Tony Awards telecast touts best of Broadway

The Tony Awards, which have been telecast on CBS since 1978, consistently earn rave reviews if not notable numbers. Indeed, the kudocast usually contends at the Emmys. However, as it airs at the end of the Broadway season it just misses the eligibilty period for TV’s top honors. “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris, who is returning as host tonight, first presided over the 2009 Tonys which won a special class award at the 2010 Emmys.

One of the reasons the show is so well-received is that it presents numbers from the top tuners of the year. Leading their companies in song will be:

“The Book of Mormon” – Andrew Rannells
“Catch Me If You Can” – Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit
“The Scottsboro Boys” – Joshua Henry
“Sister Act” – Patina Miller

And the two nominated musical revivals will also be showcased:

“Anything Goes” – Sutton Foster
“How to Succeed” – Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette

Also slated to appear are the casts of last year’s Tony-winning “Memphis” and this year’s snubbed “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” as well as Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano, the leads of the much-maligned “Spiderman” musical “Turn Off the Dark” which just began its second round of previews. And Harris will reunite with the cast of the recent New York Philharmonics concert version of the 1971 Best Musical “Company” for a performance.

Five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury, who hosted these kudos a record five times, will present as will Catherine Zeta-Jones, her Tony-winning co-star from last season’s revival of “A Little Night Music.” Other Tony champs on the roster include: Matthew Broderick, Tyne Daly, Viola Davis, Joel Grey, David Hyde-Pierce, Hugh Jackman (who won an Emmy for hosting the 2004 Tonys), Robert Morse and Vanessa Redgrave. EGOT holder Whoopi Goldberg will be on hand as will Grammy and Emmy winner Harry Connick, Jr., five-time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer and two-time Emmy champ Alec Baldwin

While they were spurned by the Tonys this year, four fellows earn good sportsmanship prizes for appearing: Radcliffe, two-time Tony champ James Earl Jones who was overlooked for “Driving Miss Daisy,” and two actors making their Broadway debuts — Chris Rock (“The Motherfucker With the Hat) and Robin Williams (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”).

And while one CBS star hosts the awards, a trio of Tiffany net stars new — Patrick Wilson (“A Gifted Man”) and old — Marg Helgenberger (“CSI”) and Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) — will be showcased as well.

For the first time in 14 years, the Tonys will not be held at Radio City Music Hall. A summer-long booking by Cirque du Soleil meant a move uptown to the Beacon Theater. This 2894-seat movie palace, which dates back to the late 1920s, recently underwent a $15 million renovation. It has been hosting live events since the mid 1970s, including th Vh1 “Diva” concert series.

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