B’way Takes On That Tony Look

By William Glover | AP
April 1975

“The Wiz” a swinging black musical based on one of childhood’s favorite fables, and “Equus,” a taut British drama about a youth crazy over horses are Broadway’s champion shows of the 1974-75 season. Top individual winners of the coveted Tony medallions for “outstanding achievement” which were announced during elaborate ceremonies last night included Ellen Burstyn, repeating her Oscar triumph; and in joint citation, John Kani and Willston Ntshona. In their South African homeland the pair are able to work on stage only under as employment subterfuge as “house servants.” Angela Lansbury and John cullum were named the year’s star musical performers. Besides being chosen as the best musical. “The Wiz” scooped up six of the other 17 competitive trophies. Peter Shaffer’s “Equus,” the best drama, also won a directing prize for John Dexter. The virtual blitz of tune show honors by the Afro rhythm version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, and the Kani-Ntshona victory highlighted an otherwise easily predictable sequence of the triumphs which took place on the stage of the Winter Garden theater during a two-hour telecast over the ABC-TV network. The Tonys, officially the Antoinette Perry Awards, are voted upon in secret ballot by about 450 representatives of all branches of the stage profession, under the auspices of the New York League of Theaters and Producers, in association with the American Theater Wing. They are Broadway’s counterparts of Hollywood’s Oscars.

Geoffrey Holder was the evening’s only double winner, taking both musical director and costume designer awards for “The Wiz.”

The show’s other victor’s were Ted Ross and Dee Dee Bridgewater, for supporting actor and actress; Charlie Smalls, best score; and George Falson, choreographer. The dramatic acting award to Kani and Ntshona, the first joint citation in Tony history, was for their performances in two plays which they co-authored with Athol Fugard, “Sizwe Banzi Is Dead” and “The Island.” Ellen Burstyn said she was accepting her Trophy also on behalf of Charles Grodin, the only other performer in “Same Time, Next Year,” who did not get a nomination. Supporting drama acting Tonys went to Frank Langella of “Seascape,” and Rita Moreno in “The Ritz.” She seemed slightly unhappy about her category, declaring “the only thing I support in the show is my beads.”

Miss Lansbury took the star musical actress award, the third Tony of her career, for the revival of “Gypsy.” Cullum was honored for his part in “Shenandoah.” That show, about a peace -loving family during the Civil War, also received the medallion for best musical book, a collaboration by James Lee Barrett, Peter Udell and Philip Rose. Although the Broadway season has included a great many imports from England, the only one cited besides “Equus” was “Sherlock Holmes.” Carl Toms was named for scenic design, Neil Peter Jampolis for lighting. The League’s executive board also presented a noncompetitive Tony to Neil Simon, author of 14 comedies and musicals; and a scroll to Al Hirschfeld, veteran theatrical cartoonist. A galaxy of past and present celebrities participated as presenters, some in person including Carol Lawrence, Michele Lee, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Julie Harris and Milton Berle.