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 morning, 8:30 AM (EST), at Sardi's Restaurant in Manhattan.
O'Donnell's stint as 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.
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.