The move comes after a long review by the Tony Awards Administration Committee, which, according to reps for the Tonys, conducted their deliberations in conjunction with industry pros. Soon after the decision was announced three years ago, the elimination raised an outcry from Broadway’s musical talents. A 2014 petition calling to bring back the category attracted more than 30,000 signatures at the time.
Beginning next season, Tony nominators and voters will weigh candidates for Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Sound Design of a Play. Whereas the winners in those categories used to be chosen by all 800 Tony voters, the restored categories will now be decided by a subset of the voters based on their professional affiliation and expertise. The same procedural change is being made to the category of Best Orchestrations. (The nominees in all three categories will still be decided on by the full panel of approximately 30 nominators.)
These changes to the voting process address some of the major reasons said to have influenced the Tonys’ 2014 decision to nix the category in the first place: The fact that few people understand sound design enough to be able to judge it effectively, and many didn’t cast votes in those categories because of their lack of expertise.
The two sound design categories will be reinstated for the 2018 Tony Awards, for which shows that open during the 2017-18 season will be eligible. The decision, however, comes too late to make the change for the 2016-17 season, which sees its eligibility window close April 27.
The 71st Annual Tony Awards, emceed by Kevin Spacey, are set for June 11 at Radio City Music Hall.