The Tony Awards Enter Seventh Decade
Celebrating Broadway Excellence;
Have You Voted?; Antoinette Perry, Who?;
Tony Memory Lane; Gone but Not Forgotten
by Ellis Nassour
The 2007 Tony Awards are entering their seventh decade of celebrating Broadway excellence. Sunday from 8 to 11 P.M., broadcast on CBS from Radio City Music Hall, it will be Broadway Live in the theater's premiere black tie event!
From the rousing welcome from the cast of A Chorus Line, entering from Sixth Avenue [as did the cast of the 42nd Street revival on the 2001 telecast] singing "One" onward, there'll be stunning couture gowns and eye-popping jewelry - not to mention clevage.
There'll also be enough smiles to boost Con Ed's output for the summer. But, alas, not everyone will be smiling; for not everyone or every show can be a winner. Of course, each and every one is!
Will it be utopia for a multiple-part epic or an unseasonal frost? Will a seasonal musical have Spring in its step, will it be a walk in the gardens or will the curtains fly?
Even after awards, awards, awards, hopefully, the very strong Actor, Play category will have some suspense.
Will there be the type of jawdropping moment as happened on the Drama Desk Awards when Actress, Musical nominees Audra McDonald and Donna Murphy
tied, and in quite the magical moment, rushed to the stage and into each other's arms?
This is the Tony Awards, which are perceived to be of no interest in the hinterlands unless loaded with TV stars [who may or may not have begun careers on Broadway], and not a show about that other Tony. So, with CBS being ratings conscious and wanting the show stacked with entertainment value, the winners of certain arts categories won't be honored during the network three-hours. Winners in these slots [see below] will be presented pre-show, between 7 and 8 P.M.
With awards shows following awards shows following awards shows, you can be forgiven if you've become a bit jaded and have some preconceived notions. But this is Broadway theater's glittering, premiere event.
There will be no host anchoring the Awards, but rather notable presenters from stage and screen. They include: Matthew Broderick, Zach Braff, Harry Connick, Jr., Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Brian Dennehy, Harvey Fierstein, Carla Gugino, Marvin Hamlisch, Marcia Gay Harden, Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Heche, Marg Helgenberger, Judd Hirsch and Felicity Huffman.
Also announced to do the honors are: Eddie Izzard, John Kander, Jane Krakowski, Angela Lansbury, Robert Sean Leonard, Patti LuPone, John Mahoney, Audra McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Cynthia Nixon, Donny Osmond, Bernadette Peters, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Plummer, Liev Schreiber, Kevin Spacey, John Turturro, Usher, Sam Waterston, Vanessa Williams and Ben Vereen.
Appearing as an ensemble will be the cast of the 2006 Tony-winning Best Musical, Jersey Boys: Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer and John Lloyd Young.
Arriving stars will get the red carpet treatment beginning at 6 P.M. Since the area surrounding RCMH will give new meaning to "traffic jam" and "mob scene," relax and watch the glamour coverage at TonyAwards.com or on NY 1. From 7:15. - 8 P.M., there'll be the pre-telecast segments.
Having the Tonys on national TV is a huge marketing tool for Broadway. When the musical numbers from shows are presented, there's a spike at box offices. It will have to be a big spike to cover the $200,000 + charged by the Awards, but shows still-running seem to feel it's worth the gamble.
The 2007 Tonys will feature production numbers from Musical nominees Curtains, Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins and Spring Awakening. In addition to the number form ACL, there'll be performances by the casts of Musical, Revival nominees Company and 110 in the Shade. In addition, following her rave reviews as the new Celie in The Color Purple, Fantasia will present a number from the show.
CBS closely adheres to the bottom line, so seven categories -Scenic Design, Play and Musical; Costume Design, Play and Musical; Lighting Design, Play and Musical; and Orchestrations - will be presented in a pre-broadcast segment. Winners will be recapped on the broadcast, but to watch this portion of the Awards segment live be tuned in to http://www.tonyawards.com/.
This is CBS' 30th year carrying the Tonys, and no other commercial network would probably have been as loyal, especially in this age of competition from cable and video games, and in the face of ratings that aren't blockbuster.
