1.PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
The musical numbers. “Make it totally a variety show—the world’s longest infomercial,” says publicist Pete Sanders. Sources explain that individual producers too often get in the way, shoehorning in material that doesn’t belong. “They try to get inside things on,” says one. “No one cares if they see Gerald Schoenfeld. No one knows who these people are.”
2.GET A HOST
This year, after rumors of Oprah—and reports that Billy Crystal, Hugh Jackman, and Martin Short all declined—producers announced they would have presenters only, which didn’t work in ’99. Why chase after Peoria-pleaser Crystal anyway? Appeal to the core demographic. “I suggested Dame Edna,” says eight-time Tony scribe Bruce Vilanch, “but I think they’re a little afraid.”
3.CHANGE THE VENUE ALREADY
Or “get them out of Radio City Music Hall,” as one insider puts it. “It feels too cavernous and cold. Do it in a Broadway theater.” Alas, you can’t have people ferrying drinks around all those plush seats, which rules out the kind of open-bar shenanigans that make the Golden Globes so sloshy and unpredictable. A solution: Hold the telecast in a ballroom—the Hammerstein? the Marriott Marquis?—and pour liberally.
4.LESS SHOW, MORE PRESHOW
The Tonys can feel a bit like a school spelling bee: With so many categories, everyone’s a winner! Plus, technical awards are given out at a lengthy off-camera “pre-ceremony,” leaving guests comatose. Condense the whole thing and let Isaac Mizrahi loose on a proper red carpet. Broadway stars are hungrier for fame than Scarlett Johansson. They like to be groped.
5.KICK OFF WITH A SHOWSTOPPER
Might we propose a humorous opening montage (rejected in the past as too costly)? Start with The Drowsy Chaperone’s Man in Chair: “Remember a purer time, when everyone had big hair and even bigger cell phones …” Fade in on Stephen Lynch singing “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Then Harry Connick and a Frankie Valli clone take over with “Oh, What a Night”—until Michael Cerveris and Alan Cumming slaughter them in cold blood. “Kiss my ass, Valli,” says Cumming. And the show has properly begun.
6.MOVIE STARS MUST PRESENT
If the Dame Edna–plus–montage gambit is just too New Yorky for CBS, then go in the opposite direction: Bring in some faces out of Us Weekly. This year, Julia Roberts has graciously RSVP’d, but we haven’t always been so lucky. Hollywood slummers should be contractually required to show up and read the TelePrompTer. Vilanch has a line for Denzel Washington: “I wasn’t really very good in Julius Caesar, but maybe 32 more black people are watching this because of me.”