Shows are resuming, and bars and restaurants in Times Square are filling up,
so there’s a sigh of relief on Broadway these days.
The 74th Annual Tony Awards will be given tonight, more than 15 months after they were initially planned. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera,
and Kristin Chenoweth, among others, will present the show, which will be hosted by previous winners Leslie Odom Jr. and Audra McDonald.
These pandemic Tonys, on the other hand, aren’t exactly business as usual.
“It’s an odd moment because of COVID,” says veteran producer Manny Azenberg,
who has won nine Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement.
“Putting old values on these Tonys, or this season, or even next season, is wrong.”
It’s been 2 years since some of the nominees were last seen.
When Broadway closed in March 2020, 20 new shows have debuted, with 16 more on the way.
The Tony nomination committee,
however, opted to go with what they had when it became apparent that Broadway would stay dark.
Due to the fact that two shows (Girl from the North Country and West Side Story) debuted after the February deadline, they were ruled ineligible.
As a result, several of the winners today will have last been seen two years ago, according to Azenberg.
“It’s not really current, and it’s a little after the event,” he says.
“On the other side, for the children who are nominated – and there are many – it is the pinnacle of their lives. They didn’t try to deceive anybody.
They labored hard, and the performances received no recognition,
publicity, or anything for a year and a half.”
So, it’s been a strange year.
There are no plans to reopen any of the nominated greatest plays.
Jeremy O. Harris’ controversial Slave Play, in which three interracial couples participate in a role-playing therapy session to examine the master-slave relationship,
and Matthew López’s two-part examination of modern homosexual life inspired by E.M.
Forster’s Howards End, are the two front-runners. The Inheritance gets 11 nominations, while Slave Play has 12.
None of the Best Musical nominees has an original score.
The Tony Award for Best Musical is usually the most prestigious.
This year, none of the three nominated shows – Jagged Little Pill, a contemporary family/high school drama based on Alanis Morissette’s songs (15 nominations), Tina – The Tina Turner Musical,
Behind the Music-style biography of the singer (12 nominations),
and Moulin Rouge! (12 nominations) – have an original score.
With over 70 songs, the musical is based on the Baz Luhrman film.
“For the past 20 years, we’ve all known the tunes from those three musicals,” says Fresh York Magazine theatre reviewer Helen Shaw,
who was looking forward to seeing plays with new music. “I mean, it’s strange.”
Only The Lightning Thief, based on one of the Percy Jackson books,
featured an original soundtrack when it premiered in the autumn of 2019.
It received a critical thrashing, was shuttered before the conclusion of its short run,
and the nomination committee disregarded it.
Normally, musicals like Hamilton or Hadestown win the award for best score,
but this year’s candidates all composed or adapted incidental music for plays like A Christmas Carol.
The “Best Actor in a Musical” category has only 1 nominee
The oddest category this year, though, is Best Actor in a Musical.
Only Aaron Tveit, the star of Moulin Rouge!, is nominated. “I wasn’t sure whether the whole category would be scrapped.
Is that correct? “he declares “I’m fairly sure there has never been a scenario when there is just one candidate in an acting category before.
And all you can do is chuckle and shake your head at it.
But… I’ve only seen it as a complement to mine and our show’s efforts.” If he receives 60% of the vote in his category, he will win.
Moulin Rouge reopened on Friday, and Tveit and the ensemble will perform live at the Tony Awards tonight. Shaw, a Tony voter, believes that the recognition that comes with nominations,
and wins have a real-world effect. She clarifies, “These aren’t Olympus laurels.” “This is an industry honor presented by industry members to other industry members, and the purpose of awards is to clearly celebrate.
However, it will have a significant effect on their contractual demands in the future.”
And, as Azenberg says, a Tony victory may mean huge box office: “The Tony Awards are very effective at selling tickets for any play that is nominated or wins,
and they always have an impact. The winner of a musical competition has a significant economic effect.”