Tony gaffe riles regulars

'Blonde' caught in Tonycast controversy

CBS and producers of the Tonycast opened a whole can of controversy over the weekend when they approached producers of Broadway musicals “Legally Blonde” and “LoveMusik” about performances during the kudocast.

Neither “Blonde” nor “LoveMusik,” however, are nommed for the tuner Tony. And as legiters well know, the rule is that only segments from musicals up for the top trophy can be performed – with those tuners reaping the marketing benefits of a spot on national TV.

The “Blonde” and “LoveMusik” idea got a contingent of Broadway regulars up in arms, and after a couple of contentious meetings – including an emergency huddle Tuesday afternoon by the Tony Awards Administration Committee – the appearances were nixed.

From a broadcast perspective, the appeal of “Blonde” is clear. In a legit season in which two award faves (“Spring Awakening,” “Grey Gardens”) tend toward the dark and edgy, an upbeat number from “Blonde” could add a welcome dose of pep to the Tonycast.

Add “Blonde” star Laura Bell Bundy, up for lead actress in a tuner, to Donna Murphy and Michael Cerveris, the two nommed leads of “LoveMusik,” and the Tony broadcast would feature perfs from every lead thesp nommed in musical categories. (Top revival nominees also perform production snippets during the telecast.)

And the show could use as much razzle-dazzle as it can get: Like last year, the event will not have a single host but will be emceed by a wide range of presenters. Plus, there’s the worrisome fact that the ceremony airs opposite the series finale of “The Sopranos.”

But the notion irked much of the Broadway community, who have long played by the no-nomination, no-Tonycast rule. What’s the use, opponents argued, of working all season to land in one of the four nomination slots, when the TV side can arbitrarily draft a few more shows they’d like to see onscreen?

And while more exposure for more productions is certainly a good thing for the Rialto overall, the “celebration of Broadway” angle doesn’t quite fit here either. What about televised shout-outs to other musicals from the season like “The Pirate Queen?” Or, for that matter, to popular long-runners such as “Chicago?”

According to legit gossip, a change in Tonycast rules was discussed but dropped. Meanwhile, chatterers began to speculate about a potential rift in the coalition of legit folk and TV people who present the Tonys every year.

But word on the street – at least for now – is that the issue has been resolved, with the Tonycast sticking, in the interest of long-term fairness, to just the nommed tuners.

Maybe Fantasia can pull in some ratings. The “American Idol” alumna, currently giving a well-reviewed turn in “The Color Purple,” is said to be a possibility to perform at the ceremony.

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