There is a sigh of relief on Broadway these days – shows are reopening and Times Square bars and restaurants are filling up. And tonight, more than 15 months after its original planning, the 74th will be celebratedNS The annual Tony Awards are presented. Past winners Leslie Odom Jr. and Audra McDonald will host, with performances by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera and Kristin Chenoweth, among others. But these pandemic Tonys are by no means business as usual.
“It’s a strange time because of COVID,” says veteran producer Manny Azenberg, who has nine Tony Awards on his shelf, including one for Lifetime Achievement. “It is wrong to put the old values ââon these Tonys or this season or even the next season.”
It’s been 2 years since some of the nominees were last seen
When Broadway closed in March 2020, 20 shows were open and 16 more were to follow. But after it became clear that Broadway was going to stay dark, the Tony nominations committee decided to go ahead with what they had. Since two shows opened after the February deadline (Girls from the north country and West Side Story) they were considered ineligible.
That means some of the winners tonight were last seen two years ago, Azenberg says. “It’s not that timely and a bit of an afterthought,” he explains. âOn the flip side, the nominated kids – and there are a lot of nominated kids – are the highlight of their time. They didn’t do anything to cheat. They worked hard and the shows didn’t have a year and half of any recognition, commercials or anything . “
So it’s a strange year. All nominated best pieces are closed, a reopening is not planned. The two front runners are the provocations of Jeremy O. Harris Slave game, who puts three multiracial couples in an RPG therapy session exploring the master-slave dynamics, and The Heritage‘Matthew LÃ³pez’ two-part exploration of contemporary gay life, inspired by EM Forsters Howard End. Slave game has 12 nominations while The Heritage has 11.
None of the nominees for the best musical has an original score
The biggest award at the Tonys is always for the best musical. But this year none of the three nominated shows has original music – there is Jagged little pill, a contemporary family / high school drama using songs by Alanis Morrissette (15 nominations), Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, a Singer Behind the Music Biography (12 nominations), and Moulin Rouge! The musical, based on the Baz Luhrman film, with more than 70 songs.
“We have all known the songs from these three musicals for 20 years,” says New York magazine Theater critic Helen Shaw who looked forward to new music shows. “Yeah, I mean it’s strange.”
Only one musical that opened in fall 2019 had an original score – an adaptation of The Lightning Thief, based on one of Percy Jackson’s novels. It received a critical headline, was closed before the end of its limited edition, and ignored by the nomination committee. Usually the best score goes to musicals like Hamilton or Hadestown; This year the nominees have written or adapted all incidental music for theater plays, such as A Christmas song.
The category “Best Actor in a Musical” has only 1 nomination
But perhaps the strangest category this year is Best Actor in a Musical. Aaron Tveit, Star of Moulin Rouge!, is the only candidate. âI didn’t know if the whole category would be deleted. Right? âHe says. âYou know, there has never been a situation where there was only one nominee in an acting category, I’m pretty sure of that. And you just laugh and shake your head in recognition of my work and the work of our show. “He can win his category if he gets 60% of the vote.
Moulin Rouge resumed performances on Friday, and tonight Tveit and the cast will be performing live at the Tonys. Shaw, who is also a Tony voter, says the recognition that comes from nominations and wins has an impact on the real world. “These are not laurels that are passed on here from Olympus,” she explains. “This is an industry award given by members of the industry to other members of the industry, and of course the purpose of the awards is to celebrate them. But it will have a significant impact on their future contractual inquiries.”
And a Tony win can mean big box office, Azenberg explains: âThe Tonys are very useful as hype for selling tickets for any show that is nominated or sure to win, it certainly always has an impact. The musical winner always has an impact on the business. “.”
The ceremony is divided in half
And the show itself is an advertisement for Broadway. Emmy Award winner Ricky Kirshner produced the split ceremony – two hours on the Paramount + streaming service, which is where most of the awards are given, and a two-hour concert called “Broadway’s Back!” on CBS, where the best musical, game and revival are announced. “We have a little bit of everything,” says Kirshner, “and the three nominated musicals will do a full production number so you can see what their shows really look like.”
Kirshner also believes the ceremony will be even more emotional than usual. “I think there will be moments during the four hours on Sunday when someone goes out who hasn’t been in front of an audience for 18 months and is just emotionally overwhelmed. You can tell that for these people this is their life.” “Live entertainment and they were without.”
Shaw thinks it’s after the long silence caused by the pandemic and the losses the theater community has suffered (such as those who died from COVID, including playwright Terrence McNally, songwriter Adam Schlesinger, and actor Nick Cordero), appropriately, the Tonys now. “It does everything an awards season should do,” she explains. “It celebrates, it elevates, it reminds, it promotes. But it also ends. It ends something. It says that this is over. Now we’re doing this new thing.”