Though the media has intensified speculation as to who will host this year's Tony Awards and where the event will be, spokespersons for the event say a decision is still a couple of weeks away.
Back in January, television talk show host Rosie O'Donnell declined hosting the ceremony, citing her busy schedule (including hosting the Grammy Awards). She had hosted the past two shows and helped boost ratings from 6.5 in 1996 to 9.6 and 8.4 in 1997 and 1998.
In her March 17 column, syndicated columnist Cindy Adams wrote that Bette Midler and Jerry Seinfeld were recently approached to host but both turned down the gig. Tony spokesperson Keith Sherman told Playbill On Line (March 17) he had no comment regarding potential hosts. He did say a decision is expected soon, both on the emcee and the event's venue. Radio City Music Hall, the show's home for the past two, high-profile years, is being renovated and is thus unavailable for this annum's event. Weeks ago, spokesperson Sherman told Playbill On-Line the 1998-99 event will definitely be held "in a Broadway house," though which one he couldn't yet say.
In other Tony news, the administration committee will have yet another decision to make in the next couple of weeks. Is the musical Rollin' on the T.O.B.A. Tony eligible? The show recently completed a successful run at Off-Broadway's 47th Street Theatre and started previews March 17 for a reopening at the Kit Kat Klub at Henry Miller's Theatre March 24.
Even though the show operates on a Broadway contract, and the Klub's previous tenant, Cabaret, was deemed Tony eligible (in fact, it won several Tonys), the venue itself isn't necessarily a Tony house, and a League of American Theatres & Producers spokesperson has noted that the show isn't a member of the League. That said, the Miller's Theatre has applied for Tony status next year, and T.O.B.A.'s producers are independently asking for Tony consideration this season. Once the Tony committee sees the show, said a Tony spokesperson, they'll then meet the first week in April to decide its status. *
In other recent Tony news, the revised Scarlet Pimpernel came up empty in its request for Tony reconsideration. Though the producers argued that the show had been substantially revised and improved, the Tony administration committee said new cast additions Rex Smith, Rachel York and new director Robert Longbottom are not eligible for Tonys. However Pimpernel can petition for a special award at season's end.
The Tony nominating committee also turned down the season's most unexpected request: eligibility for Margaret Edson's acclaimed drama, Wit. The producers felt strongly that the play's artistic merit, and Kathleen Chalfant's performance, were on a par with anything on Broadway this season and therefore worthy of Tony consideration. However, Wit plays at the Union Square Theatre, an Off-Broadway house, and is therefore ineligible. Wit's gambit was especially surprising, since initially co-producers Manhattan Class Company, Long Wharf Theatre and Daryl Roth considered putting the show on Broadway (targeting the Helen Hayes Theatre) but the theatre owner feared audiences would be scared off by the tragic subject matter. The InTheater website has reported that, now that Band in Berlin is closing (March 21), Wit may, indeed, wind up at that venue. But sources close to the production are not confirming that; and other sources are saying the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical By Jeeves is a more likely candidate.
The Tony Awards will be held Sunday, June 6, at a Broadway theatre still to be determined. The show will begin at 8 PM (broadcast, for the third year in a row, on PBS-TV) and continue from 9-11 PM, broadcast on CBS TV. Though relations between Tony co-producers the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres & Producers had long been rancorous, they recently patched things up and signed a new contract reaching to 2004. CBS, also, has renewed its contract for the Tonys through that year.
-- By David Lefkowitz