Former long-time network president and CEO Peter Lund, a huge theater fan, felt CBS' fit with the Tonys was an integral part of the network's identity as the "Tiffany" network. Current [since 1998] CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves, who happens to be a former actor and for 11 years a Broadway GM, feels the same.
"The Tony Awards, which are the embodiment of live theater in America," says Moonves, "have a rich tradition on CBS. We're delighted this spectacular show is again on our network. The Tonys represent what we represent, the best quality entertainment."
On the Tony web site, hosted by IBM with feature content from Playbill, you can enjoy a video player link for up close and personal encounters with winners; access to their acceptance speeches and their thoughts on the impact of winning a Tony; an archive of nominees and winners in every category from 1947; Tony trivia; and a detailed profile of the fascinating Miss Perry, among other things, a pioneer for women producers on Broadway.
The Tonys are presented by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers. At the Wing, Sondra Gilman is chairman; Douglas Leeds, president; and Howard Sherman is executive director. Shubert Org president Gerald Schoenfeld is chairman and Charlotte St. Martin is executive director of the League. Award-winning Broadway producer Elizabeth I. McCann is Awards managing producer and Joey Parnes coordinating producer.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss/White Cherry Entertainment are executive producers of the 2007 Tony Awards, with Weiss also directing.
Long-time sponsors VISA, IBM and Continental, the offiical airline of the Tonys, return.
Official partners of the Tonys include Sprint and Hilton Hotels. The official Awards web site, www.TonyAwards.com, is developed, designed, and hosted by IBM. Feature content is provided in cooperation with Playbill.com.
Have You Voted? Mark Your Ballot
The 2007 American Theatre Wing Tony Awards nominations are:
Best Play - Coast of Utopia, Tom Stoppard; Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan; The Little Dog Laughed, Douglas Carter Beane; Radio Golf, August Wilson
Best Musical - Curtains, Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins, Spring Awakening
This is a tough category. The Tonys have the potential to be much more "commerical" than, say, the Drama Desk Awards because - instead of critics and writers - producers, theatre owners and regional presenters are in the mix. They vote for their show or shows they want to see go beyond Broadway.
The New York-based Tony voters may vote a certain way, but voting can be thrown up in the air by L.A., Chicago, S.F. and Seattle members. What are they thinking? It's anybody's guess, so even though the buzz is on GG and SA, don't count Curtains out.
Actor, Play - Boyd Gaines, Journey's End; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Br�an F. O�Byrne, Coast of Utopia; Christopher Plummer, Inherit the Wind; Liev Schreiber, Talk Radio
One of the most competent and competitive lineups in decades, so with only four slots egregious omissions were a given. If there was a fifth slot, Hugh Dancy, Brian Dennehy and Kevin Spacey might be vying for it. At a certain Theatre District "coffee shop," four fans were overheard in heated debate, "Langella, hands down!" Just past the counter, two theatergoers' loud prediction was "Plummer, of course!" However, three-time Tony- and two-time Drama Desk winner Gaines made an indelible impression in Journey's End.
Actress, Play - Eve Best, Moon for the Misbegotten; Swoozie Kurtz, Heartbreak House; Angela Lansbury, Deuce; Vanessa Redgrave, Year of Magical Thinking; Julie White, The Little Dog Laughed
Egregious omission: Marian Seldes. If you're been evaesdropping these last couple of weeks, you know there the bets are on Best and White. But the legendary and beloved Miss Lansbury [who even predicts that Best will take the prize] is back on the boards after a 23 year absence.
Actor, Musical - Michael Cerveris, LoveMusik; Ra�l Esparza, Company; Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening; Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins; David Hyde Pierce, Curtains
Wonderful performances, all, but it will come down to Esparza and Cerveris.
Actress, Musical - Laura Bell Bundy, Legally Blonde; Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens; Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade; Debra Monk, Curtains; Donna Murphy, LoveMusik
Until three weeks ago, the bets were on Ebersole, but now McDonald, a four-time Tony and now three-time DD winner, is in the running, with equally outstanding acclaim. Could there be a tie? And Murphy's back with a bang.
