The following is a guest post by Senior Music Specialist Mark Eden Horowitz.
We won’t attempt here to track down all the Tony winners in the Music Division’s collections, but we do want to celebrate the most recent—Jeanine Tesori, winning the Tony for best original score (along with lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire) for the touching, funny, surprising score for Kimberly Akimbo. The show went on to win a total of five Tonys, including for best featured actress in a musical, best leading actress in a musical, best book of a musical, and ultimately best musical. A contingent of Library colleagues followed this year’s Tony Awards enthusiastically, rooting for and celebrating Jeanine’s and Kimberly Akimbo’s wins, and here we wish to publicly congratulate Jeanine and her collaborators. We also pat ourselves on the back for our prescience in welcoming Jeanine’s collection to join other treasures—prior to her Tony wins (not that our appreciation for her work would have been any less had she not won).
With six nominations so far, this is Jeanine’s second Tony win—the first for her daring and heartfelt 2015 musical, Fun Home, for which we already have her scores and other papers. Jeanine also honored the Library performing in a concert featuring three of the most exciting contemporary musical theater songwriters—herself, along with Steven Lutvak, and David Yazbek. Jeanine proved funnier than we dreamed possible, she premiered the delicious song “Changing My Major” from her then-upcoming Fun Home, and she brought along guest performer, the powerhouse, Joshua Henry. Jeanine’s segment can be seen here (time stamp 49:40).
Jeanine is in some great Tony-winning company at the Library, where our collections include the papers of the following Tony winners (not a complete list):
Leonard Bernstein, composer: Wonderful Town, Special Tony Award
Barbara Cook, actor: The Music Man
Alfred Drake, actor: Kismet
Garth Fagan, choreographer: The Lion King
Bob Fosse, choreographer and director: The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Redhead, Little Me, Sweet Charity, Pippin, Dancin’, Big Deal
Adam Guettel, composer and lyricist: The Light in the Piazza (our other collection of a living Tony winner)
Marvin Hamlisch, composer: A Chorus Line (Hamlisch’s Tony is currently on display outside the Coolidge Auditorium, along with his Oscars, Grammys, Emmy, and Pulitzer Prize)
Oscar Hammerstein II, lyricist, librettist, producer: South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music
Jerry Herman, composer and lyricist: Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles, Lifetime Achievement
Florence Klotz, costume designer: Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Grind, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Show Boat (revival)
Jonathan Larson, composer, lyricist, librettist: Rent
Alan Jay Lerner: lyricist and librettist: My Fair Lady, Gigi
Frederick Loewe, composer: My Fair Lady, Gigi
Joshua Logan, director, playwright, producer: Mister Roberts, South Pacific, Picnic
David Merrick, producer: Special Tony Award, Becket, Luther, Hello, Dolly!, Marat/Sade, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, 42nd Street
Cole Porter, composer and lyricist: Kiss Me Kate
Harold Prince, producer and director: here the list is too long to enumerate; Prince is the single most Tony-winning individual in history, with a total of 21 awards!
Richard Rodgers, composer, lyricist, producer: South Pacific, The King and I, No Strings
Don Sebesky, orchestrator: Kiss Me Kate (revival)
Neil Simon, playwright/librettist: The Odd Couple, Special Tony, Biloxi Blues, Lost in Yonkers
Oliver Smith, scenic designer: West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Camelot, Becket, Hello, Dolly!, The Odd Couple, Luv, Baker Street, Special Tony Award
Charles Strouse, composer: Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, Annie
Jeanine Tesori: Fun Home, Kimberly Akimbo
Gwen Verdon, actor: Can-Can, Damn Yankees, New Girl in Town, Redhead
Tony Walton, scenic designer: Pippin, The House of Blue Leaves, Guys and Dolls (revival)
Robert Wright and George “Chet” Forrest, composers and lyricists: Kismet
Awards don’t make the artist, but recognition is still significant, especially when it comes from professional colleagues, as the Tonys do. And this award is another way to document why Jeanine’s work shares shelf space with so many other greats in the world of musical theater. Of course, it’s the work itself and how it touches and changes us that is the primary marker, and there Jeanine has proven herself again and again, not just with the quality of her work, but its extraordinary variety musically and topically, always coupled with humanity and warmth.
Once again, our heartfelt congratulations to Jeanine Tesori, we are proud that she’s chosen us as the home of her papers…and we look forward to future shows born from her piano, her pen(cil), her talent, her mind, and her soul.