The Tony Administration Committee will meet April 9 discuss which Broadway shows, theatres, and artists will be eligible for the 1998 Tony Awards.
Near the top of the agenda will be the question of eligibility for the Kit Kat Klub, a former disco brought back into the legitimate fold for the hit revival of Cabaret.
Cabaret spokesperson Erin Dunn said that until told otherwise, the producers consider the production to be a Broadway show and have been treating it as such in press and marketing.
With 522 seats in its current configuration (the contractual minimum for Broadway is 499), the new Kit Kat Klub (built as Henry Miller's Theatre in 1918) would seem to meet the primary criterion.
The decision is likely to affect whether there will be a Best Revival of a Musical category this year. The season saw only two other musical revivals on Broadway: The Sound of Music and 1776. The meeting begins at 3 PM (ET). Playbill On-Line will post its decisions shortly after they become public, expected mid to late evening.
The Tony committee is likely to have a busy slate of decisions to make that day. Considering that two of the season's biggest musicals -- The Lion King and High Society -- have scores heard previously (for the most part) in films -- will they be eligible for Best Musical and Best Score? The committee has gone both ways, allowing Beauty and the Beast to be eligible, but only the songs interpolated into State Fair were eligible for Best Score.
Other questions: Will the one-man show Freak be eligible for Best Play and/or Best Actor? Again, the committee has gone both ways in the past.
The Roundabout Theatre's revival of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret, co-directed by Mendes and choreographer Rob Marshall, opened March 19. "Kit Kat Club" is the name of the cabaret in Cabaret, which will help emphasize the cabaret-within-a-Cabaret-within-a-cabaret concept of the production. Originating in London, this Cabaret was staged by director Sam Mendes in environmental theatre style, meaning that audiences were made to feel that they were in an actual 1930s Berlin cabaret from the moment they approached the theatre. Spokesperson Danielle Billera said the space is being redesigned for the production as well.
That said, the pressing question is whether the production will qualify for Tony Award consideration. Along with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming, the production features Ron Rifkin (Shultz) and Mary Louise Wilson (Schneider), alongside John Benjamin Hickey (Cliff), Dennis O'Hare (Ernst) and Michelle Pawk (Fraulein Kost). Patrick Vaccariello serves as musical director.
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)
-- By Robert Viagas