Featured Actor, Play - Anthony Chisholm and John Earl Jelks, Radio Golf; Billy Crudup and Ethan Hawke, Coast of Utopia; Stark Sands, Journey's End
What? No Bill Camp [Coram Boy]?
Featured Actress, Play - Jennifer Ehle and Martha Plimpton, Coast of Utopia; Xanthe Elbrick and Jan Maxwell, Coram Boy; Dana Ivey, Butley
Featured Actor, Musical - Brooks Ashmanskas, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me; Christian Borle, Legally Blonde; John Cullum, 110 in the Shade; John Gallagher, Jr., Spring Awakening; David Pittu, LoveMusik
We know 110 is McDonald�s show, but isn�t Cullum the co-star?
Featured Actress, Musical - Charlotte d�Amboise, A Chorus Line; Rebecca Luker, Mary Poppins; Orfeh, Legally Blonde; Mary Louise Wilson, Grey Gardens; Karen Ziemba, Curtains
Here's a category with some tried-and-true troupers, and a couple of Broadway favs. The money seems to be on Wilson, but don't be surprised if d'Amboise's name pops up.
Book, Musical - Curtains, Rupert Holmes, Peter Stone; Grey Gardens, Doug Wright; Legally Blonde, Heather Hach; Spring Awakening, Steven Sater
Score - Curtains, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Rupert Holmes; Grey Gardens, Scott Frankel, Michael Korie; Legally Blonde, Laurence O�Keefe, Nell Benjamin; Spring Awakening, Duncan Sheik, Steven Sater
Can Sheik and Sater, Bway newcomers, continue their SA winning streak against venerable K&E or Frankel and Korie's practically brand new score for GG in its move to Bway?
Revival, Play - Inherit the Wind, Journey's End, Talk Radio, Translations
If you were a betting person, would you say it's going to be between ITW and JE?
Revival, Musical - The Apple Tree, A Chorus Line, Company, 110 in the Shade
The buzz is all about Company, but there's a new appreciation for Jones/Schmidt's 110 score. You wonder?
Direction, Play - Michael Grandage, Frost/Nixon; David Grindley, Journey's End; Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia; Melly Still, Coram Boy
Direction, Musical - John Doyle, Company; Scott Ellis, Curtains; Michael Greif, Grey Gardens; Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening
Choreography - Rob Ashford, Curtains; Matthew Bourne, Stephen Mear, Mary Poppins; Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening; Jerry Mitchell, Legally Blonde
For a complete roster of the 2007 Tony Award nominations and special awards, go to: www.tonyawards.com/.
[Photos: 1, 3, 7,14 and 16 ) PAUL KOLNIK 2, 4 - 9, 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18) JOAN MARCUS; 10) LORENZO AGIUS; 11) ELLIS NASSOUR]
Down Tony Awards Memory Lane
Who Was This Tony, Rather Toni,
The Namesake Of The Tony Tony Awards?
by Ellis Nassour
Toni was the nickname of beautiful Denver actress Antoinette Perry, who, after several years playing ing�nues on Broadway, turned to producing and directing in an era when women in the theater were relegated to acting, costume design, or choreography. The success of the same named home permanent product that was the subject of a huge media blitz caused her to change the i to a y. When she decided to move from acting and become a producer and director, she became a theatrical trailblazer for women.
Amazingly, well into the 70s, Miss Perry was the only woman director with a track record of hits. Today, she�s all but forgotten. In her prime, she showed innovative theatrical instincts and scored an enviable roster of hits - producing and often directing 17 plays in 13 years. In one month in 1937, according to her daughter Margaret, Miss Perry directed and produced three productions, �once rehearsing in our Fifth Avenue living room while peeling peaches for preserves."
Among her impressive hits were Personal Appearance  and Claire Boothe's Kiss the Boys Goodbye , a spoof of the search for Scarlett O'Hara for the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind. The latter had a stellar cast, including Benay Venuta, a perennial star of stage and screen [who died in 1995].
