Tony Preview: Broadway Stars All Dressed Up, But Who Will Watch?

Tony Awards Preview 2015
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

The ballots are in, the predictions are made, and the acting nominees will look unusually spiffy, thanks to a concerted fashion-world effort led by Anna Wintour. The 2015 Tony Awards are ready for their annual primetime closeup on CBS tonight — but some Broadway types are fretting that this year America might be more tempted than usual to tune out.

The Tony ceremony is never a ratings juggernaut, since it focuses on what is essentially a local industry based in midtown Manhattan. (Ratings last year held at about 7 million total viewers, steady in the prime 18-49 demo and down a bit in total viewership.) Plenty of Broadway shows go on to be seen around the country and internationally, but their recognition at the Tonys comes so early in their lifespan that a ceremony’s nominated shows don’t, in most cases, have much of a profile outside of the tri-state area.

Prior ceremonies had the chance to pique the interest of general audiences with big-name hosts (Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris in recent years) or with productions that have made an unusually large splash nationally (such as “The Book of Mormon” or “The Producers”). But none of this year’s nominated titles have quite managed the latter feat, and while everyone on Broadway loves this year’s co-hosts, Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, they don’t have the Q score of Hugh or NPH.

One more thing causing consternation: The winner for the starriest awards category, lead actress in play, is said to be queued up as the first award of the night. Which could mean that, after Helen Mirren accepts her Tony (as everyone expects) early in the broadcast, a lot of TV viewers might see no reason not to switch over to “Game of Thrones” come 9 o’clock.

On the other hand, it’s not clear just how significantly ratings are influenced by a ceremony’s host. And while the Tonys have long attracted a TV audience mostly made up of theater aficionados, the ability to reach that relatively small but desirable demographic — which skews older and, importantly, affluent — seems valuable enough to CBS and its advertisers that the network has stuck with the Tonys for years now.

Big names — and powerhouse Broadway draws — Bradley Cooper (nominated for lead actor in a play) and Larry David are among the stars also set to appear during the Tony ceremony, while producer Harvey Weinstein has enlisted Jennifer Lopez (as well as Nick Jonas and electro-pop musician Kiesza) to introduce the performance segment from “Finding Neverland.” (Lopez, Jonas and Kiesza will appear on an upcoming album of “Finding Neverland” tunes covered by well-known pop musicians.)

Whatever the Tony ratings, Broadway producers still consider the awards telecast to be a hugely valuable opportunity for exposure to a national audience of theater fans — the kind of publicity that can help attract audiences to national tours down the line. Cheeky Renaissance comedy “Something Rotten!” will get pride of place among the night’s musical nominees, landing the performance segment that comes first during the ceremony. The show’s cast will perform the production’s showstopper, “A Musical.”

“Something Rotten!” is one of the musicals up for the top new musical trophy, but many in the industry consider the real horserace in that category to be between the romantic, dance-centric “An American in Paris” and the intimate, emotional “Fun Home.” “American in Paris” has opted to show itself off with a medley of a few numbers (including “‘S Wonderful” and “I Got Rhythm”), whereas “Fun Home” will spotlight one of its standout songs, the solo “Ring of Keys,” performed by young actress Sydney Lucas.

Numbers from nominated shows “The Visit,” “The King and I,” “On the Town” and “On the 20th Century” (starring Chenoweth) will get slots during the ceremony, as will this season’s “Gigi,” “It Shoulda Been You” and “Finding Neverland,” plus “Jersey Boys,” in celebration of that show’s tenth anniversary.

Broadway gamblers are betting that “American in Paris” takes a number of the night’s early design awards (which are handed out before the telecast begins), and most expect “Fun Home” to snag later trophies for score and book. But none of that can necessarily be taken as indicators of a sweep for either show: Most observers think the race for new musical is so tight that it’ll be a nailbiter right until the final envelope is opened.

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  1. I’ll be watching game 2 of the 2015 NBA Finals….

  2. Jim says:

    Wait, from reading recent newspapers and Facebook, I thought about 40% of Americans were gay. I assumed the Tonys would be ratings boffo!

  3. Mia says:

    Honestly outside of New York City and perhaps portions of LA – no one particularly cares about the Tony Awards as the productions and actors and actresses they honor can not be seen by the average viewer in the midwest. perhaps its time to put this one out to pasture and just let Broadway enjoy its one night in the confines of new york and not on TV airwaves.

  4. Cavalry Scout says:

    Oh well, so what who cares. What is a TONY award for any way? Another way the entertainment, rich wealthy, lazy actors and actresses can pat themselves on the back?

    Let them have their awards, just keep it off of television. Show something like reruns of HeHaw, or Drew Carey or Big Bang Theory. Much more entertaining that way.

