New York Post
Why this year’s Tony Awards may be ‘a little muted’
By Michael Riedel
May 30, 2017 | 11:20pm
As the Tony Award telecast starts to come together, there’s concern that the June 11 show might be, as one Broadway insider puts it, “a little muted.”
CBS, which broadcasts the Tonys, likes big numbers from high-profile shows. And while this year’s crop of new musicals is diverse and exciting, there’s no “Hamilton”-size blockbuster. Nor are there showstopping songs along the lines of “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” or “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” — powerful songs that can stand on their own terms, out of the show’s context.
Josh Groban will lead the cast of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” in a number, but as stylish and sumptuous as that show is, it’s not full of toe tappers. “Groundhog Day” is doing a medley spotlighting its star, Andy Karl, but medleys can be confusing to viewers who haven’t seen the show. “Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt will sing “Waving Through a Window,” which, while beautiful and moving, is the very definition of an introspective song. And the cast of “Falsettos” is reuniting for a performance, but that revival closed months ago.
Star power will come in the form of Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, both nominated for “War Paint.” Although the show itself didn’t get a nomination, its stars are a dynamic duo, and the Tonys are lucky to have them.
Missing from the mix is Bette Midler, star of “Hello, Dolly!” — the season’s biggest hit, with advance ticket sales approaching $50 million.
Midler won’t perform the legendary title song at the Tonys, due to what the New York Times calls an “impasse” between “Dolly!” producers, including Scott Rudin, and the producers of the Tonys.
Rudin offered to have her do the title song or “Before the Parade Passes By,” another famous Jerry Herman tune, but only if the performance were broadcast from the Shubert Theatre. Tony officials insisted that the “Dolly” cast perform on the stage of Radio City Music Hall with everyone else.
The trouble is that the Radio City stage is so much larger than the Shubert’s so the numbers would have to be significantly retooled.
“It’s my decision,” Rudin tells me. He says both numbers are staged on and around a passerelle, or bridge, which at the Shubert is 3 feet deep and at Radio City, 25 feet deep.
“I told the Tony producers that unless they wanted to watch 12 dancers falling into the pit live on CBS, doing either number at Radio City was simply a nonstarter,” he says.
Rudin offered to sweeten the deal by having a Tony viewing party at the Shubert, where 1,400 people could see Midler perform either number and then catch the rest of the awards show on giant screens. He says he was going to make the viewing party a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The Tony people still turned him down, fearing other shows would want to do their numbers from their theaters. Rudin says he understands, but insists his chief responsibility is doing right by his show: “?‘Dolly!’ and ‘Parade’ are beloved, iconic numbers from the Golden Age of Broadway musicals, and they mean a great deal to an enormous amount of people, myself included. Presenting weakened, watered-down, restaged for television versions of either of them holds no interest for any of us connected with the show.”
Instead, David Hyde Pierce, a Best Actor nominee for his performance as Horace Vandergelder, will perform “Penny in My Pocket” on the telecast.
So ends what insiders are calling “Pennygate.”
Look for host Kevin Spacey to open the Tonys with a musical number featuring many of the stars from this year’s shows. He might throw in a sly “Hello, Dolly!” just to be cheeky.