It had been an open secret for days and, even yesterday, remained unconfirmed, but now it can be told: this year's Tony Awards will once again be at Radio City Music Hall. Tony spokesperson Keith Sherman confirmed the venue and noted that Gary Smith will executive produce the June 3 event, which will again be broadcast on PBS (first hour, 8-9 PM EST) and CBS (second two hours, 9 11 PM EST) television.
It's the 24th consecutive year that CBS has broadcast the 55-year-old ceremony. Glenn Weiss will serve as director, with Ricky Kirshner as line producer. Smith's production company, Smith-Hemion, has overseen 24 Emmy Awards, as well as five Tony telecasts (1993-1997).
In a letter mailed to the theatre industry Jan. 19, the Tony Awards organization (jointly run by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers) announced that this season's Tony eligibility deadline is May 2. Shows must open at a Tony eligible house by that date in order to be considered for award recognition this season. (The Tony season's last eligible show will therefore be The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which opens May 2.) The Tony nominations press conference will be held on Monday morning, May 7.
As to who will host this year's Tonys, that remains to be seen. Although the New York Post's Michael Riedel reported, March 9, that Annie Get Your Gun's Reba McEntire is being considered, how seriously is another question. Tony managing producer Liz McCann told the Post she's had preliminary discussions with the actress' manager-husband, Narvel Blackstock, adding, "It is far too early to talk about all this, but of course, it would be lovely to have Reba involved in the Tony Awards somehow." McEntire's press rep Pete Sanders told Playbill On-Line (March 9) the McEntire rumor is, at this point, just that. "Reba's having a great time on Broadway," Sanders said, "and she appreciates the great notices and warm welcome she's received. She wants to be part of the theatre community and is very willing to do it. But no one's approached her yet. There haven't been any meetings except for a `hello' between her and Liz McCann at Dean and DeLuca!"
Producer McCann also told the Post she's been talking to Rob Marshall (who "may end up choreographing the show") as well as James Lapine, George C. Wolfe, Hal Prince, Richard Maltby Jr., and Susan Stroman. Actress and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell had hosted the Tonys for three of the past four years, a see-saw tenure that did not end well. Her first year was seen as a major rejuvenation for the Tony Awards, with ratings up, extra audience exposure via O'Donnell's morning chat show, and a sense of excitement from holding the Awards at glitzy, big Radio City Music Hall instead of a traditional Broadway theatre. (It also didn't hurt that 1998 was the year of Ragtime and The Lion King.) The following year saw ratings decline a bit and, on the backstage front, a growing tension between the League and the Wing on what the Tonys should represent (e.g., excellence in commercial Broadway theatre versus a more historical, art-for-art's sake approach). When Rosie begged off in 1999, the producers chose to forego a host and simply used a series of presenters. Ratings were down again, with critics taking potshots at what they perceived as a lackluster event. (The heaviest brickbats were heaved at a Kevin Spacey-conceived segment that had actors reading intertwining monologues from nominated plays.) When O'Donnell returned in 2000, with Nathan Lane virtually co-hosting, reviews were generally improved but national ratings were the lowest in years.
No word yet on ticket availability or other aspects of the Tony event or television broadcast.
In related Tony news, while New Yorkers crowd into Radio City or around their TV sets on Tony Awards night, June 3, Los Angelinos can come out and party, thanks to the Actors' Fund of America and Aid for AIDS. Their West Coast Tony party will be held at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, CA. Proceeds will go to both the Fund, a not-for-profit social welfare organization that assists entertainment professionals, and to help those with AIDS and HIV.
This year's L.A. Tony party will bestow the Julie Harris Lifetime Achievement Award on Lauren Bacall, last on Broadway in Waiting in the Wings and best known for her stagework in Applause and Woman of the Year and for her legendary film career.
According to the Actors' Fund website, the Tony event features "a live feed of the Tony Awards telecast from New York, projected on several large screens; cocktails and dinner; an auction of theatrical memorabilia, travel packages and other items."
For tickets ($160) and information on the June 3 L.A. fete call (323) 933 9244 or check out http://www.actorsfund.org/tickets/tony.html.