Slimmed-Down Tony Nominations Reflect A Theater Industry Gone Dark
The American Theatre Wing announced the Tony Award nominations honoring Broadway’s 2019-20 season Thursday, as the theater industry’s biggest award ceremony moves forward after a months-long delay even as Broadway remains shut down for the foreseeable future and thousands of theater workers are unemployed.
James Corden performs onstage during the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2019 … [+]
Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Leading the Tony Award nominations are Jagged Little Pill, a musical featuring the music of Alanis Morissette that garnered 15 nominations, and Moulin Rouge! The Musical, based on the 2001 film, which earned 14 nominations.
Only 18 shows were eligible for Tony Awards this year, as compared with 34 that could have been nominated if Broadway hadn’t shut down in March and cut the season short.
The Tony Awards were originally scheduled for June 7, and it still has not yet been announced when the virtual ceremony will actually take place, although the New York Times reports that it is likely to be in December.
The announcement comes less than a week after the Broadway League announced Broadway will be shut down until at least May 30, 2021, meaning that there will be no 2020-2021 Broadway season and thus likely no Tony Awards ceremony in 2021.
Because the Broadway season was cut short, most of the musicals that had planned to open on Broadway this year could not open and were not eligible for Tony awards. As a result, there is no category for Best Revival of a Musical at this year’s Tony Awards, and the five nominees for Best Original Score, which is typically awarded to musicals, are all plays that included original music.
96,900. That’s the number of workers that Broadway supports—whether by working directly on Broadway, or in theater district restaurants or other businesses that are supported by Broadway audiences—and are affected by the ongoing shutdown, according to the Broadway League. Broadway also contributes $14.7 billion to New York City’s economy on top of its ticket revenue, which grossed $1.83 billion in its 2018-2019 season.
Broadway and the theater industry more broadly have been among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, as industry insiders expect the ongoing shutdown to last until either a Covid-19 vaccine is available or more effective safety measures are possible to prevent Covid-19 transmission. Though some smaller socially-distanced productions have taken place in recent months, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the theater industry’s workforce, leaving performers, creative team members, backstage workers, administrators and other workers out of work for months with no clear return in sight. As a result, arts industry workers have been lobbying for federal Covid-19 relief aid to support workers as theaters remain shut down, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has advocated for Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide grants to live entertainment venues that are forced to remain closed.
What To Watch For
Though Broadway is currently shut down through next May, industry leaders have expected that another extension could be likely, potentially resulting in Broadway shows returning in fall 2021 or later. “We truly don’t know,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin told the New York Times Friday about when Broadway could reopen. “Certainly a lot of shows are making their plans, and some think we will open in the summer, and I hope they are right. But I think people’s bets are the fall of next year.” In the meantime, the Times reports that some non-Broadway performance venues that have more flexible spaces to accommodate social distancing and public safety measures are lobbying the New York government to let them reopen before Broadway, and New York’s reopening advisory board is reportedly “receptive” to the idea.