The 5 Worst Tony Award Robberies of All Time

Chris Peterson

Let's be honest, there are more than just a few of you. You may not want to say it publicly but you're still sour over it. You think An American In Paris was robbed of its Best Musical Tony Award. Or maybe you feel the trio of actresses from Fun Home should have won over Ruthie Ann Miles for The Kind & I and there is nothing that will ever convince you otherwise. 

While these examples might be a bit far fetched, for as long as there have been awards shows, there have been glaring examples of "grand larceny" when it comes to who takes home the award and who doesn't. 

And while most of the time, Tony voters get it right with their selections, there have been times where they really haven't. Here are the five worst. 

5. 2010 - Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical


Winner: Catherine Zeta-Jones    A Little Night Music
Kate Baldwin    Finian's Rainbow    
Montego Glover    Memphis   
Christiane Noll    Ragtime    
Sherie Rene Scott    Everyday Rapture   

I can probably count on one hand, the amount of times the Tony voters have gotten it wrong in this category but this was just egregious. I don't know if voters were stargazing, wanted her one step closer to an EGOT or felt bad that her career was on the down-slide, but her victory made and still makes little sense. Especially considering the reviews for the show and her performance were polarizing at best. However the Tony voters weren't the only ones showing a lapse in judgement because Zeta-Jones also took home the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards as well.  The victim of this robbery? Montego Glover.

4. 2005- Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

Winner: Bill Irwin    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  
Philip Bosco    Twelve Angry Men    
Billy Crudup    The Pillowman   
James Earl Jones    On Golden Pond   
Brían F. O'Byrne    Doubt    

I love me some Bill Irwin. But even with my enormous fandom, I can admit that he had no business winning the 2005 Tony for the role of George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Sandwiched between two iconic stage actors and two actors who gave iconic performances, Bill Irwin delivered a good performance of a brilliantly written role. The victims here? Brian F. O'Bryne with Billy Crudup a close second. 

3. 1996 - Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

Winner: Nathan Lane    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum    
Savion Glover    Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk    
Adam Pascal    Rent    
Lou Diamond Phillips    The King and I    

Nathan Lane was the third actor to win a Tony for playing Pseudolis. Nathan Lane was also the third best actor to play the role of Pseudolis. Rather than seeing this mediocre(let's be honest here) role win for the third time, Tony voters ignored two groundbreaking performances and arguably the best portrayal of the King of Siam in Broadway history. Picking anyone else in this category would have made a million times more sense but Pascal deserved it the most. 

2. 1991 - Best Musical

Winner: The Will Rogers Follies
Miss Saigon
Once on This Island
The Secret Garden

 Be honest, how many of you "theatre people" can name two songs from The Will Rogers Follies? How man of you have ever heard of The Will Rogers Follies? If you honestly think that this forgettable dribble deserved the award more than the three masterpieces it was up against, I have a ticket for you on a ship to Planet Delusional. 

1. 1998 - Best Musical

Winner: The Lion King
Side Show
The Scarlet Pimpernel

Years from now, just as some of us now may wonder how in the world Fiorello! won Best Musical over Gypsy , I have a feeling others will question how The Lion King won over Ragtime. It's the classic style over substance situation. The Lion King is one of the most popular musicals to ever run on Broadway and Ragtime is one of the best pieces of musical theatre of the 20th Century. 

While visually stunning, The Lion King is Shakespeare in the Pridelands set to an above average score. If you think I'm wrong, name the Top 5 best Disney movie musicals of all time and I'm willing to bet The Lion King hovers around 7 or 8 at best. 

Until the final award, The Lion King won all the awards it was should have. The design was fantastic and groundbreaking so naturally it deservedly dominated the design categories. But Ragtime swept both Best Book and Best Score, marking one of the few times a musical has won both these categories and NOT won Best Musical as well. 

In the end, costumes won over content. It wasn't the first time, nor the last either.