NEW YORK (Reuters) – The wizarding world of Harry Potter, a singing SpongeBob, an AIDS-ravaged Roy Cohn and a gang of Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls” are the stuff of hit shows taking center stage as Sunday’s annual Tony Awards honor the best of Broadway theater.
But with a nod to theater history, acclaimed revivals of classic musicals “Carousel” and “My Fair Lady” and Eugene O’Neill’s play “The Iceman Cometh” shared this season’s spotlight, while Glenda Jackson returned to Broadway after 30 years, mostly spent as a British politician.
Stars whose wattage belies the need for anything more than a single name — De Niro, Denzel — will be on hand as triple-threat singer-songwriter-actors Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles co-host Sunday’s ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Add a rare live television performance by Bruce Springsteen and it’s clear that Broadway and the Tonys are reaching beyond their traditional demographic. The Boss will be on hand to collect a special Tony for his solo concert show which has extended its sold-out run.
The Tonys cap another record year on Broadway with $1.7 billion in box office receipts, despite the smallest number of new productions in 20 years.
“It was an exciting season with something for everyone, from teens and tweeners to 20-somethings and then the rest of us,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, which puts on the Tonys with the American Theatre Wing.
“The Broadway audience is getting younger,” St. Martin added, noting that last season a fourth of the audience was under 25, the youngest in history and a trend she sees continuing.
Armed with rave reviews and a fervent fan base, the two-part “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a shoo-in for best play.
The play, about the grown wizard’s troubled relationship with his teen-aged son, has 10 nominations and at $69 million is the most expensive play in Broadway history.
Another monumental two-part drama, the revival of “Angels in America,” goes into Sunday’s ceremony with 11 nominations, a record for a non-musical. The saga of AIDS in Reagan-era America is seen winning Tonys for stars Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane, who plays closeted conservative lawyer Cohn, and taking the Tony for best play revival.
Legendary actress Jackson, 82, meanwhile is virtually sure to win her first Tony for her star turn in Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women.”
Among musicals, a David and Goliath scenario has “The Band’s Visit,” about Egyptian musicians stranded in a small Israeli town, squaring off with splashy crowd-pleasers “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Disney’s “Frozen” and Tina Fey’s adaptation of her 2004 hit comedy film “Mean Girls.”
While “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls” topped all shows with 12 nominations each, the widely praised “Band’s Visit” is expected to prevail as best musical, while star Tony Shaloub is in a virtual horse race with SpongeBob actor, Ethan Slater.
Reporting by Chris Michaud, editing by Jill Serjeant