In accepting the award for best score, Herman made a comment that caused a brouhaha among Broadway fans.
Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim are two of the most successful creators of musicals in Broadway history, but they directly competed at the Tony Awards just twice. In 1979, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd beat Herman's The Grand Tour for best original score. Five years later, Herman's La Cage Aux Folles beat Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George in that same category.
In accepting the Tony on June 3, 1984—35 years ago next week—a delighted Herman said, "This award forever shatters a myth about the musical theater. There's been a rumor around for a couple of years that the simple, hummable show tune was no longer welcome on Broadway. Well, it's alive and well at the Palace."
Some saw that phrase—"the simple, hummable show tune"—as a subtle dig at Sondheim, whose forte is more challenging and complex songs. Was it an innocent comment or a loaded remark? In 2004, Herman did a Q&A session with readers of Broadway.com. In response to a reader's question, Herman said he meant no slight to Sondheim by his use of that phrase.