Tony Awards will lean on songs and celebrities

If/Then Richard Rodgers Theatre
This image released by Polk and Co. shows Idina Menzel, center, with the cast during a performance of “If/Then,” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. Menzel is nominated for a Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical. The Tony Awards will be held on Sunday, June 8, in New York. (AP Photo/Polk and Co., Joan Marcus)

NEW YORK (AP) — Relax, Idina. At this star-studded ceremony, no one is going to mangle your name.
The Tony Awards celebrating Broadway start Sunday evening, which means Idina Menzel is among friends. The former star of “Rent,” who returned this year with “If/Then” onstage and “Frozen” in movie theaters, heard John Travolta famously mispronounce her name at the Oscars in March. That won’t happen on Sunday — theater fans consider her royalty.
The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, joint producers of the show, will host the glittery ceremony from Radio City Music Hall. It will be broadcast live by CBS.
Producers of the telecast will hope to build on last year’s 7.24 million viewers — the show’s largest audience in four years — with Hugh Jackman playing the role of host. An early rehearsal proved Jackman, now sporting a fearsome beard, has lost none of his style, affability and humor in the nine years since he last hosted. He sings several songs with panache — including all the parts from the first song in “The Music Man” — and teases the nominees goodheartedly.
Fans of former emcee Neil Patrick Harris, take heart: He’ll be performing from his hit show “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” looking unrecognizable in a miniskirt and blond feathered wig. One audience member will even get a lap dance from him.
Stars slated to help present awards include Bradley Cooper, Kevin Bacon, Clint Eastwood, Leighton Meester, Kenneth Branagh, Kate Mara, Emmy Rossum, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zachary Quinto. Some Hollywood royalty who showed up onstage this season like Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, James Franco and Rachel Weisz didn’t win nominations and may skip the show. Viewership may also be tested by Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Some 870 Tony voters — members of professional groups such as the Wing, the League, Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society — decided the final 26 competitive awards. Only Broadway shows that opened in the 12 months ending April 24 are eligible.
A music-heavy lineup has been promised that includes all the best new musical nominees — “Aladdin,” ”After Midnight,” ”Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — and some overlooked ones, including “Rocky,” ”Bullets Over Broadway,” and Menzel’s show “If/Then.”
Three revivals — “Les Miserables,” ”Violet” and “Cabaret” — will also be featured.  “Wicked,” which is celebrating a decade on Broadway, will have its current Glinda and Elphaba sing “For Good,” and there will be songs from two shows that have yet to arrive: Sting will perform from his musical “The Last Ship” and Jennifer Hudson sings from “Finding Neverland,” the musical about Peter Pan.
For best play candidates, the playwrights of “Act One,” ”All The Way,” ”Casa Valentina,” ”Mothers and Sons” and “Outside Mullingar” will each take turns introducing video snippets of their works.
This year, Broadway producers have a reason to party. The season’s box offices hit a record total gross of $1.27 billion — up from $1.13 billion the previous season — and attendance was up 5.6 percent to 12.2 million.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at

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