The American Theatre Wing made official April 4 what's been an open secret for weeks: the 1997 Antoinette Perry Awards will be held at Radio City Music Hall, two blocks from Broadway in midtown Manhattan. An official press conference has been scheduled for 10:45 AM, April 9, at the venue. Talk show personality Rosie O'Donnell will be at the conference, presumably to announce the long-rumored news (already announced by her in TV Guide magazine) that she will host the production.
Also expected at the press conference is information about obtaining tickets to the event, as well as special new features unique to this year's Tony show and telecast.
Also expected at the Tony conference are NY Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, ATW president Isabelle Stevenson; League executive director Jed Bernstein, CBS president Peter Lund; and Tony exec producer Gary Smith.
Prospective Tony guests, including some Playbill On-Line users, began receiving their invitations in the mail April 4. The deadline for the 51st annual awards is April 30. Nominations will be announced May 5. The awards will be given June 1 in a ceremony broadcast on CBS-TV. The two hour Tony telecast drew disappointing ratings in 1996. O'Donnell, host of a popular daytime talk show on ABC -- and a devoted theatre fan -- would likely boost viewership.
In the April 5-11 TV Guide, O'Donnell reportedly responded to a direct question about whether she'll host the Tonys, saying, "I don't know if I'm supposed to say it, but I'll say it anyway. Yes, it's true. . . .They wanted to do something to bring it up in popularity, or they weren't going to air it next year. . ." Having Broadway's highest-profile awards ceremony at the 5000-plus seat Radio Music Hall will go a long way to quieting the annual clamor for tickets. The largest theatre on Broadway, the Gershwin, is about one third the size of Radio City. In 1996 the ceremony was held at the 1655-seat Majestic Theatre.
O'Donnell's appointment might also invoke several changes to the style of the evening. O'Donnell proclaims her fondness for theatre, especially musicals, on her syndicated weekday talk show, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." She exhibits an amazing memory for showtune lyrics, and frequently books theatre related guests.
Syndicated columnist Liz Smith reported that O'Donnell is also said to be very conscious of wanting "only the biggest names." She also hopes to do away with the Tonys' recent policy of cutting acceptance speeches off with music after 30 seconds.