Since 1947, the Tony Awardshave served as the most prestigious honors earned in the world of theatre. Celebrating Broadway artists with 26 competitive award categories that annually honor writers, performers, directors, productions, and more, the Tony Awards are a beloved and highly-anticipated tradition in the theatre community. Perhaps the most anticipated award of the night is the Best Musical category, which is traditionally presented as the final award of the evening.
With a new decade of Tony Awards on the horizon, it seems only fitting to take a walk down memory lane to reflect on all of the phenomenal shows the 2010 decade brought us. And with the 2020 Tony Awards currently postponed, there is no better time to look back at the amazing “Best Musicals” that audiences have had the privilege to experience over the past ten years. While we await news of when we will be able to celebrate this season’s fantastic performances, we celebrate the power and vibrancy of unforgettable performances from Broadway’s recent past.
Competing alongside nominees of American Idiot, Fela!, and Million Dollar Quartet, the musical Memphis, took home the sought-after Best Musical award in 2010. With music by David Bryan, a book by Joe DiPietro, and lyrics by both, the production was directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Memphis is loosely based on the story of Dewey Phillips, one of the first white Memphis disc jockeys to play black music in the 1950s. The production opened at the Shubert Theatre in October of 2009. The original cast starred Chad Kimball as Huey Calhoun and Montego Glover as Felicia Farrell. In addition to Best Musical, Memphis also earned seven other 2010 Tony Award nominations, winning four awards in total.
2011, The Book of Mormon
In 2011, The Book of Mormon competed against Catch Me If You Can, The Scottsboro Boys, and Sister Act in pursuit of the Best Musical award. The musical comedy — with music, lyrics, and book by trio Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone — was co-directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. The show is a satirical portrayal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, and specifically focuses on the Church’s belief in the power of love and service. The production opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in March of 2011, impressively premiering on Broadway without performing an out-of-town or off-Broadway tryout. The original cast starred Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad as the two leading roles: Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, respectively. On top of Best Musical, The Book of Mormon scored 12 additional 2011 Tony Award nominations, winning nine awards in total.
Nominated alongside musicals Leap of Faith, Newsies, and Nice Work If You Can Get It, Once earned the 2012 Best Musical accolade. Based on the 2007 John Carney film of the same name, the Broadway production of Once used the samemusic and lyrics from the film, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. The book for the musical was written by Enda Walsh. Under the direction of John Tiffany, the musical premiered at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theatre before transferring to New York Theatre Workshop and ultimately opening at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in March of 2012. The musical tells the love story of an Irish busker and a young Czech woman who is captivated by his music. The original production starred Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti. In addition to Best Musical, Once earned ten other 2012 Tony Award nominations, and won seven.
2013, Kinky Boots
In 2013, Kinky Boots took home the Best Musical award with a victory over fellow nominees Bring It On: The Musical, A Christmas Story, and Matilda The Musical. With music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, and based on the 2005 British film with the same name, Kinky Boots originally premiered in Chicago, with both direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, before opening on Broadway in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in March of 2013. The musical tells the story of Charlie Price, who, having inherited a shoe factory from his father, teams up with drag queen Lola to produce new high-heeled boots to save the factory. The original Broadway cast starred Stark Sands as Charlie and Billy Porter as Lola. In addition to Best Musical, Kinky Boots was nominated for a season-high of 13 Tony Awards and ended up winning five awards total.
2014, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
The 2014 Best Musical award went to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which competed alongside other nominees After Midnight, Aladdin, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. With a book by Robert L. Freedman, lyrics by Steven Lutvak, and lyrics by both, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was directed by Darko Tresnjak and choreographed by Peggy Hickey and opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre in November of 2013. Based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, this musical comedy follows Monty Navarro, who, after discovering that he’s eighth in line for an earldom in the D’Ysquith family, seeks to boost his chances of succeeding his relatives by way mischief. The original Broadway cast featured Jefferson Mays as the nine roles of the D’Ysquith family and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro. In addition to Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder earned nine other 2014 Tony Award nominations and won a total of four awards.
