Tonys: Who Will Host Broadway's Biggest Night?

THR's awards analyst considers the candidates, including recent hosts Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris, and new possibilities such as Jim Parsons, James Corden and Stephen Colbert.
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Broadway is beginning to buzz with one big question: Who is going to host this year's Tony Awards?

On this date last year, we had already known the answer to that for more than a couple months. This year, we're less than two months away from the ceremony itself — it will take place at Radio City Music Hall on June 7 — and we're still awaiting the announcement. One has to assume it will come imminently.

In the meantime, here's a look at some candidates who may be under consideration ...

My hunch is that Hugh Jackman, who was well received as the Tonys host in 2003, 2004, 2005 and last year, is not coming back — at least not this year. It's a grueling and time-consuming job for anyone to take on, but especially someone like Jackman, who has to juggle it with a booming film career. He spent recent weeks in Germany shooting Eddie the Eagle and is soon set to began a promotional tour for the film Pan, which is due out in July. Moreover, he suffered a vocal hemorrhage less than a month ago that forced him to cancel several performances abroad, so it seems unlikely that he would be physically ready to place considerable strain on his voice, as would be necessary, anytime soon.

Many would like to see Neil Patrick Harris step back into the hosting role, which he held in 2009 and then again from 2011 through 2013 before stepping away from it last year, during which he took in the ceremony as a nominee-turned-winner. While this particular awards show, more than any other, is tailor-made for his talents — singing, dancing and being generally endearing — I suspect that he's not especially anxious to take on another emceeing job less than two months after hosting the Oscars (and being received with some bruising reviews).

I've heard rumblings of people rooting for the return of other hosts of yesteryear, such as Rosie O'Donnell (1997, 1998, 2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2008) and Sean Hayes (2010), or theater veterans like Laura Benanti, Tony Danza and Martin Short. (Danza and Short were briefly on Broadway this year in It's Only a Play and Honeymoon in Vegas, respectively.) But I'm skeptical that any of these possibilities will get very far, with the possible exception of O'Donnell, who received the Isabelle Stevenson Award at last year's ceremony.

Others are pulling for the most famous leading lady of today's Broadway, Idina Menzel (aka "Adele Dazeem"). The Wicked alum, who recently wrapped a run with If/Then (for which she was Tony-nominated last year), certainly has the "name" and vocal chops to fill the role, but she doesn't strike me as especially comfortable with stand-up or improvisation, which hosting requires. Besides, she's set to embark on a world tour on May 30, and is already booked to perform in Manila on the night of the Tonys, so you can probably forget about that.

What about people who are currently appearing in shows on Broadway? Preparing to host the Tonys might seem like an awful lot to take on in addition to eight shows a week, but it has been done before — and has generally boosted the Tony prospects of those who have done it, perhaps out of respect for their sacrifice. Glenn Close hosted in 1992 (solo) and 1995 (with Nathan Lane and Gregory Hines) while simultaneously appearing in the play Death and the Maiden and the musical Sunset Boulevard; she was nominated and won both times. Lane and Matthew Broderick hosted in 2001 while simultaneously appearing in The Producers, for which they were both nominated in the same category; Lane won. And Jackman hosted in 2004 while appearing in The Boy from Oz, for which he won.

This year, there are several people who I imagine could juggle acting with preparing to host/hosting. Lane and Broderick are back together this season in It's Only a Play — through the day of the Tonys, at least — and I suspect that the folks behind the Tonys would be delighted if they would take the reins again.

How about Larry David, who will give his last performance as the star of Fish in the Dark on that same date, and/or Jason Alexander, who was a Broadway man before David recruited him to Seinfeld 26 years ago, and who will be replacing David in the show? Either of them could be a lot of fun — and the two of them together could be a blast.

Another popular choice would be Kristin Chenoweth, the spitfire singer-comedienne best known for Wicked, who is now appearing in a revival of On the Twentieth Century. With a capable co-host to play off of, she could be in her element.

There's also Finding Neverland's Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer, real pros who can do it all and would bring in a fairly broad demographic — and I'm sure that Harvey Weinstein wouldn't object to the built-in promotion for his show that would come with them taking on the gig. (And Morrison and Grammer wouldn't be the first costars to do it; see: earlier Lane/Broderick reference.)

Alternatively, Grammer and his old Frasier sidekick David Hyde Pierce could reteam — Pierce's Broadway directorial debut, It Shoulda Been You, is also in the running this year, and could also use the publicity — even if Frasier aired on NBC, not CBS, which is airing the Tonys telecast.

It's my guess, though, that the host will end up being one of four men with connections to both the theater and to CBS: Alan Cumming, Jim Parsons, James Corden or Stephen Colbert.

Cumming is bona fide Broadway royalty, who also means something to a much broader audience, thanks in no small part to his role on The Eye Network's The Good Wife. Though he recently wrapped a grueling year with the revival of Cabaret, he is not sitting at home convalescing — rather, he's got performances of one sort or another lined up for the next several months, including a brief residency at the Cafe Caryle that presently includes the night of the Tonys. But things can be moved around, no?

Everything Parsons touches seems to turn to gold. Best known as the star of CBS' top-rated The Big Bang Theory, he's set to return to Broadway — where he made his debut in the Normal Heart revival in 2011 — in a limited-engagement run of An Act of God. Previews begin on May 5 and regular performances on May 28, which means he's going to be very busy right at the time he'd need to be preparing for the Tonys. But I imagine that CBS would love to figure out a way to make this work.

Then there's Corden, the 36-year-old who has been hosting CBS's The Late Late Show since March 23. He's got theater cred (having risen to prominence as the star of One Man, Two Guvnors, for which he won the 2012 Tony for best actor in a play), he can sing (did you catch his car ride with Jennifer Hudson?) and he's funny. Since he reportedly had to drop out of a planned revival of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum when the Late Late Show gig came up, hosting the Tonys might be a way for him to maintain the love of the Broadway community. But, perhaps most importantly, his fledgling show could benefit from this sort of exposure — perhaps to the extent that CBS would be willing to relocate it from Los Angeles, where it currently tapes, to New York. Why not house it for a few days at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, which will be more or less dormant between May 20, when David Letterman tapes his final installment of The Late Show, and Sept. 8, when it's new occupant moves in?

Speaking of whom ... the person whom I suspect will ultimately get the job, Colbert. A huge theater buff who, in addition to being smart, quick and funny, is a talented singer, dancer and showman, the 50-year-old is currently facing a pivotal turning point in his career: He must reinvent himself — and recondition people to know and love him — as Stephen Colbert, as opposed to "Stephen Colbert." This could be a great step in that direction. While he's sure to be busy planning the new Late Show, he doesn't go on air for months after the Tonys, and besides, he's someone who's used to working under the pressure of putting out a nightly program while also doing other things (i.e. hosting the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors). I suspect that he would enjoy hosting the Tonys, the Broadway community would get a kick out of hobnobbing with him — and CBS would enjoy record ratings.

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