"Tony was rather a theatrical pioneer,� said Miss Venuta, �in that she made a huge impact as a producer and director in an era of male theatrical powerbrokers. She was successful and success either earns you envy or respect. In Tony�s case, it was both, but I never heard her criticized on the basis of being a woman.�
Clockwise : 1967: The first Tony Awards national telecast - Alexander H. Cohen, telecast and Broadway producer[left], [his wife] Awards writer Hildy Parks and director Clark Jones in ABC's mobile studio in Shubert Alley; 1967: Barbra Steisand, Joe Masteroff [left], John Kander and Fred Ebb pose in the Sardi's press room. Streisand presented Tonys to the composers for Cabaret; 1972: Richard Rodgers and Ethel Merman are honored with special Tonys after showstopping performances; 1995: Cherry Jones wins Actress, Play for The Heiress; and 1996, when the hostess with the mostest was Angela Lansbury.
A Tony Awards Photo Gallery
in honor of the 61st Annual Tony Awards
Early awards to honor Antoinette Perry by making her the namesake of best in theater awards were engraved ladies� compact and cigarette cases. In 1949 a contest was held to select a special design. Herman Rosse won with a silver medallion that, on one side, features the masks of comedy and tragedy and, on the other, a profile of Miss Perry. Initially, they were presented in felt cases. Later, they were mounted on a swivel stand.
DO YOU KNOW:
1. What now famous composer was rehearsal pianist for the original production of Styne/Sondheim/Laurents Gypsy?
A. Cy Coleman
B. Jerry Herman
C. John Kander
D. Frederick Loewe
E. Charles Strouse
2. Which of these one-word play titles took Best Play Tony Awards?
3. Which of these one-word musical titles took Best Musical Tony Awards?
6. Who is the only Tony to have hosted the Tony Awards since the first national telecast in 1967?
A. Tony Bennett
B. Tony Curtis
C. Tony Martin
D. Tony Quinn
E. Tony Randall
7. Three sets of family members have been Tony-nominated in the same category in the same year. Which duo below is not correct?
A. Tammy Grimes and daughter Amanda Plummer, 1982
B. Rosemary Harris and daughter Jennifer Ehle, 2000
C. Lynn Redgrave and niece Natasha Richardson, 1993
D. Richard Rodgers and daughter Mary Rodgers, 1960
Tony Memories: Gone but Not Forgotten
by Ellis Nassour
Looking back on four show business legends:
Society and Culture Doyenne: Through Kitty Carlisle Hart�s 96 years as the perennial doyenne of New York society, not to mention her career on the concert stage, screen, TV, recordings, in opera niteries, it was said that she best was mingle. And no one mingled better than Miss Hart, widow of legendary writer/producer/director Moss Hart.
Miss Hart was never nominated for a Tony, but many Tony-nominees and winners owe her a debt of gratitude. She was more than wealthy, more than the elegant, bejeweled dress-up who went out on the town literally every night in support of various causes. Her philanthropy and presence helped raise millions for charities and cultural institutions. However, far beyond her lifetime dedication to fundraising, it was her enthusiasm for doing the impossible and bringing awareness to the forefront in the midst of obstacles that makes her someone to remember and cherish.
After 16 seasons on TV games shows, Miss Hart was appointed chair of the New York State Council on the Arts at a time when arts funding was disappearing. It was a job she relished, literally covering every inch of New York State. She got legislators to make a complete turnaround in support of culture. She was no snob. She was a champion of freedom of expression and of Broadway, Off Broadway, Off Off, the Metropolitan Opera, the Metropolitan, MOMA and numerous other museums.
When she met Hart. It was love at first sight -- "for me," she laughed, "but it took a while for Moss to find out what he was ignoring!"
Their marriage, from most accounts in an apartment adorned with paintings by such admirers as George Gershwin, who was an early beau, Irving Berlin and Noel Coward, was a fairy tale one.
In 1961, four years after directing the landmark Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady [for which he won the Tony for Best Director], Mr. Hart collapsed and died of a massive coronary. He was only 57. It was a devastating blow "as Moss was everything to me," said Miss Hart. "Everything!"
