11:31am PT by Scott Feinberg
Tonys: 5 Things to Expect From the Show
NEW YORK -- The 68th Tony Awards will take place at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday evening, and The Hollywood Reporter is hearing interesting bits and pieces about the opening number, musical acts, special performances and presenters. If you want to be completely surprised by everything to do with the show, stop reading now... but if you want to whet your appetite, read on!
1. After Midnight will open the show.
The Tonys almost always open with a spectacular song-and-dance medley of some sort, into which the show's host inserts himself. This generally features acts from a wide cross-section of nominated productions, but my understanding is that the opener of this year's show will revolve around only one, which features just about every variety of dancing you can imagine: After Midnight.
The jazz revue's choreographer and director Warren Carlyle also landed the job of choreographing the Tonys -- which he would be attending anyway as a nominee for best choreography (he's the favorite to win) and best direction of a musical -- and so he has been juggling both jobs at once. And I'm told that his opening number, which has been in prep for over a month, is gonna be a sight to behold.
In addition to seeing the jaw-dropping dancing and Isabel Toledo costumes (another favorite for a Tony win) that the show offers eight times a week, expect to hear the remarkable voices of three of the divas appearing in its rotating guest-star vocalist spot: Fantasia, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle. (LaBelle will be debuting Tuesday in After Midnight, its first post-Tonys show, so Carlyle has simultaneously been prepping the Tonys and his show's new leading lady.) And yes, the Tony's hoofing host Hugh Jackman will be a part of this, too! For the record, Carlyle directed and choreographed the song-and-dance smash Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway in 2011.
Just how big a deal is this for After Midnight, a fall opener that received rave reviews, but has been limping along at the box-office with weekly grosses in the neighborhood of just $500,000-$600,000? Almost every number that has opened the Tonys has seen a sizable bump in its ticket sales immediately thereafter -- most notably Smokey Joe's Cafe in 1995 and Movin' Out in 2003 -- even if they don't win a top Tony. (Both of those two shows went on to lose the best musical Tony for which they were nominated, but were soon drying their tears in cash.)
2. 2014's other nominated musicals will be highlighted in memorable ways.
This year's three other best musical Tony nominees and three best revival of a musical nominees will also be celebrated with their own numbers on the show.
Neil Patrick Harris may not be returning to host for a fifth time, but he will still be singing and dancing on this year's show because Hedwig and the Angry Inch, in which he is currently starring, is nominated for best revival of a musical. A best actor in a musical nominee and heavy favorite to win, he and his costar Lena Hall, nominated for best featured actress in a musical, will be heading directly from their regular Sunday matinee performance to the Tonys, where they will walk the red carpet as their respective genders, then quickly morph into their transgender characters for a big performance (get ready, blue noses!) and then morph back into themselves for the remainder of the show.
Meanwhile, best musical Tony nominee Beautiful: The Carole King Musical will be celebrated in a truly awesome way when the show's star, best actress in a musical nominee Jessie Mueller, is joined onstage for a performance with Carole King herself. (King famously kept away from the show until surprising its cast members after a performance in April, when she raved about it.)
Aladdin, wisely, will be represented by its all-out number "Friend Like Me," which showcases the scene-stealing Genie of James Monroe Iglehart, a best featured actor in a musical nominee (and the favorite to win), who gets a standing ovation every night.
And A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder will be recreating its most catchy tune, "I've Been Wanting to Marry You," featuring Lisa O'Hara and best featured actress in a musical nominee Lauren Worsham in a tug-of-war over best actor in a musical nominee Bryce Pinkham.
No doubt Violet and Les Miserables also have some pretty special plans of their own.
Also: I'm told that, despite a longstanding, unofficial policy of only inviting performances from current shows that received a nomination for best musical or best revival of a musical, there will be a brief performance by members of the casts of some of the year's other still-running musicals, Rocky, Bullets Over Broadway, Cabaret and If/Then. (After all, what kind of a Tonys would this be if you had the likes of Alan Cumming and Idina Menzel in the room and didn't invite them to sing?!)
3. Several shows unconnected to the 2014 Broadway season will also be featured.
The Tonys are ostensibly about honoring the year's best work on Broadway, but, because it is also a television show on a broadcast network that is expected to deliver big ratings in order to be able to continue to sell expensive commercials, it sometimes "expands" those parameters to include celebrations of long-running hits and/or star-studded teasers of shows still to come -- exposure which is paid for, at a cost of around $200,000, by the producers of those shows. This year will feature some of both.
The 10th anniversary of the blockbuster musical Wicked will be celebrated with a performance of a song by its current cast.
There will also be a performance by Sting of a song from his upcoming Broadway musical The Last Ship, partly inspired by the international superstar's childhood in a Northern English shipbuilding town. (Sting wrote its music and John Logan and Brian Yorkey have handled its book.)
And then Jennifer Hudson, whose affiliation with Broadway has been limited to two special benefit concerts, will perform a number from Finding Neverland, a musical adaptation of the 2004 film of the same title, which will be tried out in Cambridge, Mass., later this year (staged by Tony-winning Pippin director Diane Paulus) and then might make it to Broadway after that. Hudson has nothing to do with the show, but was, I'm told, recruited for this performance by lead producer, Harvey Weinstein, in order to help raise its profile.
The fact that shows like these, which have nothing to do with the current Broadway season, are going to get this type of visibility on Tonys night has irked some in the community. For instance, Steven Pasquale, the male lead in The Bridges of Madison County -- the only 2014 Broadway musical with an original, traditional Broadway score, which closed last month after disappointing business -- tweeted his dismay on Thursday: "So- Wicked,The Last Ship,and Finding Neverland (shows that have absolutely nothing to do with this bway season) are performing but no BOMC?"
4. There will be a lot of people at the show with no obvious connection to Broadway.
A question that will inevitably come up on social media on Sunday, as a ton of big names more closely associated with film and TV than Broadway walk the red carpet and present on the show, will be: "What the heck is [he or she] doing there?!"
This is show business we're talking about, so the answer, of course, is promotion: Clint Eastwood is the director of the forthcoming film adaptation of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys; Gloria Estefan is the subject of a recently announced jukebox musical; Bradley Cooper will be starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway this fall; and Kevin Bacon (The Following), Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Emmy Rossum (Shameless) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), among others, are all vying for Emmy nominations and/or are part of shows in the running for Emmys right now.
5. The Hollywood Reporter will be covering the show from every possible vantage point.
If you can't get in to Radio City Music Hall on Tonys night, don't panic! In addition to watching the show on CBS, you should follow THR's team, which will be covering the action from every possible vantage point.
During the show, we will have a live blog up at THR.com/The Race, where you can read my take on the action from inside the hall live-Tweeting (commentary, trivia and behind-the-scenes observations); our New York editor Ashley Lee's reporting from the winner's room; our fashion blogger Erin Weinger's take on red carpet and onstage attire; and our very special guest Tweeter, the aforementioned Tony nominee Isabel Toledo, who will be offering us exclusive insight into her experience throughout the night. Once the show ends, be sure to refresh our homepage for our chief theater critic's David Rooney's take on the telecast and its winners. And, later in the evening, I will post my own post-mortem analysis of the outcomes.
You won't find more complete coverage of the Tonys anywhere else!