It's rare for Broadway's Gershwin Theatre to feel downright intimate, but that may just be the feeling this year when the Tony Awards are held in that 1,933-seat house, June 6. The past two years, the Tonys were held in the 6,000-plus seat Radio City Music Hall, but that venue has been unavailable as it goes through renovations.
Tony spokesperson Keith Sherman told Playbill On-Line (April 2), the Gershwin move has its positive and negative aspects. On the plus side, "The Gershwin is one of Broadway's biggest houses, and the Tonys need a lot of room. Also, producer Walter Miller is familiar physically with the space, and he likes the way it looks on TV." However, theatre fans hoping to attend the Tony Awards will have far fewer opportunities to do so. "Tickets won't be available to the public this year," said Sherman. "We won't even have enough to accommodate the trade."
As of April 22, an emcee had not yet been selected for the 1999 Awards, nor has there been news regarding who will announce the nominations, May 3, 8:30 AM at Sardi's restaurant.
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 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. In other Tony news, the Administration Committee met April 1 to discuss the status of Rollin' On The T.O.B.A., now playing at the Kit Kat Klub in Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street. The committee ruled that T.O.B.A. would not be Tony eligible -- even though last year's Kit Kat Klub tenant, Cabaret, was.
"The committee made a special case for Cabaret," spokesperson Sherman told PBOL (April 2). "Even though the Miller's is not an eligible house, Cabaret had a long Broadway history, and the Roundabout -- which had been working on producing it for years -- tried several houses before bringing it to that space. From time to time, productions don't comply with the rules, but their situation extends beyond the boundaries of Tony rules. Looking at the totality of the situation regarding Cabaret, the committee felt it should be eligible. On the other hand, a similar look at T.O.B.A. deemed it not eligible."
Sherman continued, "There were many factors in the decision, though it should be noted that no one has requested that the Miller's theatre be an eligible house. They've had that opportunity since last year, when Cabaret won the Best Musical Tony. I've spoken with the tenants of the Klub space and with [Tony managing director] Edgar Dobie and explained the process, but no one applied. Besides, had T.O.B.A. gone into Town Hall or Madison Square Garden, it wouldn't have been eligible either; those are the rules on those spaces."
For his part, T.O.B.A. producer Ashton Springer told the New York Post's Michael Riedel, "Sometimes the unfairness of our theatrical community is extremely painful to accept. I will never understand why Cabaret was deemed Tony-eligible at the Kit Kat Klub and our show was not. I guess it must have been a different Kit Kat Klub."
The Tony Awards will be held Sunday, June 6, at the Gershwin Theatre. 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.
The Tony nominations will be announced 8:30 AM, May 3, at Sardi's Restaurant. No word yet on who will make the announcements, which are generally covered live on New York-1 and Good Day New York, with a portion covered live by CNN and CBS-TV.
-- By David Lefkowitz