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Special Tony Awarded to BMI’s Musical Theatre Workshop

Posted in News on October 27, 2006
The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, an innovative program widely regarded as the foremost training ground for new writing voices, was presented with a special Tony Award at the 16th Annual Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. Tony Award winners and Workshop alumni Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty presented the prestigious award to Advanced Workshop moderators Richard Engquist and Maury Yeston at a gala luncheon held Oct. 24 at Tavern on the Green in New York City.

Pictured after the ceremony at Tavern on the Green are (front row): Tony Honors recipient Gerard Alessandrini, BMI Workshop moderator Maury Yeston, American Theatre Wing President Douglas Leeds, Shubert Organization Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, actress Angela Lansbury, American Theatre Wing Chairman Sondra Gilman, Tony Honors host Cynthia Nixon, BMI Workshop moderator Richard Engquist, Tony Honors recipient Biff Liff; (middle row): Workshop alumni and Tony Honors presenters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Workshop Steering Committee members Nancy Golladay, Jane Smulyan and David Spencer; (back row): Workshop moderator Rick Freyer, Workshop alumnus Judd Woldin (composer of Raisin, the Workshop's first Tony-winning musical), BMI Workshop Director Jean Banks, Workshop Steering Committee members Patrick Cook and Frank Evans, and Workshop alumna Linda Kline. 

In accepting the crystal trophy, Yeston, the Tony Award-winning BMI composer (Titanic, Grand Hotel, Nine) who has led the Workshop for more than 25 years, said, "Lehman wanted to pass on his expertise in writing musicals and he got together with an extraordinary corporation, BMI, and they did something unprecedented that I don't think has ever been done before or since: They made a workshop. BMI put up the money, they provided the infrastructure and the room and the piano, and they've been doing this for more than 40 years, free of charge, no strings attached. It is a real privilege to sit there and to see these shows come into existence week by week and song by song."

American Theatre Wing President Douglas Leeds, American Theatre Wing Chairman Sondra Gilman, BMI Workshop moderator Maury Yeston, who accepted the Tony Honor on the Workshop's behalf, and Workshop alumna Lynn Ahrens, who presented the award

Deemed "the Harvard of musical theatre" by The New York Times, the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop was founded in 1961 by the late Lehman Engel, dean of American musical theatre, to create a setting where new writers could learn their craft. With more than 250 composers, lyricists and bookwriters who are actively writing new works for the musical theatre, noted alumni include Yeston, as well as Tony Award winners Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), Edward Kleban (A Chorus Line), Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors), and Michael John LaChiusa (Hello Again, Marie Christine, The Wild Party).

(Back row): Workshop committee members Patrick Cook, Jean Banks and Frank Evans; and (front row): Lynn Ahrens and Maury Yeston

The BMI Workshop's 2006 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre adds to an impressive trophy shelf that already boasts a special 2006 Drama Desk Award "for nurturing, developing and promoting new talent for the musical theater," and the 2005 Drama League Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre.

In addition to the BMI Workshop, Forbidden Broadway and its creator Gerard Alessandrini- a BMI composer and Workshop alumnus-were also honored with a Tony Honor, given to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievements in the field of theatre, but that are not eligible in any of the established Tony categories. Winners are chosen by the Tony Administration Committee.