Broadway's most influential professional fan, comedian and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell, will return to host the nationally televised Tony Awards on June 7.
O'Donnell has been credited with almost single-handedly rescuing the show from the ratings basement when she first hosted it last year. During the CBS broadcast, her obvious love of the stage seemed to bring an infectious warmth to the show, basically obliterating a troubled Tonys which a year earlier had seen Julie Andrews refuse her nomination, and the award organization create rotating term limits for nominators. A reported 29 million viewers increased the show's viewership by 48%.
O'Donnell made two other major contributions in helping assure a successful Tonys broadcast. First, she demanded a larger venue, and the Tonys moved from a traditional Broadway theatre to Radio City Music Hall. A spokesperson for Keith Sherman, the awards' publicist, told Back Stage that the organizers hoped to use the music hall again this year, but nothing had been finalized as of press time.
O'Donnell also used her popular syndicated TV talk show as a vehicle for publicizing the Tonys, and she has continued to offer it as a showplace for musical theatre.