Forced to work, she went on TV, where appearnaces on game shows made her a household name. Following 16 seasons, she became to be reckoned with as State Arts chair, a post she held 21 years � stepping down at the age of 85, still going, going, going strong.
�It was a lot of work," she stated, "but worth it! There was no better way to give a child who's in trouble a chance at a new life than to introduce him or her to the arts." She traveled New York State exhaustively, visiting classrooms, museums, theater and dance companies to not only give encouragement but to also discover what they needed.�
Miss Hart could move mountains to accomplish great things. In 1998, Miss Hart was named a �living landmark� by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. The next year, saw her induction into the Hall of Fame.
Of her passing on April 17 this year, David Lewis, Miss Hart's longtime musical director, said, �Kitty will be remembered not only as the grande dame of show business but also for her unselfish philanthropy and her support for American musical theater."
Miss Hart will be remembered this Tuesday [June 12] in a star-studded tribute beginning at Noon at the Majestic Theatre. The event is open to the public. Donations in memory of Kitty Carlisle Hart may be made to the Dramatists Guild Fund, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
Miss Broadway Pizzazz: The Tony Awards have had many sensational moments. Three that come to mind featured the late Dorothy Loudon, who passed away in November at 70. Two of those were on the same telecast. Miss Loudon had been a major cabaret star and plugged around Broadway for years. She was often side-lined by short-lived musicals, temper tantrums with directors and bouts with alcoholism. She came into her own in the 1973 Broadway revival of The Women.
When she won the Tony for her 1977 comeback role as Miss Hannigan in Annie, she couldn�t believe the audience response. By the time of Ballroom, she was adored. [Noises Off, following Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd and starring opposite Katherine Hepburn in West Side Waltz came later.]
Miss Loudon was a master comedienne, but capable of great pathos as she displayed on the 1979 telecast as a Best Actress nominee for Ballroom [nominated for Best Musical; oddly, Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman/Billy Goldenberg�s score wasn�t]. She sang her the poignant �Fifty Percent,� which had the house in a hush.
The 1983 telecast at the Uris featured an all-star salute to Gershwin [for whom the theatre was renamed at broadcast�s end] featuring Ginger Rogers, Jack Lemmon, Diahann Carroll and producer Alexander Cohen�s �Tony Awards Repertory Troupe.� Miss Loudon was a charter member.
She made her entrance down a long flight of stairs to the music of an onstage pianist. She sported a sequined Royal Blue gown and black boa, accessorized by a sparkling tiara. As she slinked to the piano, she threw the boa onstage and told it �Wait in the car!� Miss Loudon began, in that famous growl of a belt, an obscure Gershwin/Herbert Stohart song from 1925�s Song of the Flame, �Vodka,� frequently stopping the orchestra for such dialogue as: �Many important people here�Could mean a comback�In the Russian Tea Room�I�m not too good for this dress!�I�m too good for this song.� By the time she took her bows, plopped on the stage floor, the audience was rolling in the aisles. The applause was thunderous. Backstage, Miss Loudon, still a bit flushed, exclaimed, �I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was on Cloud Nine and could have floated offstage!�
Then there were the twin Loudon showstoppers from 1984�s Tony tribute to Broadway�s tunesmiths. In yet another tiara, Miss Loudon entered the Gershwin stage in a white gown dotted with rhinestones and a mink-trimmed plunging neckline � it was worthy of Catharine the Great! Standing atop a silver Rolls Royce, she was serenaded by Robert Preston, Tony Randall, Tony Roberts, Robert Guillaume, Larry Kert and a male chorus � all in red riding outfits � with �Mame.� Miss Loudon didn�t sing, but her ad libs were priceless: �Don�t look in your program�It�s me!�Jerry, think of me for the sequel�I was thinking of keeping the gown, but I got one just like it at home so I�m gonna keep the car�and the boys.� Moments later, she brought the house down again with a rendition of �Broadway Baby� from Follies.
