2019 American Music Awards

Sara Bareilles & Josh Groban On Hosting The 2018 Tonys: 'We're Going To Embrace Our Weirdness'

Cliff Lipson/CBS
Josh Groban & Sara Bareilles

Both Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban have been embraced by the Broadway community in the past couple of years. Bareilles wrote and has starred in the Tony-nominated Waitress, and she's nominated again this year as one of the multiple songwriters who contributed to the SpongeBob SquarePants score, while Groban was nominated last year for his performance in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Those appearances on the Great White Way didn't quite prepare them for their latest gig: co-hosting the 2018 Tony Awards on Sunday June 10 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. But in fact, the two are longtime pals (and social media favorites) whose onstage chemistry should feel natural and engaging.

Read their chat with Billboard about preparing for the big night below.

What made you want to take this gig?

Josh Groban: It was the last call I ever expected to get. I’m an overthinker, so my immediate reaction was, “Do I really want to do this? Is this something I can handle?” It’s pretty daunting. But we’re hoping we can take the fandom that we have for everyone in that room and make a celebration out of it.

Sara Bareilles: I’ve known Josh for a long time and we’re really good buddies. I think he came first and they wanted to do a co-host scenario. I wanted to say yes, first and foremost, because I wanted to honor and say thank you to the theater community. Five years ago, when I started working on Waitress, I had no idea how profoundly changed my life would be by my experience in the theater. The warmth, the acceptance and the encouragement has been through the roof. It’s totally revitalized me as an artist and changed me so deeply.

Have you discussed the approach you’ll take on Tony night?

Groban: We’re going to embrace our weirdness. We’re not going to try to be slick, we’re not going to be super-polished hosts. We’re going to go up there as fans.

Bareilles: We’re both very in sync in terms of the tone we’re hoping to strike. We both feel like we want to bring humor, positivity and not take ourselves too seriously. We’re both genuinely just like little kids who are excited to be here. 

The opening monologue is perhaps the biggest moment of the show. What sorts of surprises do you have in store?

Groban: Well, Bruce Springsteen is performing this year, so whatever we do, the almighty Bruce is going to be there as well (laughs). Sara and I have collaborated on something that we’re excited to sing at the top of the show. I think it’s a message that shares where we’re coming from and what we hope the spirit of the night will be.

Bareilles: We’re still crafting parts of it. We’re not afraid to make fun of ourselves.

Have any previous hosts given you any advice?

Groban: I ran into Neil Patrick Harris at a restaurant in London. I had so many questions because he’s such a master of it. He told me to break it down into bite-sized pieces. His advice is to just take it one commercial break at a time.

Bareilles: James Corden said to me that the worst thing that could happen is that the night ends and you didn’t enjoy yourselves. It’s always more fun to watch someone genuinely having fun.

It's been heartening to see the both of you become so embraced by the theater community. What’s that journey been like?

Groban: My career path was very fork-in-the-road. I was studying musical theater at Carnegie Mellon and I got a record deal. I was both ecstatic to take on this new journey and also heartbroken to put my theater dream aside for a minute. But to be a part of a show I wanted to bring to the world and I was challenged by, and to feel embraced by this community... honestly, it was the first time I felt like I was with my people. I felt like an alien in the music business for 15 years, and I didn’t feel like an alien in the theater world. It’s one of the most refreshing things I’ve had in my career, and certainly the most fun.

Bareilles: Putting together a musical is, by far, the most challenging and painstaking, but rewarding process I’ve ever been a part of in my life. This is really, really hard work, and most of the time, people don’t get rich and famous -- they do it because they love it. I think that’s such a beautiful commitment to a craft. I grew up doing musical theater. Those were the albums I listened to. So getting to be a part of the theater community at this stage in my life feels a little bit like a homecoming for me. 

For many young people who don't live in New York, the Tonys are their first introduction to theater. What impression do you hope you’ll leave on them?

Groban: That’s one thing Sara and I don’t take for granted. We were those kids sitting on the floor watching the Tonys. So many people who eventually find themselves at the Tonys were those kids. I think people need the escapism and the togetherness of theater more than ever. I think a lot of people are entering theaters as a refuge right now from the onslaught of things like social media, cable news and everything else that’s making us crazy all day long. We’re thrilled that the Tonys are a commercial for theater at large. 

Bareilles: As a young kid who felt like an outsider in my normal school life, discovering the theater community was discovering my first tribe. That’s stuck with me so much. I hope that kids out there who feel like they’re not exactly sure where they fit… I hope that it brings them joy, delight and they get to be as mesmerized as I was.


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