But viewers of the CBS telecast Sunday could be forgiven for thinking the Tonys also had another goal in mind: touting a Broadway season that has yet to even begin.
The catch? Neither production will arrive on Broadway for months and is unlikely to be known even by ardent theater fans.
Hudson's number in particular was puzzling to some, given that the performer isn't scheduled to be in "Neverland." At the close of the song, the telecast cut to a shot of film mogul
The choice to include the numbers amid the more standard songs of musical nominees elicited some eye rolls at the Tony after-parties, with some wondering whether the show had taken a step too far in the direction of telecasts such as the
But producers said the Hudson and Sting numbers, despite their promotional dimension, served the show's goal of exposing theater to a wider audience.
"They're both really good numbers and have big stars singing them," Ricky Kirshner, one of the Tonys' two producers, told The Times before the telecast. "And if we can get someone who's a huge Sting fan or a huge Jennifer Hudson fan to watch the Tonys and say, 'That 'Gentleman's Guide' is kind of cool, maybe I should buy a ticket,' that's a win-win for everyone."
The early indicators validated that thinking: ratings were solid compared to last year, with 7.0 million viewers, down just slightly from 2013's four-year high of 7.3 million.
Inside the theater during commercial breaks, a series of spots for upcoming shows also ran on screens above the audience, as they do most years. Tony Danza's upcoming "Honeymoon in Vegas" and the Nathan Lane-Matthew Broderick reunion in Terrence McNally's "It's Only a Play" were both teased, providing an early litmus test of their insider appeal.
An informal kind of touting was also on display during the broadcast from other luminaries who approached the Tonys podium.
Kenny Leon, who won for director of a play for his "Raisin" revival, ended his acceptance speech with a call to "holler if ya hear me." To the uninitiated it sounded like a non sequitur, but it was a winking reference to the title of his new project, a Tupac Shakur musical set to open next week. (Leon might have noted, as he did to The Times in a recent interview, that "Holler" and "Raisin" are companion pieces of a sort, both looking at the intersection of race and poverty across decades of American life.)
Another teaser came when