The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced today that Joel Grey and John Kander will each receive the 2023 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
“We are immensely thrilled to honor two legends in their own rights. John Kander has composed the soundtrack to all of our lives – meeting us in every decade - creating unforgettable scores for Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and his current Broadway hit New York, New York,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League.
“As a legendary actor and director, Joel Grey has made an everlasting impact, from Cabaret, to Goodtime Charley, The Normal Heart and his acclaimed Yiddish production of Fiddler on the Roof. Mr. Grey and Mr. Kander are true giants of the theatre, and we are honored to say Wilkommen as the recipients of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Awards," said Heather Hitchens, President and CEO of the American Theatre Wing.
In a career that was launched in the early 1950's, Joel Grey has created indelible stage roles each decade regional theatre of his hometown, the Cleveland Playhouse. He made his Broadway debut exactly two decades later in Neil Simon's first comedy hit, Come Blow Your Horn (1961). Since then, he has appeared in numerous Broadway productions, including Stop the World I Want to Get Off, Half a Sixpence, Cabaret (Tony Award), George M! (Tony Award nomination), Goodtime Charley (Tony Award nomination), The Grand Tour (Tony Award nomination), Chicago (Drama Desk Award), Wicked, Anything Goes, and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. His other dramatic work has included roles in Marco Polo Sings a Solo, Give Me Your Answer, Do! (Drama Desk Award nomination), New York City Opera's Silverlake (directed by Hal Prince) and Larry Kramer's seminal The Normal Heart in its original run at the Public Theatre.
In 2011, he revisited The Normal Heart, this time as co-director, alongside George C. Wolfe, of its Tony Award-winning Broadway premiere (Drama Desk Award, Tony Award nomination). He also directed an acclaimed production of Paul Osborne’s On Borrowed Time at New Jersey's Two River Theater Company for their 20th Anniversary Season. Joel most recently directed the acclaimed production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, which won the 2019 Drama Desk Award for Best Musical Revival, the 2019 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival, and a 2019 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Special Citation.
Joel received the Academy Award, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for his indelible performance as the Emcee in the 1972 film version of Cabaret (directed by Bob Fosse). He is one of only nine actors to have won both the Tony and Academy Award for the same role.
His other film credits include Man on A Swing, Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, The Seven Percent Solution, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Steven Soderbergh's Kafka, Altman's The Player, The Music of Chance, Michael Ritchie's adaptation of The Fantasticks, Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark and Clark Gregg's Choke. His many notable television appearances include "Brooklyn Bridge" (Emmy Award nomination), "OZ," "Law and Order: CI," "House," "Brothers & Sisters," "Private Practice," "Grey's Anatomy," "Nurse Jackie," "Warehouse 13," and "CSI,” and, famously, the final episode of “Dallas.” He is currently in production on a second season of FX’s “The Old Man,” starring Jeff Bridges. In 2010, Joel was honored for his illustrious television career by The Paley Center for Media in both New York City and Los Angeles.
Over the last two decades, Joel has also become an accomplished photographer. He has five books of photographs, Pictures I Had to Take (2003), Looking Hard at Unexamined Things (2006), 1.3 - Images From My Phone (2009), The Billboard Papers (2013) and The Flower Whisperer (2019). His work is part of the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, as well as many private collections around the world. His acclaimed memoir, Master of Ceremonies, was published in February 2016 (Flatiron).
Joel is the father of Jennifer and James and the grandfather of Stella.
John Kander was born and raised in Kansas City Missouri by parents who encouraged and supported his love of music. He started playing the piano when he was four. When he was ten his mother took him to see his first opera, a touring production of Aida. He nagged his way into the next day’s matinee of Madam Butterfly and has been hooked ever since.
Mr. Kander wrote his first composition, A Christmas Carol, in the second grade. The school choir later performed it in a Christmas assembly. He feels his work has improved since then. He attended Oberlin College in 1951 and later earned an M.A. at Columbia, where he studied with Jack Beeson, Otto Luening and Douglas Moore. In the late fifties, John became a pianist and vocal coach and conductor. He later prepared dance arrangements for Gypsy and Irma La Douce. In 1962, John co-wrote the musical A Family Affair with James and William Goldman. That same year, he was introduced to another up-and-coming writer and lyricist, Fred Ebb. One of the first songs they wrote together as Kander and Ebb was My Coloring Book premiering on the Perry Como Show. The television audience response was amazing and the song caught the eye of yet another up and coming singer, Barbra Streisand, who recorded the song and made it a hit. In 196,5 Kander and Ebb collaborated on their first stage musical called Flora the Red Menace, produced by Hal Prince and directed by George Abbott and introducing them to a fresh-faced singer/dancer named Liza Minnelli. It was the beginning of a long professional and personal friendship.
The Kander and Ebb collaboration over four decades has created what many would consider Broadway standards and contemporary classics. Cabaret, (Tony Award for Score), Zorba, The Happy Time, 70 Girls 70, Chicago, The Act, Woman of the Year, (Tony Award for Score), The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, (Tony Award for Score), Steel Pier, Curtains, The Scottsboro Boys, The Visit and New York New York. Their collaboration also transferred itself to movies and television as they wrote original material for the Academy Awards, Liza with a Z and HBO’s Liza Minnelli’s Steppin Out, Funny Lady, Lucky Lady, New York, New York, Stepping Out and Chicago The Movie, the song “New York New York” in the mid 1980’s become the official anthem of New York City.
Through all those collaborative years with Mr. Ebb, Mr. Kander would occasionally venture off on solo musical projects. Scores for television and movies include An Early Frost, Breathing Lessons, The Boys Next Door, Kramer vs. Kramer, Blue Skies Again and Places of the Heart to name a few. He was also commissioned to write a composition for Renee Fleming, A Letter from Sullivan Bllou. Mr. Kander received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2014
At the time of the unfortunate death of Mr. Ebb in 2004, Kander and Ebb had several projects in different stages of completion waiting in the wings, The Visit which had a very successful run in Chicago at the Goodman Theater in 2001 and in 2008 at The Signature Theater in Fairfax, VA, and was a part of the Williamstown Theatre Festival 2014. Opening on Broadway in April of 2015 receiving Five Tony nominations including Best Score. A musical adaptation of the Thornton Wilder play The Skin of our Teeth called All About Us (performed at the McCarter Theater in Princeton and at the Westport County Playhouse.
John has collaborated working with a new young playwright/lyrist Greg Pierce there first production called The Landing was part of the 2013/2014 season at The Vineyard Theatre in NYC, Kid Victory made its debut at The Signature Theatre in Fairfax, Virginia. In early 2017, the show made its Off-Broadway debut at the Vineyard Theatre. John has recently been collaborated with his longtime friend, Lin-Manual Miranda.