If the last month is any indication, tonight's (June 2) broadcast of the 50th annual Tony Awards is going to be full of controversy, or at least lively repartee. Here are some of the golden moments to watch for:
* How long into the broadcast it takes before sharp-tongued host Nathan Lane makes some reference to the fact that 1) Julie Andrews declined her nomination, 2) David Merrick tried (unsuccessfully) to sue the Tonys for $2 million and stop the Best Score Award, 3) IATSE, the stagehands union, threatened to disrupt the Tonys if they didn't get a contract settlement (they got it Friday).
* How many of the other winners will comment on any of the above.
* If Julie Andrews wins Best Actress in a Musical, who will accept and/or what will the Tony host do? Andrews has asked the Tony producers merely to state that she withdrew her name from consideration. Will her friend Carol Burnett accept in her place? If so, what will she say?
* If Tony host Nathan Lane does not win Best Actor in a Musical, how loudly will the audience gasp and what will Lane say about it? Lane told a magazine last week that the funniest thing that could happen on the Tony show would be the look on his face if he lost. * If Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair loses the Best Score award to Rent, as seems likely, who will accept for deceased composer Jonathan Larson, and what will they make of the fact that he beat R&H?
* If State Fair's Scott Wise wins Best Featured Actor in a Musical, will he mention Merrick's suit?
* Since 13 of the awards will be handed out before the televised portion of the show begins, and those speeches will be shown, edited, on tape, will the editors cut controversial references to this year's Tony woes? [Playbill On-Line will keep track of the original speeches and report on significant discrepancies, if any.]
* If the show runs long, what will producer Gary Smith cut to bring the show in at 11 PM (ET), as CBS has said he must? Last year he cut the televised number from Smokey Joe's Cafe.
* If the show STILL runs too long and Best Musical and/or Best Play still haven't been awarded, will CBS still pull the plug at 11 PM as threatened?
* If Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk -- or, for that matter, Swinging on a Star or Chronicle of a Death Foretold -- beats Rent, will life still go on?
* Will all the above manage to overshadow the excitement, diversity and quality of the shows offered on Broadway this season? Or will it come shining through in a picture-perfect and classy broadcast?
* Will Thalia and Melpomene, the muses of comedy and tragedy, descend from the heavens and just slap everybody who made a fuss this year?
-- By Robert Viagas