Counting the Minutes: Producers Weigh Tony Show Options

News   Counting the Minutes: Producers Weigh Tony Show Options Jane Eyre producer Annette Niemtzow and her producing partners on the Charlotte Bronte-inspired musical are "a little agitated" that their musical is being given less airtime on the upcoming TV broadcast than other Best Musical nominees.

Jane Eyre producer Annette Niemtzow and her producing partners on the Charlotte Bronte-inspired musical are "a little agitated" that their musical is being given less airtime on the upcoming TV broadcast than other Best Musical nominees.

Niemtzow said the Tony Awards Productions people told her on May 23 that Jane Eyre will get 1 minute 36 seconds on the June 3 broadcast, rather than the previously-promised 3 minutes 20 seconds. Niemtzow said some revivals are getting more airtime than her new-to-Broadway show, which has been nominated for five Tonys. In recent weeks, the producers of Jane Eyre announced it would close May 20, but they pulled that notice when more money came in; it was then thought May 27 might be the close date. The week ending May 20, the show earned $48,000 more than the previous week, encouraging the producers to keep the show running "at least through Tony time" and beyond. The show is open-ended at the moment. "We have passionate and generous supporters and we're running," Niemtzow said.

On May 20, the show's fortunes were further improved when Marla Schaffel won a Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She is also nommed for a Best Actress (Musical) Tony.

"We're not properly treated by the Tony Awards people," Niemtzow told Playbill On-Line. "All the other musicals are being given three times the amount that we've been given — even the revivals are getting two minutes. They decided we weren't going to make it — and they allocated the time differently because of it. We have same rights as any of the other musicals nominated."

She added, "We feel this is incredibly unfair, even for this thought to be entertained by Tony productions. We are hopeful they will recognize this is an injustice and change their mind. They have decided we weren't going to make it up the Tony hill, but Jane Eyre is 'the little engine that could.'" Speaking for the Tonys, producer Elizabeth McCann countered Niemtzow's charge on May 24 by saying, "Every show does not have the same length of time [to do a number]. That's a myth. Look at the nominated musicals on an Oscar show; every song does not have the same length of time." McCann added that Jane Eyre will have "two minutes" rather than the aforementioned 1:36.

Fights over air-time and perception of dominance may have drastically changed what was to have been an elaborate New York subway sequence planned to open the Awards show. According to Army Archerd's May 9 column in Variety, the plan was to open with the cast of the current 42nd Street revival exiting the Ford Center and hopping a 42nd Street subway train (presumably the C or E) up to 50th Street. On the train they'd rendezvous with the casts of The Rocky Horror Show for a "Time Warp" and say "Hello, Hello There" to the aforementioned Bells Are Ringing revival. Assuming there'd be no sick passengers, MTA slowdowns or trains just-ahead-of-them-to-be moving-shortly, all three casts would exit at 50th and scurry to Radio City Music Hall, where the "Beautiful Girls" from the year's fourth Tony nominee for Best Revival, Follies, would join the gaggle for "a giant tap number to open the show, directed by Glen Weiss."

The subway sequence would be pre-taped, and Actors' Equity has given permission for performers from all four shows to take part in the same production number (generally, actors are allowed to do excerpts only from the show's they're in.)

Asked about the subway opener, Tony Awards spokesperson Keith Sherman reiterated his recent statements about keeping decisions about the telecast's content under wraps until they were official. He did say a week earlier that, "We at the Tony Awards have a lot of ideas to open the show, and that [the subway sequence] is certainly among them." Sherman's office added, May 24, that more Tony show news is expected very shortly, but they could not elaborate.

Tony producer McCann told PBOL, "We are doing the subway number. 42nd Street is doing the opening number in the subway. And then Bells Are Ringing and Follies will have separate segments. But the whole show evolves from day to day, depending on a lot of things."

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced that producers of shows other than The Producers and 42nd Street are chafing at the face-time that may end up being granted those two shows, since Producers stars Lane and Broderick are co-hosting the event (and their musical may very possibly take home double-digit Tony wins), and 42nd Street is seen as benefiting most from a subway opening number.

*

Several Tony presenters are now officially announced for the June 3 event at Radio City Music Hall. Lily Tomlin, who just finished a Tony-nominated revival run of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, will be among the stars presenting that night, as will The Heidi Chronicles' Joan Allen and Sunset Boulevard Tony winner Glenn Close.

Dame Edna, whose Royal Tour earned a special Tony last year, will also be on hand, as will Edie Falco (Side Man), Sigourney Weaver (Sex and Longing), Jane Krakowski (Grand Hotel) and Doris Roberts (TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond"). Sarah Jessica Parker, who co starred opposite hubby Matthew Broderick in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, will also present. Her husband will be extra-busy that night, though, since he's co-hosting the Tonys with his Producers co-star, Nathan Lane. Both are Tony Nominees for Best Actor in a Musical.