The best movies get Oscars, the top TV shows get Emmys and excellence in theatre is bestowed a Tony. Few Iowans may realize one of their own is voting in this weekend’s Tony Awards.

Most of the nearly 800 people who cast ballots in the Tonys live in New York City, but a single Iowan is among that elite group. Jeff Chelesvig, president and CEO of the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, says one requirement is that he make a lot of trips to the Big Apple.

"There were about 33 shows that opened on Broadway this year that are eligible for Tony Awards. I think I saw all but about three or four. There were a couple that closed early, before I could see them, but yes, you have to see them in New York," he says. 

Chelesvig is a member of the Broadway League, which co-produces the Tony Awards with the American Theatre Wing. While you might expect New Yorkers to pooh-pooh anyone from a Midwestern farm state, Chelesvig says there’s a lot of respect for Des Moines in New York City.

"We have a fabulous Broadway series. We draw hundreds of thousands of people to see live Broadway in Des Moines. I’m never intimidated," he says. "I know a lot of the producers in New York on a first-name basis and I feel very good about my ‘other life’ in New York City."

Chelesvig will be attending Sunday’s 62nd Annual Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall at 7 p.m. central time on CBS.

While the Tony broadcasts aren’t nearly as popular as the Oscars or Emmys, Chelesvig says that’s changing as Iowans become more familiar with big-city stage productions. He says if you watch the Tonys, it’s likely you’ll see a show that will be coming to Des Moines soon. Last year, the winner of Best Musical was "Spring Awakening," which is on the list of shows coming to Iowa’s capitol city next season.

Since 1979, the Civic Center has presented 31 Tony award winners for Best Musical and "Spring Awakening" will be number 32 in January of 2009.


Audio: Matt Kelley report :39 MP3