Orlando Nightclub Massacre Casts Shadow Over Tony Awards

The devastating news of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history has left Tony Awards producers and CBS and scrambling to figure out the right way to address the tragedy on the three-hour live ceremony that is just hours away.

Police in Orlando, Fla., report that at least 50 people were killed inside a gay nightclub early Sunday morning by a lone gunman. Some 53 others were wounded before the shooter was killed as police entered the nightclub after a three-hour standoff.

Tony Awards producers said the show would go on as scheduled and be dedicated to the victims of the Orlando massacre. Details of the shootings were just surfacing as the Tony team gathered early Sunday at Manhattan’s Beacon Theater for the show’s dress rehearsal. The ceremony will be hosted by James Corden, frontman of CBS’ “Late Late Show.”

“Our hearts are heavy for the unimaginable tragedy that happened last night in Orlando,” Tony producers said in a statement. “The Tony Awards dedicate tonight’s ceremony to them.”

Now that the death toll has climbed to at least 50, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, there is heightened pressure on show producers, Corden and Tony attendees to handle the situation delicately, lest they appear insensitive to a national tragedy.

Compounding the situation for the theater community is the fact that the shootings occurred at a gay nightclub. Already, prominent LGBTQ showbiz figures including Greg Berlanti and Dustin Lance Black have decried the attack and expressed sorrow for the victims.

All of this is casting a shadow over what was expected to be a coronation for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway sensation “Hamilton,” which is expected to clean up in awards.

CBS has faced tough calls with awards telecasts in the past. In 2001, the network grappled with the fallout from the Sept. 11 and rescheduled its planned Sept. 16 airing of the Emmy Awards to Oct. 7. And then the kudocast was postponed yet again to Nov. 4 when the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq began on Oct. 7.

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