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James Corden Kicks Off the 2019 Tony Awards With Ambitious Opening Number
Another op’nin’, another show! The 2019 Tony Awards started off with a bang, as host James Corden led the casts of just about every musical nominated tonight in an elaborate opening number.
The scene opened with Corden, sitting solo on a couch wearing a hoodie and holding a television remote, trying to decide what show to stream. There was a “play my queue/cue” joke, and he launched into a song about the benefits of watching actual people perform live, instead of binge-watching. Then the backdrop lifted, revealing the Radio City audience behind him.
Backup dancers appeared to pop out of the couch itself, and Corden’s tear-away hoodie uncovered a red tuxedo jacket (see below). Suddenly, Bryan Cranston interrupted, as he was caught walking in the aisle — “I just have to go to the bathroom” — before running away. Other highlights: Corden attempting a split, appearances from cast members of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Tootsie, Hadestown, The Prom, Oklahoma! and Kiss Me, Kate, and Corden referencing his own talk show, finally admitting that he, and most everyone there, gets paid way more money by network television than the theater.
Naturally, the performance (which featured a reported total of 170 people) ended with a resounding, “We’re live!” All in all, it was right up there with some of the more entertaining Tony Awards openers.
The 73rd Tony Awards are being held at Radio City Music Hall in New York, N.Y. on Sunday, June 9. Expect live performances from the casts of Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations; Beetlejuice; The Cher Show; Choir Boy; Hadestown; Kiss Me, Kate; Oklahoma!; The Prom and Tootsie.
Live theatre, there’s nothing like it! #TonyAwards pic.twitter.com/NbFBEXm3Cg
— BroadwayWorld (@BroadwayWorld) June 10, 2019
The Best and Worst Tony Hosts, Ranked
Can a great host make or break the Tony Awards? Not really. People generally tune in to see what’s new on Broadway and if it’s worth a trip to New York. Years when megahits like Hamilton or The Producers are in the running draw high ratings, while less notable shows lead viewers to change the channel, no matter how charming the MC.
Still, a good host can facilitate that showcase smoothly while putting both the audience and talent at ease. Familiarity, positivity, and an unflappable sense of humor are the traits of a great awards show host. Unfortunately, not all of the people who have gotten the job have possessed those qualities. We’ve ranked the Tony Awards hosts of the 21st century, from very best to absolute worst. Few people will be surprised by our top choice.
Hugh Jackman is a Tony winner and a four-time host.
(© Tristan Fuge)
1. Hugh Jackman (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2014)
Hugh Jackman is the gold standard when it comes to Tony hosts. Charming, talented, and handsome, he knows how to entertain without making the show all about him. He could host every year, and we would be over the moon (and, I imagine, so would CBS).
Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tonys four times before he won his Tony.
(© David Gordon)
2. Neil Patrick Harris (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013)
Harris is tied with Jackman for the number of times hosting, and his hosting prowess is almost as great. A star of stage and screen, Harris’s hilarious opening and closing numbers are the highlight of his tenure.
Rosie O’Donnell is a three-time Tony host.
(© David Gordon)
3. Rosie O’Donnell (2000)
Rosie was the Neil Patrick Harris of the ’90s, having hosted the awards back-to-back in ’97 and ’98. Her last go was in 2000, but she remains a major Broadway booster, and we’d be delighted to see her host again (if only for the inevitable rage- tweet from the White House).
One of the most famous stage duos of all time, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick cohosted the 2001 Tony Awards.
(© David Gordon)
4. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (2001)
It’s hard to overstate the excitement of the 2001 Tonys, when The Producers took home a record-breaking 12 awards (a feat yet to be topped). Both of the hosts were nominated that year, but only one could win (it was Nathan Lane). Still, the chemistry between Lane and Broderick was a huge part of the appeal of The Producers, and it rubbed off on the Tonys that year.
5. Whoopi Goldberg (2008)
An EGOT-holding legend who straddles the worlds of film, television, and theater, Goldberg was an ideal host for the Tonys. It also helped that she was seriously funny, donning a variety of costumes and really making that year’s nominees feel accessible to the home viewer.
James Corden won a Tony in 2012 and hosted in 2016.
(© Tristan Fuge)
6. James Corden (2016)
The Late Late Show host and carpool karaoke star is adept at making people feel comfortable enough to belt out power ballads in his SUV, but he’s also a man of the theater. He won a Tony in 2012 for One Man, Two Guvnors before making the transition to host in 2016. That was an auspicious year, when Hamilton brought in the biggest ratings boost since The Producers. He returns this year.
Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth cohosted the 2015 Tony Awards.
(© David Gordon)
7. Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming (2015)
Has there ever been a pairing of two more beloved Broadway stars? Chenoweth (who was nominated that year) and Cumming (who was not) had a mischievous chemistry, which didn’t always translate to laughs. Still, they kept the show running, and Chenoweth’s tiny fist shake at fellow Oklahoman Kelli O’Hara for besting her and finally taking home a Tony of her own was a moment of Broadway sportsmanship for the ages.
Sean Hayes appears outside Radio City Music Hall, where he hosted the Tonys in 2010.
(© Tristan Fuge)
8. Sean Hayes (2010)
The year he was nominated for the revival of Promises, Promises, Hayes hosted as a slightly muted version of Jack McFarland, his character from Will & Grace. He kept the live audience laughing, which certainly came through to the home audience, even when his insider-y jokes failed to land.
Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban hosted the 2018 Tony Awards.
(© David Gordon)
9. Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban (2018)
The two superstar musicians hosted last year, turning the Tonys into a Broadway love-in. They asked the home audience to tweet their childhood theater photos and crooned a tuneful tribute to “The People Who Lose.” It was nice, but it all felt a little too much like “Kumbaya” at theater camp.
10. Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines (2002)
Hines and Peters were named just three weeks before the telecast after both Steve Martin and Nathan Lane declined. While nailing a medley of some of the most beloved showtunes ever written, they nevertheless proved that being a great performer isn’t enough to be a great host.
No host? No problem!
11. No Host (2006 and 2007)
The Oscars went hostless this year, but the Tonys did it in two successive years following a long string of Hugh Jackman years. He’s a tough act to follow, and honestly, no host is better than a bad host gobbling up airtime. The show is long enough as it is!
Kevin Spacey hosted the 71st Annual Tony Awards.
(© David Gordon)
12. Kevin Spacey (2017)
That brings us to the host the Tony organizers wish you would forget. Kevin Spacey was tapped to MC the 2017 awards after a parade of other celebrities turned the job down. His performance was steady if unremarkable; but before the year was out, multiple men had accused Spacey of unsolicited sexual advances. In retrospect, one can only watch his Tony performance with a cringe.
TV Review: 2018 Tony Awards
This year’s Tony Awards seemed to address the times in which we live with a certain amount of urgency, as all awards shows have done over the course of the Trump era. But give the theater types this: They did their job with a surprising amount of subtlety, with a show that assuaged the wounds of a uniquely divisive time with a whisper, even though we knew they could carry off a belt.
Consider the studiously low-fi opening number, in which hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles dedicated their time to those who wouldn’t win—as, after all, neither of them had ever won a major award themselves. It was a gesture out of step with the general Tony tone; even leaving aside last year’s particularly strange opening, during which host Kevin Spacey elaborately joked about rumors around his sexuality during a big production number, many recent Tony openings (with repeat hosts like Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman) have centered on quite how big theater can be. Elaborate productions cast a spotlight on the breadth of Broadway, bringing together the casts of top shows, including likely winners. This year, the production was framed around less-heralded performers, concluding with unknown members of nominated shows’ ensembles taking the stage.
It was a statement, an indication of the show’s purpose. If recent awards shows have struggled with how to address our moment — as were this year’s Oscar and Grammy ceremonies, whose productions inserted brief bits of political comedy into shows that largely felt focused elsewhere, and perhaps out of step with tensions in their audiences as a result—the Tonys found a way forward. Though there were odd time-saving choices with which anyone could quibble (cutting off the Best Play winner but keeping the whole performance from “Summer,” not even a Best Musical nominee, or the lengthy Bruce Springsteen performance?), the mood struck by the show’s hosts was amiably low-key. Indeed, they bridged the gaps left for them by the production; forced to perform a seemingly hacked-together medley of songs associated with lifetime-achievement award winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Chita Rivera (an unnatural fit), the pair seemed almost virtuosically sympathetic, making what might have been a snub for both Webber and Rivera into a too-short moment of celebration. Throughout, Groban and Bareilles kept up this happily effervescent, optimistic but never cloying energy — up until the show’s end, when they reprised their opening number as a call to arms for all who work in the theater, or hope to. It was a sweet debut performance by hosts who may well be back at Radio City next June, should the Tonys be so lucky.
The fact that the production chosen to spotlight some presenters with photos of them as young theater kids sparked concerns that a certain kind of hyper-theatrical argot might take over the proceedings. But instead, reminders of why those who love theater do (and for how long they’ve done so) seemed to provide an organizing energy for thoughtful speeches that reached out to viewers as lovingly as did the hosts’ introduction. (Of course, there was some pure vitriol, as in Robert De Niro’s muted outburst about Trump, but most speech viewers heard was more carefully chosen.)
