Forgotten Broadway: Five Tony-Winning Showstoppers You’ve Probably Never Seen

Tomorrow night is the Tony Awards—the one night a year we theater queens get our nationally broadcast moment in the spotlight. It’s like Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Eve and our birthdays all rolled into one.

Heck, it’s even worth skipping the Mad Men finale!

It’s also around this time of year that theaterfolk submit their lists of favorite Tony Awards numbers: New York Times critic Charles Isherwood released his list this week and it was full of pedestrian “Great Moments.” (Angela and Bea singing “Bosom Buddies” is grand, but we’ve seen it a million times.)

Last year, Time Out New York‘s Adam Feldman compiled a whopping 25 musical numbers, comprehensively covering all the bases for anyone who has spent an evening in a showtune video bar.

And then there is the next level—for the diehards who will squint at the grainiest bootleg just for a chance to experience a glimpse of long-forgotten Broadway magic.

That’s where I come in.

In the spirit of the season, I’ve assembled some amazing, lesser-known showstoppers from the Great White Way. Most won the top Tony awards for their season, although not all of these clips appeared on the telecast. You’ve seen the marvelous clips from Wicked and Dreamgirls and Rent a hundred times already. So, sit back and smile at the just-as-rich, deeper treasures for no-holds-barred Broadway freaks like me.


Click through for the toe-tappingest unsung moments in Broadway history

The Tony Awards air Sunday, June 10, at 8pm EST.




“Poor Little Person” from Henry, Sweet Henry (1967)

Based on the 1964 film The World of Henry Orient, this tuneful comedy with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill (Funny Girl) flopped after a mere 80 performances. It got only two Tony nominations—for Michael Bennett’s choreography and Alice Playten as a featured actress. Neither won, so it technically shouldn’t be on this list, I know. But once you watch Bennett and Playten’s heavenly talents shining brighter than the marquees along 44th Street, you’ll readily agree that this sassy and sarcastic schoolgirl showstopper deserves an honorable mention.


“Where You Are” from Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993)

A slice of escapist heaven, Spider Woman swept the Tonys, winning Best Musical, Best Book (Terrence McNally), Best Original Score (John Kander and Fred Ebb), Best Actor (Brent Carver) and Best Actress (Chita Rivera). In this absolutely kick-ass showstopper, Brent Carver’s character explains how he deals with the horrors of prison life: escaping into musical fantasies starring Rivera! I could totally do 5 to 10 if I had Chita by my side.


“I Want To Be Happy” from No, No Nanette (1971)

Long before Sutton Foster and Patti LuPone tapped their way through musical revivals, there was Ruby Keeler: A veteran hoofer, Keeler burst onto the scene in the original film version of 42nd Street back in 1933. Fast-forward to 1971, when she stunned Broadway audiences by still being featherlight on her toes in this blockbuster revival. As seen in this performance from the Tonys, Keeler knocked it out of the ballpark with Donald Saddler’s Tony-winning choreography.


“On the Twentieth Century” from On the Twentieth Century (1978)

This full-steam-ahead bundle of locomotive wackiness won the Tony for Best Score and it’s no wonder: From the moment Cy Coleman’s piston-packed, mock operetta starts, we know we’re in for an evening of delightful lunacy. The story follows the exploits of a failed theater director trying to woo his ex-lover-turned-movie star back to the stage, all while traveling on a rumbling luxury liner. Twentieth Century boasted Imogene Coco in the uproarious role as a religious zealot wrecking havoc on board. Look closely and you’ll recognize a young Kevin Kline, who won a Tony for his role as an arrogant paramour.

“But Alive” from Applause (1970)

Based on All About Eve, Applause won the 1970 Tony for Best Musical—largely in part to a roof-raising performance by Tony-winner Lauren Bacall as Margo Channing. Diehards have long obsessed over the 1974 television version, which brought back several members of the original cast, including Bacall and Penny Fuller, who played Eve. This exuberant showstopper follows Margo, Eve and Margo’s swishy assistant from her dressing room to a groovy gay bar down in wild Greenwich Village. The result is kitschy, yet sublime. Director/choreographer Ron Field won a Tony for his work, here recreated for the TV version.

Gay Pride Month Bonus: Unscramble the flashing neon letters along the back wall of the bar for a subliminally queer message.