Jess Cagle and Steve Daly
May 31, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Ask a member of the fourth estate what he or she loves most and the answer will be a toss-up between (1) a subject who’s willing to sound off about something on the record, and (2) fat expense accounts. Which means that right now lunch on the company at Le Cirque with Julie Andrews and a tape recorder would be pretty close to nirvana.

Earlier this month, Andrews’ Broadway musical Victor/Victoria was snubbed by the Tony selection committee, and boy, was she publicly peeved. In front of an eager swarm of reporters after the May 8 matinee performance of Victor, Andrews announced she would not accept her Tony nomination for Leading Actress in a Musical — the show’s only nod. She has since made it clear that she will not appear on the June 2 CBS awards telecast.

But the decision to decline the nomination — which was, judging from the buzz on Broadway and even among those in the Tony camp, sincere — may have been Andrews’ smartest career move since taking off her top in 1981’s S.O.B. According to Tony Adams, who produced Victor with John Scher and Andrews’ husband, Blake Edwards, the actress has postponed an appearance on Late Show With David Letterman and a New York Times piece, and turned down a request to be interviewed for this article ”to avoid the perception of either grandstanding or, frankly, campaigning,” as she still remains a favorite to win. After the awards show, however, she plans to break her vow of silence. Recently, she was approached by — or had her people approach — several newsmagazine shows, including 20/20 and Dateline NBC, where she will presumably get more time to tell the story of the slight as well as plug her show. ”We’ll do one of the news shows where some footage will be aired and maybe some backstage interviews,” says Adams.

With Victor‘s advance ticket sales now soaring like Mary Poppins in a March wind, Andrews seems more like a victor than a victim. Which brings us to the real loser in this Tony to-do: the awards show itself. The annual telecast is usually the classiest of ceremonies, but its minuscule ratings (last year’s show ranked 43rd) indicate that viewers prefer America’s Funniest Home Videos to snippets of plays that most of them will never get — or even want — to see. With Andrews a no-show this year, the telecast has even less star wattage than usual.

At the moment, there’s but a handful of recognizable TV and movie stars working on Broadway, including Carol Burnett (a Tony nominee for Moon Over Buffalo) and Matthew Broderick (winner of last year’s Leading Actor in a Musical Tony for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). Broderick will appear as a presenter, and Nathan Lane (The Birdcage), who’s also a nominee for his turn in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, will host. But the telecast’s tribute to the Tonys’ 50th anniversary, which includes appearances by such past winners as Liza Minnelli, Joan Allen, Carol Channing, and Harvey Fierstein, may not have the desired effect. After all, these are giants in the theater world but less prominent on the national stage. Throw in the refusal of Victor‘s producers to lend the show a clip (”They were offering a minute within a medley,” says Adams, ”and we didn’t believe that was the best way to showcase our show”), and CBS will have one less show stopper to keep viewers interested.

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