Tony Awards show not skimping on razzle-dazzle

By Mark Kennedy

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 10 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this theater publicity photo released by The Publicity Office, Christina Kirk, left, and Frank Wood are shown in a scene from Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park," at Playwrights Horizons in New York. The production is nominated for best play at the Tony Awards, airing Sunday, June 10 on CBS.

The Publicity Office, Joan Marcus, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The producers of the Tony Award telecast clearly believe that more is more.

Sunday night's three-hour telecast from the Beacon Theater is packed with so many stars and performances — a record 16 musical numbers will feature moments from musicals, plays and revivals — that cynics might call it kitchen sink programming.

"Every year we've added more and more entertainment," said Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of The Broadway League, which jointly presents the Tonys with the American Theatre Wing. "You can feel the energy in the room when they're rehearsing."

The explosion of performances is an attempt to showcase as much on Broadway as possible and also an implicit admission that there's no clear, dying-to-see-it front-running musical like last year's juggernaut, "The Book of Mormon."

In fact, the producers have even invited the cast of "The Book of Mormon" to perform again this year. There also will be cameos by a little orphan Annie and Mary Poppins. And, to top it all off, one performance won't even be nearby — the song from "Hairspray" will be performed from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea.

It promises to be a hectic night. During a morning rehearsal, winners were warned that they only had 90 seconds from the time their name was called to get on stage and give their speech before loud music will drown them out.

"It's got that energy of any production," said Heather A. Hitchens, the executive director of the American Theatre Wing. "The excitement and the anxiety hand in hand — that's what makes it work."

Last year's Tonys was seen by 6.9 million viewers, roughly the same number as the year before. But the program, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, posted a 9 percent year-to-year gain in the ratings for the 18-to-49 demographic.

The popular Harris is back again this year with several songs and skits. He'll be competing Sunday against the "Mad Men" season finale, but this time no NBA postseason games.

He'll also been tasked with trying to MC between performances from the four best musical nominees — "Leap of Faith," ''Newsies," ''Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Once." To make time, most technical awards will be handed out during the commercial breaks.

The four musical revival nominees also get a turn on stage, with performances from "Evita," ''Follies," ''The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." There will even be time carved out for the cast of "Godspell" and "Ghost The Musical" — two shows not up for best musical Tony.

As if that wasn't enough, look out for performances from the Tony-nominated plays "End of the Rainbow," ''One Man, Two Guvnors" and "Peter and the Starcatcher." There also are video snippets from other plays.

"With plays being such an important part of Broadway, we're excited that we're finding new ways to bring them to the world out there," said St. Martin. "The magic of a play is hard to show on a television screen. We're hoping this helps."

Not everyone can perform, although it may seem like it. One show not invited is "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," whose producers decided tongue-in-cheek to hold a special matinee performance on Sunday and offer free tickets to anyone with the first name Tony, Anthony, Antoinette, Toni, Antonio or Antonia. Not to be outdone, the telecast will have at least one Spider-Man joke.

Producers of the telecast are counting on some intriguing matchups to keep interest high: Which play will win from a very strong category? Will James Corden from "One Man, Two Guvnors" take the best drama leading man award from the favorite, Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Death of a Salesman"? Who will emerge with the award in the best actress in a drama race — Nina Arianda, Tracie Bennett, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin or Cynthia Nixon?

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