Tonys: Alan Cumming on His "Terrifying" Gig as Show Co-Host

Broadway's biggest night is a last-minute affair, says Cumming, set to co-host with Kristin Chenoweth, as he rehearses his next act: a Great White Way awards show that keeps TV audiences tuned in.
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Alan Cumming

This year's Tony Awards emcees have plenty of experience on Broadway’s — and Tony’s — stage. Alan Cumming scored theater’s top honor in 1998 for his performance in that year’s revival of Cabaret (a role he reprised once more in a blockbuster edition that closed March 29); his co-host Kristin Chenoweth took home her Tony in 1999 for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and is nominated this year for On the 20th Century. Cumming, 50, who appears on the TV series The Good Wife and begins a solo stint at Cafe Carlyle on June 2, spoke with THR about prepping for Broadway’s big night. The telecast, which steadily has pulled in a little more than 7 million viewers during its past two outings after an all-time ratings low in 2012, airs at 8 p.m. June 7 on CBS.

How did this hosting gig come about?

One might assume you’d want to take a long vacation after Cabaret. Yeah, you would think, wouldn’t you? I was on vacation in Key West, and I got a phone call from [CBS Entertainment chair] Nina Tassler, who asked me if I’d like to do it with Kristin. I thought it was a great idea — doing it alone would be terrifying, but Kristin’s an old friend and it’s going to be a laugh with her.

You guys have worked together before, right?

We first worked together on [the 1999 TV movie] Annie. We also worked on Good Wife together. And we did George Lucas’ [2015 animated film] Strange Magic — we did a song together. I’m a longtime fan, and I think she’s hilarious. We’re very different, but we have a very similar, wicked, sardonic sense of humor, and I think that’s why we’re a good match.

What do you two have in store?

The thing is, right now — and this is why it’s sort of terrifying — nothing’s happened yet. I’m on my way to a [Tonys] rehearsal now, where I hope I’ll actually get some more material so we can start working on material other than a basic, very loosely planned opening thing. Everything falls into place very much at the last minute. Obviously, it’s very nerve-racking that you’re doing material that you’ve only received very recently, and you’re doing it for 6,000 of your peers and millions of people on TV. But it’s a warm room, and people there are celebrating the entire season of Broadway shows, so I think we’ll feel a lot of love.

Can we expect any wild surprises?

Maybe a Shia LaBeouf cameo? [LaBeouf was arrested after disrupting a Cabaret performance in June 2014.] Uh, no. In our introduction we’ll do something with classic musicals and use them as part of our shtick, little clips of disparate older shows that people at home would know. Even if they don’t know anything on Broadway this season, they can feel, "Oh, I know that song! I can be a part of this!" Because obviously we’re celebrating the season on Broadway, but it’s a TV show that CBS wants people to watch as well.

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