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Daytime Emmy Awards work for a memorable night

August 28, 2009|Maria Elena Fernandez

There is only one stage in Los Angeles where you can see Big Bird and Elmo, the entire cast of "Guiding Light" and a ballroom dance with Vanessa Williams and Gilles Marini: the Orpheum Theatre.

The downtown historic landmark, where Judy Garland performed her vaudeville act in the '30s and where "American Idol" has held auditions, will be the venue for the 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday. But the change of scenery from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood is only one of the new elements producers have added to the telecast, which airs on the CW at 8 p.m.

"We've returned the glamour to these awards to match the glamour of that old theater and beautiful building," said executive producer David McKenzie, president of Associated Television International. "The Orpheum is one of the greatest assets we have in this city and we need to preserve all of these theaters that exist downtown."

Williams, who is nominated for voice performance for her role on PBS' "Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies," is hosting the show for the first time. In addition to introducing guests who will hand out 17 awards, she will open the telecast with a parody number and later sing and dance with Marini, the "Dancing With the Stars" runner-up who became famous for his nude scenes in the "Sex and the City" movie.

"Live TV is wonderful because it's like theater, so there's a certain energy that you certainly have when something is being performed live -- and I'm always up for an opportunity to perform," Williams said. "I think having a musical theater background lends itself to being versatile in terms of not only reading copy but, in my case, being able to break into song. And that's always my comfort zone."

Part of the show will be devoted to a farewell to "Guiding Light," which goes off the air on Sept. 18 after 72 years. Thirty-five members of the cast and some of the producers will take the stage for a tribute, introduced by Betty White, which will include a video montage. The soap wrapped production on Aug. 11.

"It's been one continuous goodbye party for the last month because we've celebrated four different times already, but I expect to get a little misty-eyed on Sunday," said Kim Zimmer, who played Reva for 21 years. "It's joyful and sad at the same time and it will be wonderful to be on stage with everyone one last time."

"Sesame Street," which turns 40 this year, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Sandra Oh ("Grey's Anatomy"), who played a Cookie Fairy on the PBS show last year. Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Gordon and Oscar the Grouch will perform.

"This is a new world," producer McKenzie said. "We're all struggling, awards shows are struggling, and we're adapting and looking at how things are done. The difference this year for the Emmys show is that there are going to be more entertainment segments. And what can be more entertaining than Big Bird?"

As part of the program's return to razzle-dazzle, there will be a fashion show segment on stage, featuring couples from all of the soaps in a nonstop photo shoot, anchored by Tyra Banks.

"No one ever pays tribute to the folks that do costumes and makeup," McKenzie said. "This is a way of saying thank you to them. We're showing off some of the original creations done by some of the best people in the business, with all of the good-looking people of the soaps modeling."

But daytime stars also will prove they are more than pretty faces during a new segment, "Daytime Gives Back." Susan Lucci, Montel Williams, Kelly Monaco and Anthony Geary traveled to Africa a month ago with Feed the Children, a nonprofit relief organization that supports children in Kenya's slums, and filmed a video for the award telecast.

"One of the themes of daytime television is being relevant to the issues that are with us," McKenzie said. "So I tried to make the awards relevant as well. I don't want to preach to people, but we hope that it's an evening where the celebrities feel good about themselves for participating and that the audience also gets the idea that it's good for them to do it and it becomes a meaningful evening for everyone as well as entertaining."

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maria.elena.fernandez

@latimes.com

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