Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: News lately about the New York stagehands strike shutting down the Broadway shows reminds me of questions I've been wanting to ask.

I know the live theater's Oscar award equivalent is called the Tony, but who is the lucky Tony they named it after?

I'm fairly certain it wasn't me. Probably not Tony the Tiger either.

Who has won the most Tonys, and who is the youngest Tony winner?
—Tony Ducceschi, Skokie, Ill.

DEAR TONY: It's good knowing you are prepared for a letdown. I'm not sure how Tony the Tiger will take the news.

Deserving though you both may be, Broadway's top award is named in honor of Mary Antoinette Perry (June 27, 1888 - June 28, 1946).

Known to friends simply as Tony (or Toni), Perry earned the honor posthumously after a distinguished acting and directing career. She is also a co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, the creator and sponsor of the Tony Awards.

Antoinette died doing what she loved. During a performance of “Harvey,” starring Jimmy Stewart, Perry, then 56, suffered a fatal heart attack.

In April 1947, the “Wing” held their first awards event, with its top honor bearing the name of Tony.

Interestingly, in 1947 and '48, the winners received no actual hardware. Beginning their third year, 1949, recipients took home the official Tony medallion.

The youngest winner is Frankie Michaels, who played the part of 10-year-old Patrick Dennis in “Mame.”

Appropriately cast, Frankie was just 11 when he claimed the 1966 award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

For the first 18 years (1947-1965), the youngest Tony winner was Liza Minnelli.

The daughter of Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli first appeared on a New York stage at just 17, in the 1963 musical “Best Foot Forward.”

Though not eligible for Tony consideration, “Best Foot Forward” being an Off-Broadway show, Liza did get excellent reviews and a prestigious Theatre World Award.

Now 19, and this time ON Broadway, Liza starred in the 1965 John Kander and Fred Ebb musical, “Flora the Red Menace.” Liza's performance in the title role earned the teenager her first Tony.

Julie Harris has won six Tonys, which is the most by anyone.

Five of those wins are for Best Actress in a Play: “I Am a Camera” (1952); “The Lark” (1956); “Forty Carats” (1969); “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln” (1973); and “The Belle of Amherst” (1977). The sixth Tony is a Special Lifetime Achievement Award (2002).

There are four other years when Julie received a Best Actress in a Play nomination, but did not win: (1964) “Marathon '33;” (1966) “Skyscraper;” (1974) “The au Pair Man;” and (1991) “Lucifer's Child.”

With total of 10 on her resumé, Julie Harris has more nominations than any other performer.

IZ ZAT SO? Mention of composing team John Kander and Fred Ebb brings to mind a couple of nights at the Tony Awards event they might like to forget.

Two of their most venerated musicals, “Chicago” (1976) and “Steel Pier” (1997), both flew in the face of all expectations.

Each of these shows received an amazing 11 nominations.

Yet, of the 22 total nominations neither show won a single Tony.

Strange but true.

However, their awards cabinets are not bare. John and Fred's musical scores for “Cabaret” (1967); “Woman of the Year” (1981); and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993) all won Tonys.

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