February 5, the 28th Annual Kleban Prizes for Musical Theatre were presented to Alan Schmuckler (the most promising musical theater lyricist, tie), Amanda Yesnowitz (the most promising musical theater lyricist, tie), and Christian Duhamel (the most promising musical theater librettist) in a private reception hosted by ASCAP and BMI at ASCAP. In addition to this year’s winners, attendees included Andre Bishop (Artistic Director, Lincoln Center Theater), Elliot H. Brown (theatrical attorney), Richard Maltby, Jr. (Tony Award-winning director, conceiver, lyricist – Ain’t Misbehavin’, Baby, Miss Saigon), Richard Terrano (CPA, Marks Paneth LLP), John Weidman (Tony-nominated librettist – Contact, Anything Goes, Assassins, Pacific Overtures), Maury Yeston (Tony Award-winning composer/lyricist – Nine, Titanic), Sarah Douglas (Literary Agent, Abrams Artists Agency); and event hosts Seth Saltzman (Senior Vice President, ASCAP), Patrick Cook (Director of Musical Theatre and Jazz, BMI). The evening culminated in performances of material by this year’s prize winners by Charissa Bertels (A Christmas Story The Musical), Doug Katsaros (Altar Boyz), Ayumi Okada (“Here, Where The Land Ends And The Sea Begins,”), Presley Ryan (Fun Home), and Benjamin Scheuer (The Lion).
The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. Kleban’s will made provisions for two annual prizes, which in recent years have totaled $100,000 each, payable over two years, to be given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American Musical Theatre. For 28 years, The Kleban Prize, which has recognized and honored some of the American musical theatre’s brightest developing talents, is unique in that it is bestowed not just for an artist’s previous achievements, but for the promise of creativity to come.
Over the past 28 years, the annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has awarded approximately $5,000,000 to 63 artists who collectively have garnered four Tony Awards (with nearly 30 Tony nominations), 59 Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, 10 Drama Desk Awards, nine Outer Critic Circle Awards, four Obie Awards, two Olivier Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. The list of previous Kleban Prize winners includes Lisa Kron (Fun Home), Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder), David Lindsay-Abaire (Shrek), Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years), John Bucchino (A Catered Affair, It’s Only Life), Gretchen Cryer (I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac), Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, Happiness), Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), Michael John LaChiusa (Giant, See What I Wanna See, The Wild Party), Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid) and John Weidman (Pacific Overtures, Road Show, Assassins). For a complete listing of the last 28 years of Kleban Prize winners, see the list at the end of this document.
“For nearly three decades years, The Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of the theatre’s most distinctive honors,” says Tony Award winner Richard Maltby, Jr., President of the Kleban Foundation. “While so many theatre awards recognize the best of the past season, The Kleban Prize distinguishes itself by looking to the promise of future work. With a uniquely generous endowment, The Kleban Prize celebrates and supports some of the theatre’s most promising writers. The Kleban Foundation is proud to carry Ed Kleban’s legacy into the 21st century, having fostered the work of emerging artists and the continued achievements of artists taking bold strides in their craft.”