Because it is no longer running on Broadway, Calhoun's revival of Big River has been denied the chance to perform live on the Tony telecast, which usually broadcasts scenes from the four nominated Best Musicals and the four nominated Best Revivals of a Musical. A representative for the awards ceremony told Variety that due to time constraints, "CBS has mandated that only shows that are currently running will perform."
Calhoun, who is currently readying the national tour of Big River, told Playbill On-Line, "For the last three years, Deaf West's production of Big River has been honored by critics and audiences alike. Of course, we are disappointed that CBS has decided that a national audience will not get the chance to see a live performance of this celebrated production. The Broadway company is currently in rehearsals for the national tour and eager to participate, but they will not have the same opportunity as their fellow nominees. That said, I'm heartened that the Tony Award committee has recognized our production by voting to support the airing of an excerpt of our news footage on the telecast."
Last season, Amour was similarly denied the opportunity to perform at the annual awards because it had shuttered earlier in the season. It was a less devastating decision for Amour because that musical had no plans to tour at the time. Big River, however, is set to launch its national tour June 11 at San Francisco's Curran Theatre with three of its original stars, Daniel H. Jenkins, Tyrone Giordano and Michael McElroy.
Big River had planned to perform what is, perhaps, the musical's best-known tune, "Muddy Water," on the upcoming Tony broadcast. Most likely the show will now be introduced briefly via pre-taped press footage.
Big River played the American Airlines Theatre July-Sept. 2003 and was hailed for its casting of hearing and hearing-impaired actors and its use of American Sign Language. The revival of the William Hauptman-Roger Miller musical was nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael McElroy). Jeff Calhoun received a 1994 Tony Award nomination for Best Choreography for the long-running revival of Grease!, which he also directed. His other Broadway credits include Big River, Bells Are Ringing, Annie Get Your Gun, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, Tommy Tune Tonite! and The Will Rogers Follies. Calhoun also directed and choreographed the debut of the musical Brooklyn, which is headed to Broadway next season.
The 58th Annual Tony Awards — hosted by The Boy From Oz's Hugh Jackman — will be broadcast live on CBS-TV June 6, 8-11 PM ET.