New York Times
Hello? Dolly? Bette Midler Seems Unlikely to Sing at Tony Awards
By MICHAEL PAULSON
MAY 29, 2017
Josh Groban plans to lead the cast of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” in a mash-up of the show’s ballad and its big dance number at the Tony Awards ceremony next month. Ben Platt expects to perform “Waving Through a Window,” an emotional song from “Dear Evan Hansen.” The cast of “Falsettos,” a show that closed in January, will reunite to perform a number from that musical.
There is still time for a change of plans, but at the moment it appears unlikely that Bette Midler, one of the biggest stars of the current Broadway season, will be singing during the June 11 CBS broadcast.
According to multiple people with knowledge of the broadcast plans, the producers of “Hello, Dolly!” and the producers of the awards show reached an impasse over the conditions under which Ms. Midler would sing, and as a result the plan is for her to present an award, but not to perform. Instead, her co-star and fellow nominee, David Hyde Pierce, is expected to perform a solo from the show.
The impasse was described by people who would not speak for attribution because of confidentiality rules imposed by the Tony Awards.
The issue matters to producers of the Tony Awards ceremony, which this year is being hosted by Kevin Spacey, because it could affect TV viewership. A famous actress singing a familiar song from a classic musical might add pizazz to an event that, like all awards shows, has struggled to retain viewers. Ms. Midler’s absence would also disappoint fans who can’t afford to see her in the Broadway show, which has a top ticket price of $748 and few seats left, but who would love to glimpse her in the role.
A Tony Awards spokeswoman would say only: “We don’t discuss specifics about the musical performances in advance of the telecast. The show is still in the planning stage and subject to change.” And a spokesman for “Hello, Dolly!” and its lead producer, Scott Rudin, also had little to say. “‘Hello, Dolly!’ will perform on the ‘71st Annual Tony Awards’ telecast,” the spokesman said. “At the request of Tony Award Productions, we are not able to discuss anything further about the performance.”
“Hello, Dolly!,” nominated for best musical revival and nine other awards, is pulling in weekly grosses higher than those of any other show that opened during the just-concluded 2016-17 season.
The awards-show producers offered the musical a prime spot on the television broadcast, hoping Ms. Midler would lead the cast in a performance of its title song.
But the musical’s producers said that they would perform the number only remotely, from their stage at the Shubert Theater, and not on the ceremony’s stage at Radio City Music Hall. They argued that the different configuration of the stage at Radio City — and, in particular, its passerelle — could pose a risk to leaping dancers and would not do the song justice.
The awards show declined to allow “Hello, Dolly!” to perform remotely, concerned about setting a precedent. The Tonys have occasionally aired musical numbers remotely from other theaters, but in recent years the broadcast has ended that practice.
The broadcast is still taking shape, and it remains possible that the “Dolly!” plans could change. But the current plan is for Mr. Pierce, nominated for a Tony as Dolly’s beau Horace Vandergelder, to sing “Penny in My Pocket.” That song was cut from the original Broadway production but restored in this revival.
Instead of singing, Ms. Midler would present an award — possibly to the leading actor in a play.
In that case, “Hello, Dolly!” would be the only one of seven nominated musicals (four for best new musical, three for best musical revival) in which the most recognizable performer does not sing on the broadcast.