Meeting in New York April 9, the 1998 Tony Awards Administration Committee applied broadly inclusive criteria to nearly all questions of eligibility of shows, theatres and artists for the June 7 Broadway awards.
Here are their major decisions, according to Tony spokesman Kevin Rehac:
* Cabaret is eligible for Best Revival and all attendant categories (actor, actress, director, costumes, etc.). However the committee has postponed a decision about whether the category will be split into Best Musical Revival and Best Play Revival this year. The otherwise bountiful 1997-98 Broadway season has seen only two other musical revivals: The Sound of Music and 1776.The decision on whether to split the category will be made at a special meeting April 30, the day after the Tony deadline. The Kit Kat Klub, a former disco brought back into the legitimate fold for Cabaret, was recognized as a full Broadway theatre, despite its 522 seats in its current configuration (499 is the contractual minimum for Broadway).
* The one-man show Freak is eligible for Best Play and all attendant categories, including Best Actor, for its author/star John Leguizamo. The committee has ruled various ways on this question in the past. * Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley of Side Show are eligible to be nominated for Best Actress in a Musical as a single performance. They played Siamese twins in the musical. The move is unusual but not unprecedented. In 1975 John Kani and Winston Ntshona were nominated as a single performance in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island. They won the Tony as Best Actor (Dramatic).
* The committee refused a similar request from the producers of The Sound of Music that the seven child actors who play the Von Trapp brood be considered a single performance -- though the children in the original 1959 were so considered, according to Rehac.
* The committee affirmed that The Lion King is fully eligible for Best Musical, Best Score and attendant categories, even though much of the score was heard previously in Disney's animated film of the same name. The committee has ruled various ways on this question in the past as well. In 1994 another Disney screen-to-stage adaptation, Beauty and the Beast was found to be fully eligible for Best Musical and Best Score. However, in 1996, producer David Merrick sued the Tonys when it ruled that only new songs interpolated into the State Fair, score were eligible for Best Score. It was nominated, and lost. Merrick's suit was dismissed.
* No decision was reached about eligibility for another screen-to-stage adaptation, High Society, because that show has not yet opened, according to Rehac. It's eligibility will be determined at the special meeting April 30.
Nominations for the 1998 Antoinette Perry Awards will be made at a May 3 meeting, and announced May 4. Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell, the tireless supporter of Broadway who hosted the acclaimed 1997 Tony Awards broadcast, will be back to host the 1998 awards on June 7 and the ceremony will, for the second year, be broadcast from New York's Radio City Music Hall. Tickets go on sale May 4 at (212) 247-4777. Tony nominees will be announced that same morning, 8:30 AM (EST), at Sardi's Restaurant in Manhattan.
O'Donnell's stint as host -- and her promotion thereof -- are credited with increasing the broadcast's viewing audience by 48 percent from 1996. The 1998 show will be broadcast starting at 9 PM (EST) on CBS-TV once again. The increased ratings apparently enhanced the network's interest in the show -- they've signed on for broadcast rights through 2004.
Leslie Moonves, president of CBS TV, said in a statement, "The Tony Award is the preeminent celebration of theatre in this country... Last year's broadcast had dramatic ratings increases in both households and key demographics. I'm sure Rosie's role as host of the program contributed significantly..."
O'Donnell will serve as a producer of the event, with Walter C. Miller -- who's directed Tony broadcasts since 1987 -- serving as executive producer. Says the actress-turned talk show host, "Last year was an extraordinary experience for me. This year's show promises to [be] entertaining and accessible to everyone." 1997's Tonys were the last to be directed by Gary Smith, who had clashed with O'Donnell on aspects of the broadcast.
Isabelle Stevenson, president of the American Theatre Wing, called Miller "the logical successor to Gary Smith, who did a great job for five years."
Roy Somlyo will again serve as managing producer of the Tonys, as he has since 1987. In 1999, however, he'll step down and be succeeded by Edgar Dobie, former president of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Company. Somlyo will stay on as a consultant for two further years.
Also for the second straight time, the first hour of the awards (8-9 PM) will be a semi-taped broadcast on Public Television. This allows the presentation of all 20 Tony Awards to be broadcast live (as opposed to previous years, which sometimes had a cut-and-paste feel for the pre taped, technical and design awards). Great Performances' Jac Venza will executive produce the PBS special, "Broadway `98: Launching the Tony Awards."
The PBS special will include highlights of the 1997-98 season, plus interviews and live coverage of celebrities arriving at the Tony gala.
Twenty-eight theatre professionals comprise the 1998 Tony Award Nominating Committee, a decrease by two from last season's group. New names on the list include playwrights Lanford Wilson and Romulus Linney, actress Maureen Anderman and lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes. New members serve a three-year term.
No longer on the Committee are Merle Debuskey (former press agent), Brendan Gill, Jay Harnick (Sheldon Harnick remains), David Ives (playwright), Ming Cho Lee (set designer), Robert McDonald, Dorothy Olim, George White and Edwin Wilson.
According to the Tony Awards Administration Committee (which is run by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers), here is the full list of 1998 nominators:
Billie Allen (actress/director)
Maureen Anderman (actress)
Price Berkley (publisher of Theatrical Index)
Donald Brooks (costumer)
Mary Schmidt Campbell (New York University dean)
Marge Champion (choreographer)
Betty L. Corwin (theatre archivist at NY Public Library of the Performing Arts)
Gretchen Cryer (composer, I'm Getting My Act Together...)
Tom Dillon (administrator)
Mallory Factor (entrepreneur)
Robert Fitzpatrick (educator)
Morton Gottlieb (producer)
Sheldon Harnick (lyricist, Fiddler On The Roof)
Geoffrey Holder (director/actor)
Charles Hollerith (producer)
Barnard Hughes (actor, Da)
Allen Lee Hughes (lighting designer)
Betty Jacobs (script consultant)
Robert Kamlot (general manager)
Jack Lee (musical director)
Romulus Linney (playwright)
Jon Nakagawa (managing director, Vineyard Theatre)
Peter Neufeld (general manager)
Polly Pen (author/composer, Bed & Sofa)
David Richards (writer/critic)
Douglas Watt (writer)
Franklin R. Weissberg (judge)
Lanford Wilson (playwright, Talley's Folly)