NEW YORK — There will be some changes made when they give out the Tony Awards this year if Joseph Cates has his way. He wants to take out the glitzy variety numbers and all those boring thank-you speeches.
Cates, who has a couple of Emmys on his shelf for past musical programs, is likely to prevail since he's the executive producer of "The 44th Annual Tony Awards" special to air on CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.
Cates--brother of Gil Cates, who produced last year's Academy Awards show, father of actress Phoebe Cates and therefore father-in-law of Kevin Kline--has never done a Tony show before.
"The first thing I did was to screen the last six of them," he said in an interview.
He pointed out that scenes from eight Broadway shows--four musicals and four straight plays--are the heart of the program.
Cates said that he tried to group things differently--for example, putting together the three big awards for director, actor and actress in a play.
"We needed a theme to get some promotion," Cates said, "so I made it the year of the actor to knit it together. Five times during the evening the stage will go dark except for a single spotlight that will play on a single actor.
"That's the essence of theater--the single actor who commands you with his personality, charisma and talent."
The single spot will shine on Morgan Freeman performing "All the World's a Stage" from "As You Like It," Kevin Kline instructing the players from "Hamlet," Geraldine Fitzgerald doing a scene from "The Royal Family" by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, Len Cariou as James Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and Philip Bosco reciting "Our revels now are ended" from "The Tempest."
He also has tried to bring in big stars from film and television who still return to the theater--Kathleen Turner as host, along with Matthew Broderick, Jessica Tandy, Christopher Reeve, Michael Crawford, Bernadette Peters, Ron Silver, James Earl Jones, Sandy Duncan, Linda Lavin, Tyne Daly, Lily Tomlin, Timothy Hutton, Dixie Carter and Barnard Hughes.