hall all take home Tony trophies. With a Pulitzer Prize and Best Musical Tony Award to boot, SOUTH PACIFIC is a crowning achievement as not only a musical, but as an awards magnet, too.

9. DEATH OF A SALESMAN wins Best Play and Best Revival three times. Not only did Arthur Miller's landmark drama about the plight of the working man win Best Play in 1949, but each of its subsequent mainstage revivals have also claimed Best Revival - the 1984 revival starring Dustin Hoffman, the 1999 revival starring Brian Dennehy as well as the 2012 mounting led by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Indeed, attention has been paid!

10. 2015 - Best Featured Actor In A Play. Six actors as opposed to the traditional five nominees duke it out for top acting honors in this category at this year's ceremony - Micah Stock for IT'S ONLY A PLAY, Nathaniel Parker for WOLF HALL, Alessandro Nivola for THE ELEPHANT MAN, Richard McCabe for THE AUDIENCE, K. Todd Freeman for AIRLINE HIGHWAY and Matthew Beard for SKYLIGHT. With six slots to choose from, it will be one of the most hotly anticipated battles of the night - which, given the tight race in many categories this year, is really saying something.


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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)