Kevin Spacey has signed on to host the 2017 Tony Awards — thereby answering a major outstanding question about the upcoming awards ceremony, which this year has waited until late in the game to nail down its emcee.
Although Spacey is best known for work on film (“The Usual Suspects,” “American Beauty”) and TV (“House of Cards”), he’s had a long association with theater. He won a 1991 Tony for his performance in “Lost in Yonkers,” and his 1999 Broadway stint in “The Iceman Cometh” became one of the major events of that theater season. In recent years he wrapped up an 11-year tenure as the artistic director of the Old Vic in London.
With less than two weeks left to go in the Tony eligibility window and nominations due to be announced May 2, the news of the Tony host is coming particularly late this year. The fact that the Tonys have had trouble securing a ringleader after James Corden’s well-regarded stint last year is no secret: Spacey even alluded to it in a statement. “I was their second choice for ‘Usual Suspects,’ fourth choice for ‘American Beauty’ and 15th choice to host this year’s Tony Awards,” he said.
Corden and Tina Fey are among the other possible names that have been floated in recent months, but didn’t pan out.
Spacey will headline a June 11 ceremony in which the lead contenders are shaping up to be “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Come From Away” and “Natasha, Pierre and Great Comet of 1812,” among a very busy season that includes an unusual bounty of new musicals. This year’s horse race, in which no one show is a clear-cut frontrunner, promises to be more suspenseful than last year, when a “Hamilton” sweep seemed a fait accompli.
The Tony Awards telecast, broadcast live every year on CBS, often have trouble attracting significant ratings, it’s not clear how much of an impact the host has on the final numbers. Corden and the 2016 ceremony drew the Tonys’ highest ratings in 15 years, but a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that the night’s big winner, “Hamilton,” was at the peak of its pop-culture hype.
The 71st Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast June 11 from Radio City Music Hall. Tony eligibilty for the season ends April 27, and nominations will be announced May 2.