From bola tie to black tie

June 7 update: Alas–I must share with you that this event will not take place as expected. I should have known it was all too good to be true when I discovered this morning that not just one, but two black dresses I bought on clearance without so much as hitting the dressing room were a perfect fit. Alas again, because I got the news before I had a chance to shop for shoes…

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University, admits that it’ll be a challenge to get Arizonans who cling to their casual wear even for theater events to don their black tie regalia for the American Theatre Wing’s 64th Annual Tony Awards®.

Bring on the bow ties!

For years most of us have watched the Tony Awards® via time-delayed television broadcast—either at home with family or with small gatherings of Broadway buffs who share our glee at all things theatrical.

But not Jennings-Roggensack—who also serves as ASU’s assistant vice president of cultural affairs. She often flies to and from New York to fulfill her duties as Arizona’s only Tony Awards® voter, and typically attends the live Tony Awards® ceremony in NYC.

This year she plans to enjoy the June 13 ceremony broadcast live, and fabulous festivities, with 3,000 or so of Arizona’s finest Broadway aficionados.

Banish the baseball caps!

Seems Arizona is among the country’s top markets for touring Broadway productions, due in no small measure to the talent and tireless efforts of Jennings-Roggensack and her ASU Gammage team.

And so, recounts Jennings-Roggensack, Alan Wasser and Allan Williams (general managers for Tony Award Productions) engaged her in a long conversation with a very happy ending.

Arizona is soon to become “guinea pig good” rather than “guinea pig bad” as ASU Gammage partners with the Broadway League, the American Theatre League, CBS and Tony Award Productions to present the first-ever live official Tony Awards® viewing party.

Be still my beating heart.

Don't even think about it!

I first learned the news through an e-alert from ASU Gammage (anyone can sign up to get these babies, which are replete with scoop on all things Broadway in Arizona). Readers of websites like and were also among the first to know.

Everybody in our house knew which morning the tickets would go on sale at ASU Gammage. They’ve all endured stories about, or actually witnessed, my dogged determination when in pursuit of anything Bruce or Broadway related.

Believe me—it’s no time to request bacon and eggs for breakfast.

I carefully timed my morning to assure I’d be first in line for tickets at the ASU Gammage box office. Sure, I could have just ordered them from ASU Gammage or Ticketmaster by phone. But the thrill is in the hunt, n’est-ce pas?

So not black tie!

No doubt everyone around me breathed a sigh of relief when I nailed my pair of center seats in the third row. They have no idea what may soon befall them. The trek from flip flops to finery is never pretty. But they’ve been (nicely) warned.

I’m told that if another 1,600 to 1,800 or so folks join the festivities, Jennings-Roggensack will achieve her goal of a full orchestra that evening.

Tickets are just $20 to $35 to attend (compared to $229.50 and $429.50 at Radio City Music Hall)—so get your dialing fingers (or your touch screens) ready.

Lovely, but not black tie!

I want to see Arizona do the Tony Awards® right!

With Jennings-Roggensack at the helm, it’s sure to be a first-class affair. Naturally, there will be a red carpet—adorned with local celebrities and a few surprise guests as well.

Everyone who attends will receive the same official Tony Award Playbill® given to patrons at the NYC ceremony—described by Jennings-Roggensack as something more like a book than a program.

If you favor bubbly with your black-tie, you can join 100 or so fellow patrons who’ll enjoy complimentary champagne throughout the evening as part of a $150 package that also includes dinner in the lobby with cast members and an exclusive goodie bag.

Another no no!

Other highlights of the evening will include photo opportunities with a Tony Awards® backdrop, Broadway Series ticket giveaways, and the chance to win things like Vegas gateways and hotel packages.

Here’s the best part: A successful event will put Arizona on the map as the model for future simulcasts in other cities. (I’m begging you—leave the tank tops and tennis shoes at home.)

I asked Jennings-Roggensack what she’s expecting in terms of winners this year, and she readily shared that a few “upsets” might be in the offing. Perhaps “Million Dollar Quartet” for best musical?

She suspects the best revival of a play award will go to either “Fences” or “A View from the Bridge,” describing both as “finely acted and


amazingly directed.”


She’s got her eye on Denzel Washington or Liev Schreiber for best performance by a leading actor in a play, and Viola Davis for best performance by a leading actress in a play.

Don’t be surprised, she adds, if there’s an upset involving “Promises, Promises.” The award for best performance by a leading actor in a musical might just go home with Sean Hayes.

Jennings-Roggensack says it’s a tight race for best revival of a musical, but feels the winner amidst “stiff competition” could well be “La Cage aux Folles.”

Don't go there!

To pick your own favorites, print a sample ballot available on the Tony Awards® website.

The only sure thing is that Springsteen won’t be taking home a Tony Award® this year. The “Great White Way” has yet to meet this great American storyteller. But he’s young yet, and I wouldn’t put anything past him.


Note: Read more about the Tony Awards® on the New York Times website

Update: ASU Gammage Tony Award® Viewing Party invitations note that “relaxed black tie” and “cocktail attire” are also appropriate for this event. Lovers of tasteful bola ties and cowboy hats can now rejoice!


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