NEW YORK (AP) — Darren Criss’ favorite night of the year is here. It’s the Tony Awards. “I’ll never shut up about the Tonys. I love the Tonys,” he says.
Not only will Criss be watching the Tonys on Sunday, he’ll be working. He’s co-hosting an hour-long pre-Tony celebration at Radio City Music Hall with Julianne Hough, and he’s even written his own song about the show he’ll be performing, revealing “a bit of my nerdy tendencies”.
Criss and Hough will distribute Creative Arts Tonys on Paramount+, then hand over to Ariana DeBose to host the three-hour main show on CBS from the same stage, live for the first time coast-to-coast.
The season – featuring 34 new productions – marks a full return to cinemas after nearly two years of a pandemic-related shutdown. At the last Tonys nine months ago, winners were drawn from just 18 eligible plays and musicals and many of the competition categories had been exhausted.
DeBose, the Tony-nominated theater veteran and recent Oscar winner for “West Side Story,” said Broadway was in for a party.
“I feel like if there ever was a time, now is the time,” she said. “I think it’s a triumph just to have made it to this point, to have made art and to have a show.”
The show will feature performances from this year’s Tony Award-nominated musicals including A Strange Loop, Company, Girl from the North Country, MJ, Mr. Saturday Night”, “Music Man”, “Paradise Square” and “Six”. The original cast of the 2007 Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening will also reunite and perform.
A Strange Loop, a theatrical meta-journey about a playwright who writes a musical, enters the show with 11 leading Tony nominations. Right behind, with 10 nominations each, is “MJ,” a bio-musical from the King of Pop packed with his greatest hits, and “Paradise Square,” a musical about Irish immigrants and black Americans struggling to survive around the time of New York City fight the civil war.
Best Actresses in a Musical are Sharon D Clarke from the revival of Caroline or Change and Joaquina Kalukango from Paradise Square. The best actor in a musical might be Jaquel Spivey from A Strange Loop versus Myles Frost as the King of Pop in MJ the Musical.
The Lehman Trilogy, Stefano Massini’s 150-year play about the collapse of financial giant Lehman Brothers, is the leading contender for best new play, while David Morse comes out on top in a revival of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive has top contender for best actor in a play. His co-star Mary-Louise Parker could become the first actor to win consecutive Tonys for best actress in a play.
Producers are expanding the show again, thanks to streaming partner Paramount+, adding an extra hour ahead of the three-hour broadcast of the grand prizes to celebrate the creative Tony nominees in categories like sound design and lighting. In the past, these assumptions were often recorded earlier and injected into the television broadcast.
Criss and Hough – who both had roles on Broadway this spring – are hosting this first hour, which will air exclusively on the streaming network.
“I think they realized that a lot of the moments that didn’t make it public were worth showing and showcasing and giving a little recognition and appreciation to the people who had those really amazing moments.” said Criss. who stars in a revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo.
Hough, who made her Broadway debut with a role in the all-female cast of the political comedy POTUS, was impressed by the level of talent of her peers.
“I always look at Broadway artists and creatives as artistic athletes because the skill and the tenacity and the discipline and the hard work and everything that goes into it – and the artistry – just goes beyond that,” says the Dancing with the Stars said the veteran.
Mark Kennedy is there http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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