    We really do not need this kind of Bovine Excrement on TV.

  5. Janger says:

    It’ll surely be a ratings disaster, because the American viewers are exhausted and numb over the entertainment industry’s never ending parade of pageants and the endless stream of entertainer patting themselves on the back for being so…um…entertaining?! Enough with the “Weekly Gala!” and the “Look at us and see how GREAT we are!” Most of these people are shallow, hollow, dumbfu_ks who can barely string a cohesive thought together and WE’RE suppose to pay homage to them? No thanks!

  6. Lebron says:

    Hmmm..NBA finals or a Gay Pride festival?

  7. Who cares if millions of idiots watch? What’s important is that it’s a good show for the people who do care.

  8. Walt says:

    Who needs these people? Americans are on the edge of existing, thanks to Democrats and Obama. We pay for millions of illegal aliens! For there health care, to give them Tax Refunds, even thought they have never paid taxes! Obama only cares about himself, and votes for Democrats. Democrats have sacrificed American, to get a few illegal votes. The lives of hundreds of thousands of, brave young Americans, who died to protect our rights and sovereignty have been thrown into the gutter by Democrats!
    Most Americans are struggling just to eat, and pay rent. So this type of entertainment is unimportant to most of us.
    There are a few though. Government Union Workers, who live off the sweat of starving Americans. Wall street bankers, who steal millions and even billions, and never to jail.

  9. denno says:

    nobody cares-a circle jerk of jerks

  10. Holdon McGroin says:

    More so-called celebrities patting themselves on the back for doing their jobs and making huge amounts of money in the meantime. Oh puke … another self serving dog and pony show.

  11. Rob Bennett says:

    This was by far the Best awards show I’ve seen in 30 years. What a privilege to be able to sit at home, with no chance of ever seeing the best of our entertainment industry in person and seeing live, these performances. Free of any Hollywood political B/S, it was re-refreshing, funny and moving. My hats of to all who appeared and produced .

  12. Dr. Venture says:

    Good luck Tony going up against Game of Thrones, you have as much chance as Renly Baratheon.

  13. ragu4u says:

    Only rich snobs see Broadway Shows and rich snobs don’t own T.V.s …. they own T.V. Networks. ALL T.V. shows are geared to …”the little people” who aren’t smart enough to be rich snobs.

  14. Hymie Porkenstein says:

    i saw the queer in the pink outfit and that was enough fopr me, i hate seeing queers on TV so yea i watched reruns instead of queers

  15. caligula says:

    wtf are the tony awards?

  16. Dorotea says:

    Boycott Hollywood.

  17. jewhader says:

    jews and h0mos

    No thanks

    • jt says:

      Why the hatred hader? Molested as a child by your father? Raped by your aunt when you were 6? Failure in life? Which is it?

  18. cathy says:

    I think more folks are interested in the Daytime Emmys than this.

  19. abbie says:

    I didn’t even realize the awards came on last night.

  20. I’m so tired of watching awards shows where the people give themselves accolades–yes it’s so so narcisstic and so so boring and unimportant.

  21. JTPaar says:

    Considering the fact that Christians are being beheaded for their faith, women and girls are being enslaved and passed around like candy to be raped, hundreds of thousands have had to flee from their homeland or be killed…doesn’t it seem just a little pretentious that the Hollyweird crowd are handing out awards to themselves and patting each other on the back? You’re not all ‘that’. Get over it.

    • Rob Bennett says:

      First of all, these awards celebrate the NEW YORK STAGE COMMUNITY YOU BLITHERING IDIOT and your wonderful at expressing the world’s woes, but WTF have you, or are you doing about it.

    • cadavra says:

      Why don’t you grab yourself an atlas, if you can find one, and try to learn the difference between Los Angeles and New York.

  22. Steve says:

    There pushing there gay agenda again.

  23. louis says:

    Only 1 black and 1 Hispanic won’t see this on MSNBC or CNN
    #where is the liberal outrage????

  24. R.E. Dodd says:

    Kinda like the tonies, those that should read these comments, won’t

  25. Peter Fitz says:

    The Tony’s should take a cue from Broadway
    and do a revival, of a revival of a do good Tony show , like they did 20, and 30 years ago
    And believe me, that would not include Allan Cummins, or Anna Wintour

  26. Ed says:

    Who cares.

  27. Hugh Jass says:

    The Tony’s and Broadway in general only appeal to women and gays. I’ll be busy picking lint from my navel.

  28. taggart says:


  29. Flannigan McGaffigan says:

    Don’t call them the Tony Awards: call them the “Caitlyn Awards.”
    More people will watch and the ratings will be much higher.
    After all, everything now is about the Jenners & Kardashians.

