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The parade passes WALL-E by : Pixar star's appearance cut from Sunday's Tonys telecast

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The parade passes WALL-E by : Pixar star's appearance cut from Sunday's Tonys telecast

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Over the years, many actors have been accused of turning in somewhat robotic performances while appearing on Broadway. But when’s the last time you heard about an actual robot performing on the Great White Way?

Well, this coming Sunday night, history was supposed to be made. As WALL-E (Or at least the Living Character Initiative version of this Pixar star) was supposed to have taken part in a special tribute to composer Jerry Herman. Who will be honored at this year’s Tony Awards with a lifetime achievement award.

Copyright 2008 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

“So what’s the connection between Jerry and WALL-E?,” you ask. Well, in that Academy Award-winning animated feature, this cute little bot repeatedly watched a VHS tape of the 20th Century Fox version of “Hello, Dolly!” And WALL-E particularly seemed to enjoy two musical numbers from that movie, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment.”

Well, as it turns out, Jerry Herman is the composer of “Hello, Dolly!” And as he recalled in a 2008 interview with “Entertainment Weekly” :

Jerry Herman
Composer Jerry Herman

“I … immediately said yes (when Disney asked for the rights to use these two songs in the film), but I had no idea that (‘Put On Your Sunday Clothes’ and ‘It Only Takes a Moment’ were) going be that instrumental in the message of the (movie). So I'm absolutely thrilled.”

Of course, one of the main reasons that Herman is thrilled about how his songs were showcased in this Pixar production is that “WALL-E” ‘s enormous success has actually spurred interest in a revival of the stage version of “Hello, Dolly!” There’s been a lot of talk lately about how a brand-new production of this 1964 Tony Award-winner could bow on Broadway as early as the 2010-2011season.

Hello Dolly Poster 

But that’s still a few years off in the future. For now, all eyes are on this coming Sunday, when several Broadway stars (reportedly including Disney Legend Angela Lansbury) are expected to take to the stage at Radio City Musical Hall and then pay tribute to this 77-year-old composer.

As for WALL-E’s part in the program … I’m told that the Living Character Initiative version of this Pixar star is supposed to introduce the “Hello, Dolly!” portion of this tribute. Though given this robot’s rather limited vocabulary, I’m not exactly sure what this introduction will entail.

WALL-E Broadway
The Living Character Initiative version of WALL-E during a test run at WDI last year.
Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

And as for the folks who are producing this year’s Tonys … Well, they ain’t talkin’. If anything, they’ve tightened security at Radio City this time around with the hopes of keeping most of the surprise appearances planned for this Jerry Herman tribute under wraps.

So if you want to see WALL-E make his Broadway debut, set your DVRs for CBS this coming Sunday night from 8 – 11 p.m. ET. When Neil Patrick Harris will be hosting the 2009 Tony Awards.

UPDATE: Well, so much for that idea. About the same time that this JHM article was being posted, word went out to the various performers who'd already been tapped to appear in this Jerry Herman tribute (and -- from what I've been told -- had been rehearsing their songs & dances for weeks) that the Tonys production team had decided to go another way with this production number. That -- rather than have musical theater professionals of today attempt to recreate iconic performances from the past -- they'd just show footage of Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury and George Hearn that was filmed back when they originally appeared in "Hello, Dolly!," "Mame" and "La Cage Aux Folles."

And since there was now no "Hello, Dolly!" number to introduce ... Well, there went WALL-E's chance to appear on stage at Radio City Musical Hall. I'm told that the folks associated with WDI's Living Character Initiative program were devastated when they learned that WALL-E's appearance at the Tonys had been cut. And that -- as a sop to The Walt Disney Company (which already put several weeks into the reprogramming of this Living Character Initiative figure) -- that when footage from "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" was shown during the Tonys telecast, this song would then be credited to both "Hello, Dolly!" and "WALL-E."

So my apologies to those of you who stayed up past your bedtimes in order to see this Pixar star share the stage with Jerry Herman. That was -- after all -- the original plan here. But that's show biz, I guess.

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