A look back at Tony Awards for Best Choreography: ‘Newsies,’ ‘Anything Goes’ and more

With the announcement of this year’s Tony nominations coming up on April 30, it is always fun to look back and remember past winners. Choreography is an important part of many musicals, especially the ones whose show-stopping dance routines leave audiences excited for more. Here is a look back at some past ‘Best Choreography’ winners and then my predictions for the nominations this year.

West Side Story

‘West Side Story’

West Side Story – Jerome Robbins (1958)

West Side Story is one of the first big dance musicals in contemporary musical theatre. It pushed the boundaries of what was normally seen in a Broadway musical at the time because it had such a variety of different styles.

The great thing about Jerome Robbins’ choreography was that everything was very precise and intricate. He incorporated classic ballet with more modern forms of jazz in dance numbers such as “Prologue” and “Cool.” Mambo and Cha-Cha dance styles also helped create the tense separation between the Jets and the Sharks.

Even the show’s fights were choreographed like a ballet, with the give and take of a struggle reflected in classic dance arrangements.

Jerome Robbins created something special with the choreography for West Side Story and it clearly impacted how we view dance in musicals.

Anything Goes

‘Anything Goes’

Anything Goes – Michael Smuin (1988), Kathleen Marshall (2011)

When Anything Goes first hit the Broadway stage in 1934 it stunned audiences with its high-energy dance routines. The show featured classic tap dance and fun, toe-tapping tunes – pun intended – that thrilled Broadway viewers.

Smuin and Marshall both had the tough task of choreographing the revival of a show that was already notorious for the title dance number, “Anything Goes”. Tap at its best is represented by the Broadway musical – tap has been a show staple for generations – and this show proves it with its iconic full-company tap number.

The upbeat music in Anything Goes lends itself to dancing and vice versa, which makes the show an incredible joy to watch.



Newsies – Christopher Gattelli (2012)

Newsies is one of the best examples of a modern dance musical that has all of the joy and energy of the classics we all love. Its various styles of dance range from classic to modern and its roots go deep in the American musical tradition.

The show has several large dance numbers including “Seize the Day” and “King of New York”. The show is thrilling for letting it all go in its full-company, hyper-gymnastic and extremely kinetic dance choreography.

Gattelli challenges the performers with difficult routines that have been wowing audiences since it made its debut at the Nederlander Theatre in early 2012. With their high-flying leaps and acrobatics, the numbers are full of exciting energy.

Newsies has raised the bar for dance musicals to come, with wonderful choreography performed by some of musical theatre’s greatest dancers of this generation.

My Predictions:

Though I feel that there has been some great new musicals and revivals this year, I don’t think there has been a stand out for this particular category. There are three musicals in particular this year that I hope to see nominated in this category.

Bring it On: The Musical The show based off of the 90s movie, starring Kirsten Dunst, featured fun and exciting dance routines. What else would you expect from a musical centered around a cheerleading squad? I think the show will get a nomination, because the dance routines are unique and creative, with mixtures of jazz and hip hop.

AnnieThe show about the young orphan made its Broadway revival last November and has come back stronger than ever. The dance in this revival is fun and upbeat. The young cast members do a particularly great job and carry the dances with great energy and personality. I am expecting this show to be nominated because the revival has received rave reviews and the musical numbers appeal to a wide range of audiences.

Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella – Out of these three shows, this has to be my favorite dance musical this year. It has great numbers with the entire cast that incorporate ballet and ballroom dance. The routines are beautiful and add an element of grandeur to this classic fairytale. I believe this show will be nominated because the dances are classic Broadway and show off both the wonderful choreography and the very talented cast.

What are your favorite dance musicals, and why? Which shows do you predict will win?

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