Barbourville native Caleb Hammons took home a coveted Tony Award. He won for Best Revival of a Musical for his work as Producer of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! on Sunday, June 9 at the annual awards ceremony.
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Award, is considered the highest theatre honor in the United States, equivalent to the Academy Awards (Oscars) for film and recognizes excellence in live Broadway theatre.
Hammons is the son of George and Burnetta Hammons, and the brother of Frankie Abner, a co-owner of the family’s business, Knox Professional Pharmacy (now co-owned with Cory Smith), located on Knox Street.
George Hammons said that he and his wife often took their small children to the theatre in Lexington, and that his son’s love of performance art was fostered from the start.
After the first performance the family saw, George said “Caleb looked right at me, and said, ‘That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”
“Caleb has always been an entertainer,” Abner said. "We saw his love for the theatre, and we always supported him."
Hammons’ sister also recalled trips that the family of four made to New York City to experience professional Broadway shows like Miss Saigon, Footloose, and Phantom of the Opera.
Kim Yeager said that she first met Hammons in the summer of 1994 when she launched a children’s theatre workshop that the young artist attended.
“He always helped out with anything that I asked him to do, both onstage and offstage,” she said. “That’s how you know you’re dealing with a great theatre person.”
Yeager described Hammons as “passionate” and “dedicated to the art” as far back as grade school, and added, “It doesn’t surprise me at all that Caleb won a Tony.”
"We are all just so, so proud of him," she said.
Retired Professor of Theatre at Union College, Dr. Rebecca Pettys discovered Hammons at age 12. She called Hammons an “incredibly smart, talented, caring, and sensitive young man.”
Pettys said that Hammons was the only twelve-year-old to ever participate in plays at Union College and that he continued to contribute to the theatre throughout his high school years.
Hammons also won a Best Actor of the Year Award in 2003 from Union College, Pettys said, and added, "We are just so proud of him and all his accomplishments."
“He was raised right,” Pettys said. “His parents are wonderful people who have always supported his interest in the arts.”
Hammons graduated from Knox Central High School and from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2007.
The awards were presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing were held at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.