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Neil Patrick Harris to host Tonys

'Mother' actor tapped for Awards telecast

Neil Patrick Harris has been tapped to host the 63rd annual Tony Awards, with the thesp presiding over a telecast that aims to offer airtime to a wide array of Broadway offerings.

Kudocast producers Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss hope for a cross-promotional boost from the fact that Harris’ current TV gig, sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” airs on CBS, the network that broadcasts the Tonys.

They also estimate that the ceremony will include the largest proportion of performance and entertainment segs of any Tonycast they have produced over the last several years.

The ceremony, largely considered Broadway’s highest-profile annual advertising opportunity, was formerly restricted to excerpts of shows nominated in major production categories. But such limitations have loosened in recent years as telecast organizers have worked to include the Rialto’s highest-profile offerings.

Kirshner and Weiss noted that this season’s Rialto lineup is particularly crowded with well-known properties that could help attract audience interest, including “West Side Story,” “Shrek the Musical” and “9 to 5.”

“There’s a lot of iconic material running,” Weiss said. “We’re trying to take advantage of that.”

Viewers can also expect the inclusion of well-known shows that did not open this season, such as “The Lion King.”

Kirshner and Weiss are still working out the exact format of the various performance segments. Last year’s telecast, for instance, featured emcee Whoopi Goldberg turning up unexpectedly in a string of Rialto productions.

Harris comes to the Tonys having notched numerous stage and song-and-dance gigs, including stints in Broadway productions of “Assassins,” “Cabaret” and “Proof.” He also recently toplined Joss Whedon’s Internet tuner “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

Like Goldberg, Harris has a high profile with TV auds, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into boosted viewership for the Tonys, which last year brought in 6.2 million viewers, a fairly low tally about on par with the 2007 numbers.

The 2009 Tonys are set for June 7 at Radio City Music Hall.

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