The long-delayed Tony Awards will air primarily on Paramount Plus on Sept. 26, but certain key awards will be handed out as part of a celebration of theater that will air on the streaming service and on CBS.
Dubbed “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!,” the live concert event will feature Broadway entertainers and Tony Award winners performing beloved classics, and will also include special performances by the three Best Musical contenders, “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge: The Musical,” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” There will also be the live presentation of three Tony Awards, including Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Musical. That even will air on CBS between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount Plus and on CBS’s app. Paramount Plus and CBS share a corporate parent in ViacomCBS.
The bulk of the Tony statues, however, will be handed out in a ceremony carried by Paramount Plus at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, marking the first time in decades that CBS will not be the home of this part of the show. That may be do to the limited ratings potential of an awards show that recognizes plays and musicals that have not been performed for over 14 months. Some of the productions, including leading nominees such as “The Inheritance” and “Slave Play,” have closed and will not resume performances when Broadway reopens in the fall.
For Broadway leaders, the CBS special represents a chance to make the most of two hours of network TV time to dazzle viewers with musical production numbers, rather than spending time on handing out awards that are mostly of interest to hard core theater fans. The 2019 Tony Awards telecast hit a five-year ratings low with 5.5 million viewers.
For the pandemic-battered 2019-2020 Broadway season, “Jagged Little Pill,” a reimagining of Alanis Morissette’s album of the same name, captured a leading 15 Tony Award nominations, followed closely behind by “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” an adaptation of the 2001 film that picked up 14 nominations. “Slave Play” nabbed 12 Tony nominations and set a new record for the most nods for a new play. It was followed “The Inheritance,” a two-part look at the legacy of the AIDS crisis, that scored 11 nominations.
Nominations for the awards, which recognize the performances and productions that were taking place when Broadway dimmed its lights in March 2020 due to COVID, were announced last October. But the show was put on hold for months in the hopes that it could air at the same time that theaters were welcoming back visitors. With major productions such as “Hadestown,” “Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King” announcing that the will open again in early September, the 74th edition of the Tony Awards can also serve as a celebration of the theater industry’s endurance, as well as mark a turning of the page on a pandemic era that brought the business to its knees.
“The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” will be produced in collaboration with Tony Award Productions, a joint venture of The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, and White Cherry Entertainment, the team behind the annual telecast. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss are executive producers for White Cherry Entertainment. Weiss will serve as director.
“After this devastating past year and a half for our industry, our city and for the entire world, we are excited to finally be able to celebrate the return of Broadway, our Tony Award nominees and winners in this new and exciting format,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President and CEO of the American Theatre Wing. “There is nothing that compares to the magic of live theater—and we are thrilled to be able to share its celebratory return and the incredible talent and artistry of the abbreviated 2019-2020 season with theatre fans everywhere.”
(Pictured: “Moulin Rouge”)