The bright lights of Broadway are looking a little different these days, as the dazzling marquees of Times Square have been indefinitely shut down. Of all the industries to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the theatre business has certainly suffered, closing its doors in March this year and planning to do so at least through June of next year.
While there are ways to enjoy a meal at a restaurant or go on a shopping spree and still follow social distancing guidelines, theatre has not been able to adapt its service to follow the protocols of New York City. After all, even if it was feasible to sit six feet apart in a theater with audience members wearing masks, Broadway producers would not be able to continue their lavish multi-million dollar musicals and still make a profit. This is particularly devastating to the thousands of actors, musicians and theatre-makers who remain unemployed to this day.
A casualty of Broadway’s closure is the annual Tony Awards ceremony, which takes place every June in Midtown Manhattan to honor excellence in the theatre industry for the year’s season. As the fourth spoke of the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards), the Tony’s are a staple of award season, yet will have a much more difficult time adapting to the world’s new virtual events. While you can watch a movie, listen to a song or watch a television show in the comfort of your own home, you cannot exactly have an ensemble of performers dance around your living room.
“While you can watch a movie, listen to a song or watch a television show in the comfort of your own home, you cannot exactly have an ensemble of performers dance around your living room.”
The 2019-20 Broadway season originally planned to end in April of 2020, making all musical and play productions open before this date eligible for a Tony Award. With Broadway going dark on March 12, the season was obviously cut short, but because every member of the voting committee needs to attend the production before selecting its winners, the new cutoff date for the season became Feb. 19. This shortened deadline even excluded the production of West Side Story, which officially opened on Feb. 20. A total of nine musicals and nine plays were slated to open before the original April cutoff date.
Last Thursday, Tony Award winner James Monroe Igelhart announced the nominees for this year’s atypical season. “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “Slave Play” led the race at 15, 14 and 12 nominations, respectively. All three productions show signs of high success in these categories, partially because of the season’s uncrowded races.
The musical category in particular was rather small compared to past years, as only three musicals were nominated for the top prize of Best Musical: “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.” This was a huge blow to fans of “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” which was snubbed out of every single award.
Aaron Tveit shocked all as the only actor nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. This does not mean, however, that he automatically has won the award, as he needs 60%of the voting committee to award him the prize.
The play category will prove to be much more interesting this year, as 15 productions were eligible for awards with Hollywood staples like Jake Gyllenhal and Tom Hiddleston earning nominations for their roles.
Audra McDonald, the six-time Tony Award winner, was nominated for her ninth Tony for her role in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” just shy of the record of 10 nominations held by Julie Harris and Chita Rivera. Though, knowing the immense talent of McDonald, she will undoubtedly break this record in the next decade.
“Though, knowing the immense talent of McDonald, she will undoubtedly break this record in the next decade.”
For a complete list of this season’s Tony Award nominees, click here.
While the Tony Award nominations left no clear indications of what is to come, any theatre fan can only hope that the virtual ceremony will remind us that post-pandemic, the lights of Broadway will once again burn bright.