After bestowing its awards within blocks of all the Broadway houses for more than six decades, the Tonys are abandoning the midtown of Manhattan next June. Instead, these top theater kudos will be presented at the Beacon Theater which occupies a city block on the Upper West Side of the borough between 74th and 75th.
This 2894-seat movie palace dates back to the late 1920s and has been hosting live events since the mid 1970s, including th Vh1 “Diva” concert series. The Beacon recently underwent a $15 million renovation. The 2011 edition of the Tonys will air from there live on CBS Sunday, June 12.
The Tony Awards were evicted from Radio City Music Hall — their home for the last 13 years — because of a summer-long booking by Cirque du Soleil. Radio City sits smack dab in midtown and seats 5,900. It was Rosie O’Donnell who suggested the awards be staged there when she took over as host in 1997.
Prior to that, one of the larger Broadway theaters had been used to stage the awards, but if it was housing a show, there was little time or space for elaborate production numbers. Instead, the Tony logo was hung from the ceiling and scaled-down versions of songs from the nominated musicals were performed live or, in some cases, taped at the original venue and aired as part of the telecast.
Radio City allowed for a revamping of the kudocast, with the space itself becoming part of the show. Below, watch the opening number from the 2007 Tony Awards when grand slam awards champ Marvin Hamlisch led the cast of “A Chorus Line” in performing that show’s showstopper “One” both outside and inside the Hall. And watch through to the end to see the rapturous reception given to another Tony champ.
Photo: Interior of the Beacon Theater (MSG)