2015, Fun Home
Fun Home triumphed on the Broadway stage in 2015, winning Best Musical after its nomination alongside An American in Paris, Something Rotten!, and The Visit. With music by Jeanine Tesori and a book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, Fun Home was adapted from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The musical, like the graphic memoir, tells the story of Bechdel’s own self-discovery through a series of non-linear vignettes connected by narration from the point of view of the adult Alison character. Notably, Fun Home is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist. Directed by Sam Gold, the production originally opened on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in April of 2015. The original Broadway cast featured Beth Malone, Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, Sydney Lucas, and Emma Skeggs. In addition to Best Musical, Fun Home earned nine other 2015 Tony Award nominations, winning a total of five awards.
Hamilton, earning the most Tony nominations of any Broadway musical of all time, unsurprisingly took home the 2016 Best Musical award after competing against Bright Star, School of Rock, Shuffle Along, and Waitress. Inspired by the 2006 Ron Chernow biography Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music, lyrics, and book to, as well as starred in the original cast of, this instant-hit hip hop musical. The production was directed by Thomas Kail and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler. The story follows Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers, in an updated style that includes unique musical influences as well as the casting of non-white actors in the roles of the Founding Fathers and other historical characters. The show premiered with a sold-out engagement off-Broadway at the Public Theatre before moving to Broadway and opening at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in August of 2016. In addition to Lin-Manuel Miranda playing the role of Hamilton, the original Broadway cast famously featured Leslie Odom Jr., Jonathan Groff, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson, Anthony Ramos, and Daveed Diggs, among others. Hamilton earned a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations in 2016, winning 11 awards.
2017, Dear Evan Hansen
Challenging fellow nominees Come From Away, Groundhog Day The Musical, and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, fan-favorite Dear Evan Hansen achieved the Best Musical title in 2017. With a book by Steven Levenson and lyrics and music by breakout songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, this instant-hit musical world-premiered in Washington D.C. before moving off-Broadway in July of 2015 ahead of a November 2016 opening in Broadway’s Music Box Theatre. Directed by Michael Greif, the original Broadway production starred Ben Platt as Evan Hansen accompanied by Rachel Bay Jones, Laura Dreyfuss, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Mike Faist, and Michael Park, among others. The musical follows Evan Hansen, a high-schooler with social anxiety, as he struggles to take control of his life. In addition to Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen scored eight other 2017 Tony Award nominations, winning six awards total.
2018, The Band’s Visit
In 2018, The Band’s Visit took home the Best Musical title, triumphing over fellow nominees Frozen, Mean Girls, and SpongeBob Squarepants: The Musical, all of which nominees were, uniquely, based on other media. The Band’s Visit, based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, follows the Egyptian Police band upon experiencing a mix-up after arriving in Israel to play a concert. With a book by Itamar Moses and music and lyrics by David Yazbek, The Band’s Visit made its debut appearance off-Broadway with the Atlantic Theater Company before opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway in November of 2017. The musical was directed by David Cromer, choreographed by Patrick McCollum, and starred Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk, and John Cariani. On top of Best Musical, The Band’s Visit was also nominated for ten other 2018 Tony Awards, winning all but one of its nominations.
Most recently, the 2019 Best Musical award went to Hadestown, which competed against Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, Beetlejuice, The Prom, and Tootsie. Anaïs Mitchell, the mastermind behind the musical, was the first woman in over a decade to write the music, lyrics, and book for a show, and only the fourth woman in the history of Broadway to do so. The musical also boasts a female director, Rachel Chavkin. The show made Broadway history as the first production written and directed by women to win Best Musical. Notably, Mitchell also played the role of Eurydice in an early touring production in 2007, as well as in the 2010 concept album recording. Hadestown is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus journeys to the underworld in the hopes of saving his love, Eurydice. The music is heavily influenced by the folk and Americana genres. After a long hiatus following the 2010 release of the concept album, Hadestown returned to the stage off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016, followed by a Canadian production in 2017 and a London production in 2018, before finally landing in the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway for an April 2019 opening. The Broadway cast stars Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Patrick Page, Amber Gray, and André De Shields. Hadestown earned 14 nominations — the most nominations at the 2019 Tony Awards — and took home a total of eight awards.
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