By Paula Hendrickson
If you think Broadway is elitist entertainment reserved for theater snobs and has nothing to do with television, you’re wrong. From soap stars to prime-time leads, many of TV’s most familiar faces—past and present—have done Broadway.
Last year, Broadway veteran and How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tony Awards. This year, former Will & Grace star Sean Hayes is hosting. Hayes is also a Tony nominee for his headlining performance in the musical Promises, Promises (with Kristin Chenoweth, who won an Emmy as Olive Snook on ABC’s Pushing Daisies).
If past Tony broadcasts are any indication, expect to see some show-stopping performances. I’m really eager to see what Glee’s Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele, who both list multiple Broadway shows on their résumés, will be singing. Frasier himself, Kelsey Grammer, will do a number from La Cage aux Folles. Even Green Day will be performing—after all, one of the hottest new tickets on Broadway is American Idiot, a musical based on Green Day’s music. They’re not TV stars, but help illustrate the diversity of Broadway.
Other familiar faces set to appear include Fences co-stars Denzel Washington (he’ll always be St. Elsewhere’s Dr. Phillip Chandler to me) and Viola Davis (United States of Tara); Lend Me A Tenor co-stars Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) and Tony Shalhoub (Monk); Liev Schreiber (CSI); Laura Linney (star of Showtime’s upcoming series, The Big C); Lucy Liu (Dirty Sexy Money, Ally McBeal); Chris Noth (The Good Wife, Sex and the City, Law & Order); Bernadette Peters (Ugly Betty); and David Hyde Pierce (Frasier). Who knows how many other actors you’ll recognize from some of your favorite TV shows?
Washington, Davis, Schreiber, Linney and Grammer are among the year’s nominees, as are Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote), Valerie Harper (Rhoda), Linda Lavin (Alice), David Alan Grier (In Living Color) and Jessica Hecht (Friends, Breaking Bad).
Still don’t believe there’s a strong connection between Broadway and television? Then how do you explain the current Broadway musical based on the classic TV series The Addams Family? With Cheers’ Bebe Neuwirth playing Morticia Addams, no less.
There’s a great line in Spamalot (a wickedly funny Tony-winning musical created by yet another TV personality, Monty Python’s Eric Idle), originally delivered by none other that the aforementioned David Hyde Pierce, where his character, Sir Robin, says something like, “Broadway is a special place filled with very special people. People who can sing and dance—often at the same time. They are a different people, a multi-talented people. A people who need people and who are, in many ways, the luckiest people in the world.”
Barbra Streisand reference aside, those words ring true.
(Oh, incidentally, the original cast of Spamalot also included The Simpsons’ Hank Azaria and Grey’s Anatomy’s Sara Ramirez, who won a Tony for playing Lady of the Lake.)
Theater is incredibly demanding work. So demanding that some actors are terrified of doing live theater. There are no re-takes. Each performance has to be flawless. Not just anyone can handle the pressure and give great performances night after night. Anyone skillful enough to master theater is more than welcome to grace my TV screen.
The Tony Awards will be broadcast live, starting at 7 p.m., Sunday, June 13, on CBS.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 9-15, 2010 issue