Established in 1988 under the will of Tony and Pulitzer winning A Chorus Line lyricist Edward L. Kleban, the prize honors the most promising lyricist and librettist working in the American musical theatre. In recent years, the annual prize has totaled $100,000 each, paid over a period of two years to the recipient. Previous winners have included 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), Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), Michael John LaChiusa (Giant, See What I Wanna See, The Wild Party), and John Weidman (Pacific Overtures, Road Show, Assassins).
“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,” said Tony winner Richard Maltby Jr, President of the foundation. "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. In these challenging times, The Kleban Foundation is proud to carry on Ed Kleban's enlightened legacy, and to continue fostering the work of new writers, as well as supporting writers who have already begun to establish themselves. Kleban Prize winners are the artists who are going to define the art form for years to come. We celebrate them, their fresh perspectives and creative energy that is so very important to the theater."
This year's winners were selected by a three-person committee consisting of Obie-winning director Leah C. Gardiner (Bulrusher, Blue Door), playwright Julia Jordan (Murder Ballad, Walk Two Moons), and award-winning actor Orville Mendoza (Pacific Overtures, Road Show at The Public). The Kleban Foundation will present the awards at a private ceremony February 6, hosted by Richard Maltby Jr. and Maury Yeston. Performers will include Alex Brightman, Lindsay Mendez, and more. The public can later stream the presentation on Broadway on Demand's SmartTV channel beginning February 10.