Producing the Tony Awards is hard enough without everyone on Broadway telling you how to do your job. But that’s exactly what White Cherry Entertainment’s Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, the ceremony’s longtime executive producers, have to deal with every year — and this year is no different. Here’s our two cents.
Get Tina Fey to Write Some Banter
Fey, a first-time Tony nominee for the book to “Mean Girls,” has already proven she knows how to host an awards show after her stints with the Golden Globes, and she’s been a game participant in theater-industry events ever since her musical announced its Broadway intentions. She’d only win people over further (and maybe sway a couple more votes) if she signs on to craft some one-liners for hosts Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban. And after Kevin Spacey’s face plant of a ceremony last year, the Tonys sure could use some sparkling wit.
Go Broad, Go Insider-y
Every year, the Tonys have to strike a balance between appealing to millions of TV viewers and playing to the core denizens of Broadway: the superfans and the industry types. In a season that’s unusually dense with big brand names — “Mean Girls,” “Frozen,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” Bruce Springsteen — national audiences have more reason than ever to care about what’s happening in the theater district. Tony producers can take advantage of that to make the proceedings entertaining for newcomers and insiders alike.
OK, this is controversial, but: Despite its advantages in conveying the tonal breadth of a musical, and showcasing a wider cross-section of its cast, a medley at the Tony ceremony is, at best, a jumbled, frenetic movie trailer of a preview. Give us one standout number, and trust that it’s intriguing or catchy or memorable enough to pique ticket buyers’ interest.
Let Plays Be Plays (With Big Stars)
It’s always been tough to come up with a satisfying way to showcase nominated plays, and every year the Tonys valiantly try something different, to varying degrees of success. This year’s play front-runner, “Harry Potter,” moves like a musical and could even incorporate an illusion or two; that one will be easy to show off. But most nonmusical nominees are quieter and more intimate, with plenty of monologues to go around. Why not lean in to those soliloquies — and the starry actors who deliver them — and enlist Andrew Garfield (“Angels in America”), Denzel Washington (“The Iceman Cometh”), Chris Evans (“Lobby Hero”) and Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf (both in “Three Tall Women”), among others, for a segment that spotlights what theater is at its core: one person, onstage, speaking.
Mix It Up With the Music Heavyweights
Hosts Bareilles and Groban are just two examples of popular music-world names who have found success on Broadway recently. Thanks in large part to the who’s-who of contributors to the “SpongeBob” score, this year’s ceremony will highlight more crossover talent than ever, and the Tonys could have some fun with that. Brendon Urie, the Panic! at the Disco lead singer who was a big box office draw in “Kinky Boots,” could join the “SpongeBob” cast in performing the song he wrote for that musical. Springsteen could sing a song written by lifetime achievement winner Andrew Lloyd Webber. Broadway’s reach is wide this year — embrace it.