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Tony Awards producers choose new home for the show
NEW YORK (AP) - The Tony Awards ceremony, left homeless after losing its long-term space at Radio City Music Hall, has found a smaller theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the telecast.
The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, joint producers of the show that honors the best of Broadway, said Wednesday that the June 12 event will be broadcast live from the Beacon Theatre by CBS.
The Art Deco theater has 2,870 seats and opened in 1929 as a showcase for vaudeville, musicals, opera and movies, and has hosted concerts by the Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Radiohead and Queen. The Dalai Lama taught in it in 1999 and former President Bill Clinton ended his 60th birthday celebration at the Beacon with a private Rolling Stones concert. Both Radio City and the Beacon are operated by Madison Square Garden Inc.
The three-tiered Beacon, designed by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager, recently underwent a $16 million renovation and features a 900-pound chandelier, a bronze-doored vestibule that leads to an opulent two-story circular lobby, elaborate gilded plaster moldings, drapes with gold tassels, and images of animals, masks, urns, Grecian women and instruments of war on the proscenium valance.
Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League, said the Beacon will have about half as many seats as Radio City but it’s not too far away from the theater district in Times Square, which will facilitate rehearsals.
“It’s got a great stage and it’s a great theater that will look great on TV,” she said. “It gives us a chance to relook at everything and we are going to be doing that. We’re going to be looking at all sorts of new opportunities.”
The eventual location of the show had been a mystery after Cirque du Soleil announced it would be moving into the 6,000-seat Radio City and debuting a new show that couldn’t accommodate the time the Tonys would need to set up, rehearse and televise the live event.
Producers were tightlipped about the process, not wanting to hamper negotiations, but they say they had been looking at all kinds of options, both indoors and outdoors, using an existing space; they even considered erecting a building over Times Square made of Lucite. Some ideas were too expensive, others unworkable.
The awards, which consistently win Emmys for their presentation, began being televised in 1967 and a different Broadway theater _ the biggest, the Gershwin Theatre, has about 1,900 seats _ rotated as host each year. Producers often just added a glittery drop and a brought in a few props.
But after the Tony’s moved into Radio City in 1997, producers had a stage that was larger than any Broadway house with room to grow into an annual spectacle. That left them scrutinizing mid-range spaces this summer _ something perhaps bigger than a Broadway theater and yet smaller than the massive 19,000-seat Madison Square Garden arena. But they found that New York surprisingly doesn’t have that many options.
St. Martin said the Beacon has “the possibility of being a long-term home.”
Last year, the Tony telecast was seen by an estimated 7 million people, down 6 percent from the 2009 audience, despite the star power of Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Green Day.
Still, the show _ with Sean Hayes as host _ had nearly three quarters of a million more people watching than the Tonys did two years ago. The host of the upcoming show has yet to be announced.
By Brahma Chellaney
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