The Kleban Foundation – 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) – has announced the recipients of the 33rd annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre, administered by New Dramatists. This year’s prize for most promising lyricist has been awarded to Ryan Scott Oliver (35mm: A Musical Exhibition, based on photographs by Matthew Murphy; Jasper in Deadland, with co-book by Tony Award-nominee Hunter Foster; ¡Havana!, with director Warren Carlyle) and the most promising musical theater librettist for 2023 is Ethan Lipton (whose produced plays include Tumacho; the Obie Award-winning No Place to Go; and The Outer Space, which received a Lortel nomination).
Prizes (totaling $100,000 each, payable over two years) will be presented by The Kleban Foundation on Monday, February 6, at 5 pm, in a private invitation-only ceremony hosted by ASCAP and BMI at BMI’s New York City headquarters at 7 World Trade Center. Hosted by Tony Award winners and Kleban board members Richard Maltby, Jr. and Maury Yeston, the event will feature musical performances and special appearances by Tony Award nominee Alex Brightman, Tony Award winner Lindsay Mendez, and more. The public can stream the awards presentation on the free ad-supported Broadway On Demand SmartTV channel beginning on Friday, February 10, at 8 pm, and will be available for viewing through Thursday, February 16.
“For over three decades, the Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of the theatre’s most distinctive honors, and after the last few challenging years, Ed Kleban’s legacy may be more important than ever in its supporting and fostering of the creators of tomorrow’s American Musical theatre,” noted Tony Award winner and Kleban Foundation President Richard Maltby Jr. He added, “Ed Kleban recognized that theatrical wordsmiths had the hardest time supporting themselves while honing their craft, and so the Kleban awards are specifically for librettists and lyricists. It is notable that The Kleban Prize is not given to a specific work already completed (as other theatre awards are), but instead, recognizing the excellence of past work, it is given to the writers in anticipation of work yet to be done. With a uniquely generous endowment, the Kleban Prize identifies, celebrates, and supports the most promising writing talent in the theatre, just when emerging writers and established writers need help the most.”
The trio of judges making the final determination this year were Obie Award-winning director Leah C. Gardiner (Bulrusher; Blue Door), playwright Julia Jordan (Murder Ballad; Walk Two Moons), and award-winning actor Orville Mendoza (Pacific Overtures on Broadway; Road Show at Off-Broadway’s The Public).
Since its incipience, the annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has awarded more than $6,000,000 to 81 artists who collectively have garnered four Tony Awards (with nearly 30 Tony nominations), 59 Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, ten 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 (Kimberly Akimbo; 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).
Congratulations to Ryan Scott Oliver and Ethan Lipkin for their honors and recognition.