NEW YORK (AP) — When producers asked Alan Cumming to host the Tony Awards this year, his heart sank.
Then they said, “with Kristin Chenoweth” and he said, “Oh, all right!”
His partner in crime on Sunday said she had the same reaction: “I was like, ‘Hallelujah!’ It felt like I’d struck gold.”
Tony producers are hoping they’ve struck it too with the intriguing pairing of Cumming and Chenoweth, a break from the memorable shifts done in the past by the likes of Neil Patrick Harris or Hugh Jackman.
The addition of two hosts instead of just one is actually perfectly in step with a show that has amped up the number of musical numbers and celebrities to insane levels.
In addition to a hefty 11 performances and the handing out of 24 competitive Tonys, the three-hour telecast will feature appearances by a motley group of stars like Jennifer Lopez, Sting, Jim Parsons, Amanda Seyfried, Larry David and Ashley Tisdale, and a stunt: Josh Groban will try to lead the most performers in a single number in Tony history.
Producers are hoping to beat last year’s average of 7.02 million viewers, a dip from 2013’s 7.24 million. Getting buzz from appearing on the telecast can really dictate a show’s future, both on Broadway and on the road. But, as happened last year, Game 2 of the NBA Finals will compete against the Tonys.
Those tuning in will see musical numbers from the seven nominated new and revival musicals, including “Ring of Keys” from “Fun Home,” medleys from “The King and I” and “On the 20th Century,” a comic song about musicals from “Something Rotten!,” two songs from “The Visit,” a Leonard Bernstein medley from “On the Town” and three snippets from the Gershwins’ “An American in Paris.”
Three shows that didn’t make it also found slots, including the song “The Night They Invented Champagne” featuring Vanessa Hudgens from “Gigi” and the tune “Jenny’s Blues” from “It Shoulda Been You.” There’s even room for “Jersey Boys” to celebrate its 10th anniversary with “Oh What A Night.”
The Peter Pan musical “Finding Neverland,” which got zero nominations, will get an unprecedented second bite of the apple. Last year, Jennifer Hudson sang “Neverland” on the telecast and this year Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer will sing “Stronger.”
During rehearsals Friday at Radio City Music Hall, 33 dancers from “An American in Paris” spent hours perfecting their complex and telescoped appearance. They go from the instrumental ballet “An American in Paris” to the lovely song “S’Wonderful” to the group dance “I Got Rhythm” — all in 31/2 minutes.
A massive French flag gets pulled across the stage, projections of buildings sweep in, war planes growl overhead, two huge wood frames swivel onstage and there are costume changes by nominees Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild. During down times, the ensemble dancers took photos of each other to commemorate the moment.
“What we do onstage, we’re not really doing to try to convince the people in this room that our show is beautiful or surprising — all the things that I think are critical to making something excellent,” said producer Stuart Oken, who watched rehearsals. “We’re trying to do something that looks good on television.”
Like many shows, “An American in Paris,” which is tied for the most number of nominations, didn’t have an obvious single song that, taken out of context, captures the essence of the show. So creators tried to showcase as much of the talent they’d amassed as they could.
“Our goal has been to have our narrative make sense and I think to some extent it tells a story,” said Oken. “It’s not going to be everything our show is. Our show is really special on a lot of levels. What we’re going to do on the Tony show is kind of a slice of that.”
Viewers will also get the off-beat charm of Chenoweth, a nominee this year in “On the 20th Century,” and Cumming, “The Good Wife” star who recently finished a year on Broadway in “Cabaret.”
“I’d hate to do it on my own. Can you imagine?” said Cumming.
“Oh my God. I would stab myself,” said Chenoweth.
The two have previously worked together on such projects as the 1999 TV movie “Annie,” the animated film “Strange Magic” and on TV’s “The Good Wife.”
“If anything goes wrong, we’ll just be able to chat and have a laugh because we do,” said Cumming, who promised a bit of cross-dressing. He and Chenoweth will also be part of a tribute to Tommy Tune.
Both are seasoned professionals who know you can over-rehearse. “That’s not happening here,” Cumming said quickly. “No, don’t worry about that,” said Chenoweth, laughing.
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