And the Tony Award goes to...

Museum of the City of New York

The Antoinette Perry Awards or "Tonys" are awarded every spring to the best and brightest of the Broadway stage. Let's take a look at who won big in 1958, the season "West Side Story" first opened.

The Stars
The 12th annual Tony Awards in 1958 recognized established and rising stars in the Distinguished Actor/Actress category. Of the four performance categories for musicals, none of performances in "West Side Story" won awards and only Carol Lawrence was nominated for her portrayal of Maria. To give a sense of the season, here's a review of those performances that did win for plays and musicals.

Helen Hayes won Distinguished Dramatic Actress for her role as the matchmaking Duchess of Pont-Au-Bronc in Time Remembered. Hayes was the first actress to ever win in this category when the Awards began in 1947.

Gwen Verdon and Thelma Ritter tied for Distinguished Actress in a Musical for their performance in the George Abbott and Bob Merrill musical New Girl in Town. Already in possession of two Tonys, Verdon would go on to further acclaim in Sweet Charity and Chicago, and Ritter would return to a successful movie career.

Rising star Anne Bancroft made her Broadway debut in 1958's Two for the Seesaw. The performance won her the Distinguished Supporting Actress Award. Just two years later Bancroft took home the Leading Actress award for her career defining turn in The Miracle Worker.

Robert Preston took home the Tony for Distinguished Musical Actor in The Music Man. His co-star Barbara Cook beat out Carol Lawrence from West Side Story for Distinguished Supporting Actress in a Musical. Carol Lawrence's Maria was the only performance from West Side Story to get nominated in the four categories for musical actors.

The Distinguished Dramatic Actor award went to Ralph Bellamy for his portrayal of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello. Co-star Henry Jones won for Distinguished Supporting Dramatic Actor. The play garnered by far the most Tony Awards that year, keep scrolling for more.

The Play of the Year
With five nominations and four wins including Outstanding Play and Outstanding Director, the most awarded play of 1958 was Dore Schary's "Sunrise at Campobello."

It was at Campobello Island, his family's vacation home, that future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio, the infectious disease that would leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

Beginning in 1921, Sunrise tells the story of Roosevelt and his family as they struggle with his transformation from a healthy, active man to one crippled by disease. The play ends in with Roosevelt returning to public life at the 1924 Democratic National Convention.

Roosevelt's wife Eleanor was present at the opening, January 30, 1958 what would have been Roosevelt's 76th birthday. The former First Lady consulted on the stage production, and also gave her blessing to the film adaptation in 1960.

Despite its many awards Sunrise at Campobello has yet to be revived on Broadway.

The Musical of the Year
Though "West Side Story" won Tonys for Choreography (Jerome Robbins) and Scenic Design (Oliver Smith), the runaway musical success of 1958 was "The Music Man" with nine nominations and five Tony wins.

The Music Man recounts the adventures of Professor Harold Hill, a con man who upon arrival in a new town convinces the residents to pay for music lessons and instruments for their youth. In his latest mark, River City, Hill's plan to skip town with the money is thwarted when he falls in love with a local librarian.

Opening three months after West Side Story, The Music Man ran nearly twice as long with 1,375 performances. In addition to Distinguished Actor and Distinguished Supporting Actress, the musical also won a Tony for Supporting Actor David Burns who beat out co-star Iggie Wolfington for the award.

The Music Man takes place in a fictional Iowa town in 1912. West Side Story is set in contemporary New York City. While audiences and critics of the 1957-1958 Broadway season overwhelmingly honored The Music Man, both musicals have made their way into American popular consciousness.

Credits: Story

All objects included in this exhibit come from the collections at the Museum of the City of New York.

Friedman-Abeles photographs appear courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Vandamm photographs appear courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Exhibition was curated by Morgen Stevens-Garmon.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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