Some speeches resonated for the power of the personal: Nathan Lane, accepting a prize for his role in “Angels in America,” described a conscious choice he’d made eight years prior to take on more complex and challenging roles, with forethought and time that’s too often absent from Oscar and Emmy speeches. But more often, they straddled the worlds of the individual and of politics, as in two speeches early in the night during which winners (“Carousel’s” Lindsay Mendez and “The Band’s Visit’s” Ari’el Stachel) addressed pressures they’d faced in their careers and their lives to keep their ethnicities under wraps, and their pride in their heritage and accomplishments today. And Glenda Jackson, an undisputed legend, struck a blow as only a perfectly composed elder-stateswoman can, thanking New York audiences for their hospitality to attendees of all ethnicities and adding, “America has never needed that more. But then, America is always great.”
Those moments in which politics were most explicitly addressed were done so, still, with a deft touch: A performance by the high-school drama students of Parkland High School, of a standard from “Rent,” was carried across with less cant than sheer joy in performing. That the song choice was sweetly, goofily sentimental was the point — the Tonys were unafraid to be exuberant even as they sought to make their points. (Accepting a prize for best revival of a play, Tony Kushner lived out that duality most clearly, noting the upcoming date of the midterm elections as well as the current date — Judy Garland’s birthday.)
It was a show defined in large part, of course, by its winners, but one whose claims of sympathy with the losers felt genuine, too. Even as the production numbers may have been smaller than in years prior, the show’s heart was big beyond measure.
Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban named 2018 Tony Awards hosts
Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban are hosting the 2018 Tony Awards, per a press release issued Wednesday by the ceremony’s producers. The two music stars will share the stage when the 72nd Tonys are handed out at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 8; the ceremony will be broadcast nationwide at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
This is a rather brilliant bit of casting for the Tonys. Though both well-known to music fans, both Bareilles and Groban have also made their mark as actors, particularly in the theater community. Bareilles wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical “Waitress,” adapted from the film of the same name, and earned herself a 2016 Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score. She also starred in the production’s leading role, and earlier this month, portrayed the female lead of Mary Magdalene in NBC’s live production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” You can watch one of her musical numbers from that show by playing the video above.
Groban has an equally high-profile stage career. He impressed as one of the leads in “Chess In Concert,” co-starring with theater powerhouse Idina Menzel (who is now the special guest on Groban’s current tour). He also has a Tony Award nomination for playing one of the title roles in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” His next project is starring in the Netflix comedy “The Good Cop” opposite Tony Danza and Monica Barbaro.
In addition to having stage credentials, Groban comes with hosting experience (he previously was master of ceremonies for ABC’s short-lived singing competition “Rising Star”) and he and Bareilles will have exceptional on-stage chemistry. They’ve been friends for years, as both noted in Wednesday’s press release.
“I am humbled and ecstatic to be co-hosting the Tony Awards this year with such a brilliant artist and wonderful friend, Sara Bareilles,” Groban said in the press release. “The dedication and inspiration surrounding live theatre gave me my life path as a young kid and the warmth and support of the Broadway community has been the highlight of my career. So to be at the helm of a night celebrating the best of that theatre with a person I just laugh way too much with, is beyond words. But I will have words on Tony night! The best words! I look forward to flailing about in front of my peers. It will be with all the love and respect in the world for the room we’re lucky enough to be in.”
“The theater has completely transformed my life in every way possible. I have never felt more embraced and encouraged by a professional community, and I am so grateful for that,” added Bareilles in the release. “I feel incredibly lucky to get to spend an evening celebrating and applauding this outstanding collective of artists, friends, collaborators, and creatives. It is my great honor to join my friend Josh Groban in hosting the Tonys this year, and use the opportunity to simply say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to this wonderful community – in high heels, with jokes.”
By naming Bareilles and Groban as hosts, the Tony Awards have become a must-see awards show for music fans and theater fans alike. There’s no doubt that they will make the ceremony more fun than any awards show audiences have ever seen before. The question is, will the two of them do a medley of Broadway hits like Groban’s medley of TV theme songs from the 2008 Emmy Awards?
After watching him with Sara Bareilles at the 2018 Tony Awards, fans can watch Josh Groban live on tour, and AXS has your dates to a number of his upcoming shows. Below are all of Josh Groban’s 2018 Bridges Tour dates, with select concerts on sale through AXS: