Tony Awards 25th anniversary celebration has ties to today: ‘Company,’ ‘The Music Man,’ Angela Lansbury [WATCH]

What do the 25th and 75th Tony Awards have in common? The landmark Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical “Company,” Angela Lansbury and the beloved tuner “The Music Man.” 

The gender-bender revival of “Company” is considered the front-runner for the Tony for Best Musical Revival as well as featured actress for Broadway legend Patti LuPone who brings down the house with “Ladies Who Lunch.” Elaine Stritch originated the LuPone’s character of Joanne; her rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch” is considered one of the indelible show-stopping numbers in Broadway history. Stritch was considered a shoo-in for lead actress but lost to Helen Gallagher for the revival of -the 1920s musical “No, No Nanette.” Go figure. Gallagher was good, but she wasn’t as great as Stritch. 

The original “Company” waltzed into the Tony Awards — which took place at the Palace Theatre on March 28, 1971 — with a whopping 14 nominations and won six including Best Musical, director for Hal Prince, original score for Sondheim and book for Furth. The revival is up for nine including revival, featured actress, actor in a featured role for Matt Doyle and direction of a musical for Marianne Elliott. 

As for the Broadway luminary Lansbury, who is 96, she is receiving a special Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming ceremony. Lansbury is no stranger to the Tonys having won five competitive awards for her lead roles in the musicals “Mame” (1966), “Dear World” (1969), “Gypsy” (1975) and “Sweeney Todd” (1979) and her 2009 featured turn in the play “Blithe Spirit.” Back in 1971, she hosted the ceremony telecast on ABC along with Lauren Bacall, who had won the Tony the year before for lead actress in a musical for “Applause,” Anthony Quayle, who was starring on Broadway in “Sleuth,” and Anthony Quinn.

Lansbury also sang “Open a New Window” from “Mame” during the show’s tribute to the first 25 years of Tony Award-winning musicals performed. And that’s where “The Music Man” comes in. The original 1957 production won six Tonys including Best Musical, lead actor for Robert Preston and featured actress for Barbara Cook. In 1971, Preston reprised one of the musical’s showstoppers “Trouble.” This year, the revival of “The Music Man” is up for six Tonys including best revival, lead actor for Hugh Jackman and lead actress for Sutton Foster.

The 25th anniversary tribute was introduced by Dick Cavett, Carol Channing and Ruby Keeler, who had come out of 30-year retirement to headline “No, No Nanette.” It was a glorious trip down memory lane with David Wayne performing “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love” from “Finian’s Rainbow”; Vivian Blaine getting laughs with her signature tune “Adelaide’s Lament” from “Guys and Dolls”; Robert Morse singing “I Believe in You” from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”; Yul Brynner and Patricia Morison bringing a tear to the eye with “Shall We Dance?” from “The King and I”; the great Gwen Verdon performing “Whatever Lola Wants” from “Damn Yankees”: and Channing belting out “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly!”

The tribute ended with the entire company singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun.” And you can check out the show and the numbers on YouTube. Just have your hankies ready.

Besides “Company,” what were the big winners in 1971? Anthony Shaffer’s  mystery thriller “Sleuth” took home best play. Ironically, it was the only Tony the hit won. Brian Bedford received the Tony for leading actor in a play for “The School for Wives”; Maureen Stapleton won her second Tony for Neil Simon’s dramatic play “The Gingerbread Lady.” A pre-“Barney Miller” Hal Linden won lead actor in a musical for “The Rothschilds” and Keene Curtis picked up a Tony for featured actor for the musical. Paul Sand earned the featured actor in a play for “Paul Sills’ Story Theatre.” Rae Allen won featured actress in a play for “And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little” and Patsy Kelly earned the featured actress in a musical Tony for “No, No Nanette.” Best direction of a play honors went to Peter Brook for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The magazine Playbill, which is still in business, was one of the recipients of a special Tony for “chronicling Broadway through the years.”

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