As with two of the other Tony Awards precursors — the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards — the Drama League does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway fare. It doles out prizes for best play and musical as well as revivals of each genre. However, it is unique among the theater kudos in that it hands out only one award for distinguished performance. And once won, the performer cannot contend again.
This year’s nominees will be revealed on April 19 by a pair of Tony Award winners: two-time champ Bebe Neuwirth (“Sweet Charity,” “Chicago”) and Patina Miller (“Pippin”). The Drama League prizes were first handed out in 1922 and became an annual tradition in 1935. This year’s winners will be revealed at a luncheon on May 19.
The League already announced the recipients of three special awards. Bette Midler is to be feted for her return to Broadway in the Tony-winning musical “Hello, Dolly!.” She is to receive the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater Award.
Also receiving honorary awards from the Drama League are animal trainer Bill Berloni, who is set to get the Unique Contribution to the Theater Award, and Michael Greif, who will receive The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing. Greif, a three-time Tony Awards nominee, has two new tuners on Broadway this season with “Dear Evan Hansen” and “War Paint.” He may well prevail at the Tonys for his helming of either of these frontrunners for Best Musical.
Be sure to make your Tony Awards predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Broadway insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our Tony odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on May 2. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Tony Awards taking place right now in our theater forums.