At the Tony Awards, a veteran host with plenty of stars and songs on tap

NEW YORK (AP) — The Tony Awards are Sunday with a familiar host and a new venue, Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater in Manhattan. Here's a guide on what to look for and what to expect.

Who is hosting?

Academy Award winner and Tony nominee Ariana DeBose, who hosted the last two ceremonies, returns this year and will produce and choreograph the opening number. Other hosts who have done it multiple times include Angela Lansbury, Hugh Jackman, Neil Patrick Harris and James Corden. DeBose was praised for keeping last year's show afloat without a script during the Hollywood writers strike.

What's the format?

The three-hour main telecast will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, with a free pre-show — where some technical awards will be handed out — on Pluto TV at 6:30 p.m. That pre-show — officially called “The Tony Awards: Act One” — will be hosted by Julianne Hough and Utkarsh Ambudkar.

Who are the stars presenting?

Presenters include Angelina Jolie, Nick Jonas, Idina Menzel, Ashley Park, Jim Parsons, Wendell Pierce, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sean Hayes, Taraji P. Henson, Julianne Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Pete Townshend, Tamara Tunie, Adrienne Warren, Patrick Wilson, Anthony Ramos, Andrew Rannells and Jeffrey Wright.

What can we expect to see?

The casts of new musicals and revivals will be performing numbers and medleys hoping to transform TV viewers into theatergoers. Eddie Redmayne will be the super-creepy emcee of “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”; Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Radcliffe will perform for “Merrily We Roll Along” and look for some circus thrills when the musical “Water for Elephants” gets its spotlight. Other shows performing include “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Illinoise,” “Suffs,” “The Outsiders” and “The Who’s Tommy.” In a last-minute switch, CBS made room for "Stereophonic,” the raved-about new play with music by former Arcade Fire's Will Butler.

What shows are the leading nominees?

Two shows with a leading 13 nominations each explore the origins of music — a piano prodigy's coming-of-age in “Hell’s Kitchen” and the back-and-forth struggles to create an album in the play “Stereophonic.” They are competing in different categories, best new musical and best new play.

Looking to beat “Hell's Kitchen” are the musical “The Outsiders,” an adaptation of the beloved S. E. Hinton novel and the Francis Ford Coppola film; “Illinoise,” the dance-heavy, dialogue-less stage adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 album “Illinois”; “Suffs,” based on the American suffragists of the early 20th century and “Water for Elephants,” which combines Sara Gruen’s 2006 bestseller with circus elements.

Hoping to knock down “Stereophonic” are “Mother Play,” Paula Vogel’s look at a mother and her kids spanning 1964 to the 21st century; “Mary Jane,” Amy Herzog’s humanistic portrait of a divorced mother of a young boy with severe health issues; “Prayer for the French Republic,” Joshua Harmon’s sprawling family comedy-drama that deals with Zionism, religious fervency and antisemitism; and “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Jocelyn Bioh’s comedy about the lives of West African women working at a salon.

What's the health of Broadway?

OK, but not great. This past season grossed a cumulative $1.54 billion, down 2.4% from the previous season. There were 12,287,708 admissions to Broadway, on par with the data from the prior season. But expenses keep going up so flat numbers don’t bode well.

Broadway hasn't fully recovered since the pandemic. The total gross is down from the record-setting $1.8 billion during the 2018-2019 season, the last full season before COVID-19 hit, and attendance is down 17%, too. But the average ticket price for the season just ended was $125.27, about 2% lower that last season’s $128.43 — good news for consumers.

What was the season like?

There were some impressive firsts, including “Here Lies Love” with Broadway’s first all-Filipino cast, as well as mostly Filipino producers, including singer H.E.R., comedian Jo Koy and Black Eyed Peas’ And seven openly autistic actors starred in “How to Dance in Ohio,” a first for Broadway.

There are some coincidences, like that Huey Lewis & The News songs are heard in both his jukebox show “The Heart of Rock and Roll” and an unconnected musical of “Back to the Future.” Rachel McAdams, who made a breakthrough in the film version of “The Notebook,” is nominated for the play “Mary Jane” as the the musical version of “The Notebook” is also up for awards. Plus, “The Wiz” and “Wicked” now share Broadway, and Nazis were in both “Cabaret” and a musical about artist Tamara de Lempicka.

“I am really excited by the bravery. I’m really excited that there are so many writers and directors and composers that are interested in exploring new corners of storytelling, new communities to talk about and new ways to look at the world and new ways to see theater," says director Jessica Stone, who helmed the musical “Water for Elephants.”


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Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press