When the Tony Awards are handed out Sunday night, the statuettes will put exclamation points on Broadway’s best year ever, if we judge by box office and attendance. Grosses for Broadway shows reached $1.4 billion in the past year, while 13.1 million tickets were sold.
Sunday evening’s telecast on CBS will be hosted by the odd-couple pairing of Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. She’s nominated for her star turn in the revival of “On the Twentieth Century” and he recently headlined “Cabaret.”
Performers include such stars of nominated shows as Chita Rivera (“The Visit,” Kander and Ebb’s last musical), Vanessa Hudgens (“Gigi”) and Kelsey Grammer (Capt. Hook in “Finding Neverland”).
Leading the nominees with 12 apiece are two musicals: “An American in Paris,” a dance-heavy adaptation of the 1951 MGM musical, and “Fun Home,” adapted by playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori from an Alison Bechdel graphic novel about coming out to her father.
The 700 or so voters chose from 37 eligible shows. One of those voters is James Rocco, artistic director of Ordway Center in St. Paul.
“It was a good year for musicals, and I was very torn,” Rocco said.
“I was pleased visually with ‘An American in Paris.’ The director/choreographer found a way to do scene changes that seemed like dance — like they were moving pictures. I loved ‘Fun Home.’ It’s just so smart, and probably is the best new American musical I’ve seen in years. And though ‘The Visit’ is a bitter pill, Chita Rivera was mesmerizing.”
Of the best-play nominees, Rocco was smitten with “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 mystery novel.
“It was unbelievable and mind-boggling,” he said.
So which shows did he vote for? “The winners,” he said with a laugh before going back to rehearsals for “Damn Yankees,” which begins previews June 16 at the Ordway. “It’s hard to go wrong this year.”
That sentiment was shared by another Twin Cities-based Tony voter, Judy Joseph, vice president of programming at Hennepin Theatre Trust, which programs the Orpheum, State and Pantages theaters in downtown Minneapolis.
She, too, demurred when asked about her votes, but said, “ ‘Curious Incident’ is probably one of the most moving pieces I’ve seen in a long time, and, from a technical standpoint, their use of projections and sets were amazing. I thought [Pulitzer winner Ayad Akhtar’s] ‘Disgraced’ was terrific. ‘Hand to God’ [which features a foul-mouthed sock puppet] was irreverent, funny, loud. And if we think about shows like ‘Spring Awakening’ and ‘Avenue Q,’ it’s clear that Tony voters don’t shy away from edgy stuff.”
Joseph also liked “An American in Paris” for its story and “magnificent choreography.”
“We’ve got a great selection of shows to choose from to bring to town next season,” she said, “and we’re busy at it.”