Tonys Preview: A ‘Hugh-Centric’ Ceremony to Honor Broadway’s Best

Right now at Radio City Music Hall, it’s all falling into place.

Broadway casts are rehearsing their performance numbers. Transitions are being practiced again and again. Members of the production crew are standing onstage impersonating a lineup of starry awards presenters. All of it’s in preparation for the Tony Awards telecast Sunday night.

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, the exec producers of the ceremony broadcast, don’t want to reveal too much about the big night, but they will drop a few hints.

“I think ‘Hugh-centric’ would be the word I would use,” Weiss offered in mid-rehearsal Thursday afternoon. The Hugh is question, of course, is Hugh Jackman, who’s back for his fourth stint as Tony host. Kirshner and Weiss, who have produced the Tony broadcast since 2003 and won seven Emmys for it, first worked with him on the 2005 telecast.

“Hugh’s up for anything,” Krishner said.

“I think more so than he was nine years ago,” Weiss added. “It’s like he’s found himself as a Broadway performer.”

The exec producers don’t say too much about the specifics of the ceremony in part to maintain a measure of surprise. But they also keep mum because some elements won’t be set in stone until the dress rehearsal Sunday morning.

The running order, for instance, is always subject to change. Rehearsals could reveal that one production number’s elaborate set demands require a five-minute commercial lead-in rather than a three-minute one, or that a nominee needs more time after a performance seg so he or she has a chance to get out of costume and back in the auditorium for an award announcement.

The Broadway productions themselves have their own logistics to figure out. Only nominees can dress at Radio City, meaning entire casts must get into costume at their respective theaters, get bussed over to Radio City, and then hop back on the bus when the number’s done.

The complications of working around Broadway’s eight-show week often means that some of the most complicated components of the ceremony are rehearsed just once, on Sunday morning, prior to the live broadcast. That was the case with last year’s opening sequence, which assembled 150 performers from all of Broadway for a single number. A YouTube video, shown below, illustrates the controlled chaos of Weiss conducting the editing room during the the seg.

“If it were simple, there’d be no adrenalin,” Kirshner said.

He and Weiss — not to mention all of Broadway’s nailbiting nominees — get their next bump of adrenalin Sunday night on CBS.

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