  30. lcs says:

    “Sounds like steam escaping.” – Dom DeLuise, Blazing Saddles

  31. stderr says:

    > Tony Preview: Broadway Stars All Dressed Up, But Who Will Watch?
    The Tony Awards, it seems to me, would be better if they gave the award to someone else once in a while. There’s just no suspense when it always goes to Tony. Come on, how about giving it to Bob or Fred or even Achmed. Achmed never wins anything. Come on.

  32. Sir Boris says:

    We DVR(ed) Cisco Kid.

  33. joe says:

    I’d rather watch a rerun

  34. dan says:

    Alan Cummings: the prototype of the new American male as envisioned by Hollyweird

  35. Joe E in the IE says:

    “. . . but some Broadway types are fretting that this year America might be more tempted than usual to tune out.”

    Aw, gee, I’d cry ’em a river but the EPA wants an environmental impact report and the IRS will tax the tears, then audit me. Of course, the DOJ could make it a hate crime NOT to watch.

  36. Caitlyn Obama says:

    The LGBT crowd will watch. That should be about 3 billion, no?

  37. Jenny says:

    The only people who care are “actors” or those in NYC. No one else cares. It’s spring/summer, go out for a walk or something outside. Nature is much better than theater.

  38. Moreover, the hottest show on or off Broadway, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, was not eligible for this year’s Tony’s.

  39. Anon says:

    Sorry, Tony. Won’t be watching. I have Gay/Trans/Black/Multiculturalism/Awareness fatigue and am quite frankly sick of special interest propaganda.

  40. Mike Pearce says:

    I have zero interest in the Tony Awards. That is a very exclusive clique. Normal people have no idea what is all about and I have never heard of most the plays and I only know about 3 people nominated.
    Why would I watch?
    I will say back in the day before Rosie O’Donnell went all crazy and so bloody bitter and mean, she got me interested in Broadway and the plays by showcasing them on her show. She was such a fan, and a champion of Broadway that you could not help but be charmed by her and interested in the plays. That is the only time I ever knew about the plays and cared.

  41. Zorbajjjj says:

    The Tony awards have gotten entirely parochial, entirely gay, entirely in the “entertainment industry leftwing bubble, and entirely boring.

  42. jbspryjbspry says:

    Broadway is to Hollywood what Nancy Sinatra is to Frank Sinatra.

  43. Really? A Sodomite? Are you privy to his sexual practices?

  44. bevus says:

    give a Tony to Catylin, she is really acting.

  45. p51d007 says:

    Well, you can bet the NYC tv execs will make sure there won’t be CRAP on television, in hopes of getting more people to watch. They still don’t get it…they ain’t the only show on the block these days. Home movies, streaming etc….no one cares for these over hyped self expression shows any more.

  46. Craig Eliot says:

    Tony Schmoney. I’d rather read something fascinating like the “Polity of Beasts” or some other unknown literary gem. Why would anyone want to waste time watching a bunch of halfwits hopping about like mad alpacas?

  47. cadavra says:

    It speaks volumes about our degraded culture that millions religiously tune in to competition shows full of people who can’t sing or dance, but a program spotlighting the finest talents in the world gets miniscule viewership and even less respect.

    • welldone says:

      “finest talents in the world”? spare us the narcissism… and the BS…

      • cadavra says:

        You need to look up the word narcissism, because it has zero to do with my comment. (And my only connection with Broadway is buying tickets.)

    • Jekyll Island says:

      These so called entertainers don’t hold a candle to yesteryears talent and they sure as heck do not deserve our respect.

      Drop the political agenda, do your job and people will respect you. Pick a side, the one that hurts the middle class then you get this.

      • cadavra says:

        What on earth are you talking about? This has nothing to do with politics. This is about people preferring to watch amateurs over professionals. Get a grip.

  48. CMarks says:

    The Tonys, like the Oscars & Emmys, create competition where maybe there shouldn’t be. To have a small beautifully written and performed intimately personal musical like “Fun Home” compete with the big elegant “American In Paris” or the overblown (in the best way possible) over-the-top musical comedy “Something a Rotten” makes absoluely no sense. All three of these shows provide a wonderful theatrical experience but to compare them and choose a “winner” ultimately seems unfair to everyone from involved up to and including the audience. So while I’m accepting (but not agreeing) with the competitive nature of awards I am glad to see that the musicals that were not nominated will be performing also this year. The exposure of national television might encourage some to consider these non-nominated shows in addition to those nominated and winning awards.

    • Zorbajjjj says:

      None of these smaller gems or giant phantasmagorias has a chance to compete with “HEY, LOOK AT ME, I’M GAY!!” ——which is the theme of most of the “Broadway theatre,” theatre community, and Tony awards today.

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