[Chris Cohen, son of Alexander Cohen and Hildy Parks, of C&C Visual and producer of Broadway�s Lost Treasures, was the stage manager and helped push that Rolls onstage. BLT includes Miss Loudon�s �Broadway Baby.�]
Miss Loudon, who had a delicious, devilish sense of humor and could be "bawdy" beyond belief, was one of the gals who was just one of the boys. When she died November 14, 2003 she left us as the pure definition of Broadway pizzazz.
The Tap Dance Kid: M-G-M musicals legend Ann Miller of the long-legs, raven-hair actress and machine-gun-style tap dancing won stardom in the golden age of movie musicals and in the hearts of millions, but was never nominated for an Academy Award. However, her showstopping turns in Sugar Babies earned her a 1980 Best Actress Tony Award nomination.
�It was a thrill when [associate producer] John Bowab brought me to Broadway in Mame,� said Miss Miller, �but I came in long after my old friend Angela Lansbury. I always considered Sugar Babies my big moment. To be in a show nominated for Best Musical was, well, quite a big deal. And, then, to be nominated!�
Miss Miller had the wardrobe, make-up and hair crew from Sugar Babies to help get her into her Tony mode. That year, the awards were being telecast from the Hellinger, which was where the show ran. Miss Miller�s long-time friend, Dolores Gray [whom she�d known since they did 1956�s The Opposite Sex, the musical re-make of The Women for MGM], a Tony winner and Broadway belt legend, was in the audience delighted the star.
�In the year of Barnum and Evita, I didn�t have high hopes for our show," admitted Miss Miller, "or myself, being in the running with Patti Lupone. As they say in Hollywood, it was a thrill just to be nominated! And really it was � especially for something I loved doing all my life � tap dancing. What made it more wonderful was being recognized by Broadway!�
Miss Miller died January 22, 2004.
The Understudy Gets the Nomination: Larry Kert of West Side Story fame [who, amazingly, has never been induced into the Theatre Hall of Fame], wasn�t nominated for a Tony for his performance as Tony in WSS. However, he holds the distinction of being the only cast replacement to be Tony-nominated -for Best Actor, Musical for his performance in the original Company.
He won that distinct honor over opening night star Dean Jones, who a little over two weeks following the opening and after recording the cast album, announced he was leaving due to illness. He was very depressed as a result of a bitter divorce from his wife of 17 years and found a show about hard-edged, unromantic relationships too painful.
It was contended that not enough members of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee were able to catch Jones, whose reviews as Bobby could have established him as a Broadway star. But they had plenty of time to see Kert.
"It was a crowing glory moment," said Kert. "We never understood what the thinking was when neither Carol [Lawrence] or I got nominated for West Side Story. I mean, we were the leads in a hot, now, ground-breaking musical put together by a trio of theatrical genuises."
When Kert opened in Company on the West End, Columbia Records took him into the studio and had him record all of Bobby�s tracks for the London Original Cast album, however, listen closely, and you can hear Jones on the duet harmony takes. On Columbia�s re-mastered CD, Kert is featured on a bonus track, singing �Being Alive.�
Kert died June 5, 1991, three days after the Tony Awards.
Broadway: the Golden Age on PBS
Perfectly timed to be pre-Tony Awards entertainment, Rick McKay's acclaimed and award-winning documentary Broadway: the Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There will give a repeat performance Sunday [June 10] on WNET/Thirteen at 3 P.M. [Saturday, June 9 at 2:30 on L.A.'s KCET] and PBS stations around the nation. Featured are interviews with over 100 stars.
Broadway: The Golden Age is available on DVD [BMG/SONY, SRP $20] in the full theatrical director's cut [30 minutes longer than the TV edition] with 90 minutes of bonus features, rare footage, a [half-hour] "sneak preview" of the upcoming sequel Broadway: The Next Generation; and a two-hour director's commentary by McKay. To order the DVD or a personalized copy, go to www.broadwaythemovie.com.
Published on BroadwayStars.com on Friday, June 08, 2007
[Link to this Feature]
Ellis Nassour is an international media journalist, and author of Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, which he has adapted into a musical for the stage. Visit www.patsyclinehta.com.
For a listing of all features written by Ellis, click here.
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