The 2017 Tony Awards, which CBS will telecast live from Radio City Music Hall a week from Sunday, threatens to be “a little muted,” a Broadway insider whispered in Michael Reidel’s ear, according to his column in this morning’s New York Post. This, on the tail of yesterday’s breathless New York Times story from Michael Paulson that while Bette Midler might appear on the show as a presenter, don’t look for her to perform the title number from Hello, Dolly! because the stage is too big, etc.
I’m told by a Broadway insider who may or may not be attached to the blockbuster revival that producer Scott Rudin offered to turn the entire Shubert Theatre into a Tony-viewing party as a fund-raiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS so that the big number could be shown via remote in all its native glory on the telecast. To add to the symbolic virtues of the plan, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first network TV telecast of the Tony Awards, from that very same Shubert Theatre (on ABC and under the stewardship of showman Alexander Cohen; featured performance: Joel Grey and company singing “Willkommen” from Cabaret; no one fell into the pit).
No dice, said the Tony producers, we don’t do remotes anymore.
Since there is no more astute showman on Broadway today than Rudin, this tempest in a tureen could be viewed as a David Merrick-worthy stunt. Here we are, after all, talking up the sold-out Hello, Dolly! and the miscarriage of justice that would come in depriving the viewing audience the thrill that high-rollers are doling out $1496 for a pair of premium ducats to witness in the flesh.
On the other hand, the Shubert Theatre gambit is brilliant. The Tony producers should stop worrying about precedent and just go with it (they make up their own rules all the time anyway). After all, this is the same brain trust promoting the sale of the first-ever Tony compilation album of the season’s musicals, and guess which of the season’s musicals is nowhere in evidence on the track list:
- “Deep Beneath the City/Not There Yet,” In Transit
- “Times Are Hard for Dreamers,” Amélie, A New Musical
- “The Baseball Game,” Falsettos
- “With One Look,” Sunset Boulevard
- “In a World Like This,” A Bronx Tale
- “Sincerely, Me,” Dear Evan Hansen
- “Shaking the Blues Away,” Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical
- “It Must Be Believed to Be Seen,” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- “Letters,” Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
- “The Last Night of the World,” Miss Saigon
- “Me and the Sky,” Come from Away
- “Nobody,” Bandstand
- “Journey to the Past,” Anastasia
- “Memory,” Cats
- “Seeing You,” Groundhog Day the Musical
The cover art features “a specially commissioned Tony season illustration by Justin ‘Squigs’ Robertson,” according to the press release. No Bette nor Dolly! there, either — reminding me of director Harold J. Kennedy’s great memoir, No Pickle, No Performance. (I might add that Carol Channing and company performed Hello, Dolly! on stages ranging from Broadway and across the U.S. to the White House and the West End, before swells and troops and groundlings alike; I couldn’t find any reports of anyone falling into the pit).
And on the third hand: mute, shmute. There are plenty of rousing numbers on view from the season’s shows that would make the couch crowd happy: “Heave Away” from Come From Away. “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen. “Philanthropy” from Groundhog Day. “Charming” from Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. (Some of these already are scheduled for the broadcast.)
My suggestion: Add “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen,” from Indecent, a Tony nominee for best play that also features some of the best music of any show on Broadway. It could use the plug, and I guarantee there won’t be a dry sofa cushion in the houses.