Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On Hosting the Tony Awards

Hmmm... so they got Sean Hayes to host the Tonys this year.  At first glance, a logical choice - he is, after all, headlining a major Broadway musical, Promises, Promises.  And America - all of America - knows who he is.

Or do they?

Most of America doesn't follow Broadway (A heinous sin, right? But true, nonetheless) so choosing him will seem odd to a majority of folks who might be inclined to watch the awards show just based on the few ads CBS will inevitably run. (Emphasis on "few.")  And odder still, America knows him for exactly one thing - "Just Jack" McFarland of the long-running Will and Grace.  And who was Jack?  The hilarious, if sadly stereotypical, gay guy second banana, who got a lot of mileage out of jokes at the expense of the Broadway community.  Yes, I know Jack is fictional.  Yes, I know Mr. Hayes didn't write his material, and yes, I know many a Broadway diva took a spin on the sit-com - Chita, Donna, Patti, Cher, Madonna, Bebe, all with Broadway cred.

But what are we talking about Mr. Hayes for these days?  Coming out in The Advocate and that ridiculous Newsweek article.  Will this help (I hope) or hurt (it could backfire)?  What happens when Mr. Hayes starts to talk like Mr. Hayes, not "en fuego" Jack?  Will the majority of the audience that actually tunes in buy it?  Talk about the irony...will they buy a straight acting gay guy best known for being a flamboyant theatre queen?  (BEFORE YOU WRITE... I am using all the words the fool at Newsweek did to make a point, not to support him.  Get it?)  Will they think that he is pandering to a stupid article and/or that CBS is trying to cash in on controversy?  Again, it depends on who, aside from the Broadway loyal is watching, and if they follow the latest celeb gossip.
That said, I think Mr. Hayes will likely do a fantastic job.  He is incredibly funny, sans Jack, exudes warmth and sincerity, and his speaking voice could melt marshmallows.  If they let him sing, it could definitely add to the cache, or better yet, have him accompany himself on the piano.  He is an accomplished musician, too.  But wait!  Which show ISN'T nominated, and therefore unlikely to get a spot on the show?  Why, Promises, Promises, of course!  If CBS, the Tony Awards producers, and the show's producers were smart, they'd let Sean Hayes open with a number from Promises, Promises, establishing him instantly as more than "Just Jack."

Of course, they'd be REALLY smart to have had him co-host with his co-star, Kristin Chenoweth, who is as hot as you can be these days - Broadway star, TV star, great guest star on TV's best show, Glee, recent Emmy winner, best-selling recording artist and author.  Everyone has heard of her, and she and Sandra Bullock seem to be sharing the title of "America's Sweetheart."  Let them duet up a storm... something from their show, maybe a send-up of something from Wicked... plus, talk about showing solidarity publicly against the magazine that shall not be named.  To me, that would have been smart money... co-hosting with a Broadway star who also happens to be an everything star.

(Another idea: they could have had the cast of Glee co-host, most of them have Broadway credits... or maybe just Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff... with surprise hosts Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch.)

I have a feeling that a lot of execs are patting themselves on the back for finding Mr. Hayes.  They might even be thinking they have found the next Neil Patrick Harris.  Maybe they have; if so I will print this out and eat it on camera for all of you to see.  But Sean Hayes is not NPH.  First, NPH is a hot commodity, with a CURRENT hit TV show, a great emceeing reputation, and more than one theatre credit to his name - he's been seen nationally in RENT, and on PBS in Sweeney Todd, plus Broadway.  And he was already America's kid back when he was Doogie Houser, MD.  NPH is in mid-career upswing. 

Sean Hayes hasn't been on TV or anywhere of note in more than three seasons.  He might have been a better choice after winning a Tony, doing more than one show, guest-starring on a variety of shows in a variety of roles.  And get him on Glee!

Don't get me wrong, I love Sean Hayes.  I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing his stage debut.  And I even think he'll be a good host.  But since the viability of the Tony Awards being on network television is up for debate within minutes of each show being over, I think there were some better alternatives than "Just Sean."

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.


  1. So just using myself as an example, before I started going to Broadway in 2007 I could probably count on one hand the number of times I watched the Tony awards. Not sure I would have cared or even known who was hosting. I suppose it's possible CBS could pick up or lose a few viewers based on the host but it's not a make or break thing. If you're a fan of theatre or Broadway you'll watch. If not, you won't.

    But from the clips I've seen of Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises let me just say he seems very sweet and cute and understated. Totally un-Jack, which definitely piques my curiosity!

  2. So true, re: who cares about who hosts, etc., except that every single year CBS seems to be on the verge of saying no more Tonys on their network. And they always seem to cite who was hosting as some sort of barometer for its success or failure. Last year, the entire bump up in ratings was attributed to Neil Patrick Harris' excellent job as host. Same thing for the Angela Lansbury and Rosie O'Donnell years. Then there was the year that Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick hosted and rating went down. Broadway, ever the navel-gazer, thought that the success of The Producers would translate into a ratings bonanza. Seems no one outside people like us or who live in Manhattan cared.

    Again, though, I agree with you about Sean Hayes. I think he'll be great. The man is very charming. And I CAN NOT WAIT until Sunday!!! Promises, Promises, here I come!



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