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 will be at the announcement, flanked by Peter Gallagher (Long Day's Journey Into Night, Guys and Dolls) and Bernadette Peters (Mack and Mabel, Sunday in the Park with George). The two have something else in common: Gallagher recently did a concert version of Annie Get Your Gun with Patti LuPone; Peters has been in negotiations with Broadway producers Fran and Barry Weissler to star in a revival of the musical on Broadway next season.
O'Donnell also mentioned on TV's "Today Show" (Apr. 23) that the opening number of the Tony telecast would be dedicated to Divas, with Rosie asking how to be one. The InTheater website reports that Patti LuPone will come on as Evita, Jennifer Holliday as Effie (of Dreamgirls) and Betty Buckley as Cats' Grizabella, as part of the number. Tony spokespersons couldn't confirm the names (Apr. 23).
O'Donnell's stint as Tony 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.
Announced Apr. 20 is the line-up for the awards on both PBS and CBS. According to spokespersons from the Keith Sherman press office, all the awards are to be broadcast live. Here's the breakdown:
PBS (8-9 PM EST): Direction (Play, Musical), Score, Book, Orchestrations of Musical; Choreography, Lighting, Scenic, Costume Design. CBS (9-11 PM EST): Best Play, Musical, Leading Actor (Play, Musical), Leading Actress (Play, Musical), Featured Actor (Play, Musical), Featured Actress (Play, Musical), Revival.
The Tony Awards Committee hasn't yet determined whether or not the Revival category will be split between plays and musicals. Also, there's no word on whether there will be a special award (e.g., lifetime achievement) given this season.
A limited number of tickets to the Tonys will be sold to the public beginning on May 4. For information, call (212) 247-4777.
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 t ss-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 (deceased), 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)
Here is the complete list of shows that opened on Broadway during the 1997-98 season, and their eligibility status for the 1998 Tony Awards, according to spokesperson Kevin Rehac.
The list includes opening date, closing date where applicable, and the theatre in which the show opened. Abbreviations: M = Musical, P = Play, R = Revival, # = Ineligible, ** Eligibility status to be determined.
Forever Tango (M) 6/19/97 Marquis Theatre
1776 (M-R) 8/14/97 Gershwin Theate
The Cherry Orchard (P-R-#) 10/30/97 to 11/9/97 Martin Beck Theatre
Triumph of Love (M) 10/23/97 to 1/4/98 Royale Theater
Proposals (P) ll/06/97 to 1/11/98 Broadhurst Theate
The Scarlet Pimpernel (M) 11/9/97 Minskoff Theatre
Jackie (P) 11/10/97 to 3/1/98 Belasco Theatre
The Lion King (M) 11/13/97 New Amsterdam Theatre
The Old Neighborhood (P) 11/19/97 Booth Theatre
Ivanov (P-R) 11/20/97 to 1/4/98 Vivian Beaumont Theatre
Street Comer Symphony (M) 11/24/97 to 2/1/98 Brooks Atkinson Theatre
The Diary of Anne Frank (P-R) 12/4/97 Music Box Theatre
The Sunshine Boys (P-R) 12/8/97 Lyceurn Theatre
A View from the Bridge (P-R) 12/14/97 Neil Simon Theate
Ragtime: The Musical (M) l/18/98 Ford Center for Perf. Arts
The Capeman (M) 1/29/98 to 3/28/98 Marquis Theatre
Freak (P) 2/11/98 Cort Theatre
Art (P) 3/11/98 Royale Theatre
The Sound of Music (M-R) 3/12/98 Martin Beck Theatre
Ah, Wilderness! (P-R) 3/18/98 Vivian Beaumont
Cabaret (M-R) 3/19/98 "Kit Kat Klub"
The Deep Blue Sea (P-R) 3126/98 Roundabout Theatre
The Chairs (**) 4/1/98 John Golden Theate
Golden Child (**) 4/2/98 Longacre Theatre
Wait Until Dark (**) 4/5/98 Brooks Atkinson
The Herbal Bed (**) 4/16/98 to 4/26/98 Eugene O'Neill
The Beauty Queen of Leenane 4/22/98 Walter Kerr Theatre
Honour (**) 4/26198 Belasco Theatre
High Society (**) 4/27/98 St. James Theatre
The Judas Kiss (**) 4/29/98 Broadhurst Theatre