Actress Rosemary Harris, playwright Terrence McNally and music director and orchestrator Harold Wheeler have been chosen to be honored with the 2019 Special Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
Harris, 91, currently is appearing as Mrs. Higgins in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of My Fair Lady. She made her Broadway debut in 1952 in the short-lived Moss Hart drama The Climate of Eden, and won a Tony for lead actress in a play in 1966 for The Lion in Winter. Among her 26 Broadway appearances is the American premiere of Harold Pinter's Old Times and productions of Heartbreak House, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Merchant of Venice, The School for Scandal, Hay Fever, The Wild Duck, An Inspector Calls, You Can't Take it With You and A Delicate Balance.
Harris starred in two separate Broadway revivals of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's comedy The Royal Family, playing Julie Cavendish, the daughter of a celebrated acting dynasty in 1975, and family matriarch Fanny Cavendish in 2009.
On the London stage, Harris played opposite John Gielgud in his farewell performance in The Best of Friends, starred with Richard Burton in Othello, with Peter O'Toole in Hamlet and with Laurence Olivier in Uncle Vanya. Film audiences know her as Aunt May in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy.
McNally has been a Broadway fixture for six decades, both as a playwright and book writer on a string of successful musicals. A revival of his two-character drama Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, starring Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon, begins performances May 4. He has won four previous Tony Awards — landing best play for Love! Valor! Compassion! in 1995 and for Master Class in 1996, and best book of a musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993 and Ragtime in 1998.
He made his Broadway debut with a 1963 adaptation of The Lady of the Camelias. A pioneering force in the representation of gay characters on stage, the prolific McNally's many works include The Ritz; Lips Together, Teeth Apart; The Lisbon Traviata; It's Only a Play; and Mothers and Sons, as well as the musicals The Rink, The Full Monty, The Visit, Catch Me If You Can and the recently closed Anastasia.
Wheeler's work as orchestrator, music director, conductor and arranger spans half a century on Broadway, starting with Promises, Promises in 1968 and continuing this season with Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. Musical premieres in which he was involved include Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Wiz, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, Dreamgirls, Little Me, The Tap Dance Kid, Carrie, The Life, Side Show, The Full Monty, Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway.
In addition to his Broadway work, Wheeler has arranged and produced music for such artists as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Kathleen Battle, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Joe Cocker, Dizzy Gillespie and Gloria Gaynor, among many others.
"We are thrilled to recognize Rosemary, Terrence and Harold with the Special Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre," American Theatre Wing president Heather Hitchens and Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin said Thursday in a statement. "They are pioneers in each of their crafts and their contributions to American theater and culture have been immeasurable."
The 73rd Annual Tony Awards, honoring the best of the 2018-19 Broadway season, will be presented June 9 at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by James Corden and broadcast live on CBS. Nominations in the competitive categories will be announced Tuesday from the New York City Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center by Bebe Neuwirth and Brandon Victor Dixon.