It’s been a long, long time since Broadway last held a Tony Awards ceremony.
Tonight, after a 27-month hiatus, the event honoring Broadway’s best plays and musicals is back.
There will be plenty of awards — 25 competitive categories in all this year — and lots of speeches.
But the thrust of the evening is a little different: reminding viewers that Broadway has reopened after a disastrously long pandemic shutdown, and hoping that a showcase of show tunes and sentiment will persuade audiences to return.
This year’s Tony Awards are taking place, live and in-person, at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theater, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern, and scheduled to end at 11.
Most of the awards will be announced during the first two hours, at a ceremony hosted by the six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald. That segment will be viewable only on the streaming service Paramount+.
The second half of the evening will consist of a concert at which stars of the theater world will perform classic and contemporary show tunes. That portion of the event, called “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!,” will be hosted by Leslie Odom Jr. (a Tony winner for “Hamilton”) and broadcast on CBS, and it will include three big awards, for best musical, best play and best play revival.
Because the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, the ceremony is restricted in many ways.
The red carpet is much shorter than usual. There is no official after-party. (The city rejected a request for a permit to hold one on the street.)
And the audience watching in person will be limited — the Winter Garden holds 1,500 people, compared to 6,000 at Radio City Music Hall, where the event was often held in previous years. All of the attendees must show proof of vaccination, and they are being asked to wear masks throughout the event.
The awards ceremony will honor plays and musicals that opened during a pandemic-shortened eligibility period — from April 26, 2019, to Feb. 19, 2020. Only 18 shows were eligible for awards — about half as many as usual — and only 15 scored nominations.
The most-nominated shows are the musicals “Jagged Little Pill,” with 15, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” with 14, and “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” with 12, as well as “Slave Play,” which with 12 is the most-nominated play in Tonys history.
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