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4 things to know before the 74th annual ceremony: NPR

Audra McDonald and Leslie Odom Jr. will host different parts of the Tony Awards broadcast on September 26: the awards show and the following two-hour Coming Back from Broadway celebration, respectively.

Associated press

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Associated press

Audra McDonald and Leslie Odom Jr. will host different parts of the Tony Awards broadcast on September 26: the awards show and the following two-hour Coming Back from Broadway celebration, respectively.

Associated press

There’s a sigh of relief on Broadway these days – shows are reopening and Times Square’s bars and restaurants are filling up. And tonight, more than 15 months after their initial programming, the 74e Annual Tony Awards will be presented. Previous winners Leslie Odom Jr. and Audra McDonald will host, with appearances from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera and Kristin Chenoweth, among others. But these pandemic Tonys are by no means business as usual.

“It’s a weird time because of COVID,” said veteran producer Manny Azenberg, who has nine Tony Awards on his shelf, including one for his entire career. “It is incorrect to put the old values ​​on these Tonys or in this season or even in the next season.”

It has been 2 years since some of the nominees were last seen

When Broadway closed in March 2020, 20 shows had opened, with 16 more to come. But after it became clear that Broadway would stay dark, Tony’s nominating committee decided to go ahead with what they had. Because two shows had opened after the February deadline (Girl from the north of the country and West Side Story), they were deemed ineligible.

That means some of tonight’s winners will have been last seen two years ago, Azenberg says. “It’s not that contemporary and it’s a bit after the fact,” he explains. “On the other hand, the kids who are nominated – and there are a lot of nominated kids – that’s the highlight of their time. They didn’t do anything to cheat. They worked hard, and the shows didn’t have a year and a half of any recognition, publicity or anything. “

So it’s a strange year. All of the best nominated pieces have been closed, with no plans to reopen. The two favorites are the provocateur of Jeremy O. Harris slave game, which puts three interracial couples in a role-play therapy session, where they explore master-slave dynamics, and Heritage, Matthew López’s two-part exploration of contemporary gay life inspired by EM Forster End Howards. slave game has 12 nominations, while Heritage a 11.

None of the nominees for Best Musical have an original score

The biggest prize at the Tonys is always the best musical. But this year, none of the three nominated shows have an original score – there is Little jagged pill, a contemporary family / high school drama that uses songs by Alanis Morrissette (15 nominations), Tina – The Musical Tina Turner, a biography type Behind the Music of the singer (12 nominations) and Red Mill! Musical comedy, based on the film by Baz Luhrman, with over 70 songs.

“We all know the songs from these three musicals over the past 20 years,” says New York magazine theater critic Helen Shaw, who was eagerly awaiting performances with new music. “Yeah, I mean, it’s weird.”

Only one musical that opened in fall 2019 had an original score – an adaptation of The Lightning Thief, based on one of Percy Jackson’s novels. It received a critical beating, shut down before the end of its limited run and was ignored by the nominating committee. Normally the highest score goes to musicals like Hamilton Where Hadestown; this year, the nominees have all written or adapted stage music for plays, such as A Christmas Carol.

The category “Best actor in a musical” has only one nominee

But perhaps the strangest category this year is Best Actor in a Musical. Aaron Tveit, star of Red Mill!, is the only candidate. “I didn’t know if the whole category was going to be canceled. Right?” He said. “You know there’s never been a situation where there was only one nominee in an acting category before, I’m pretty sure. And you sort of laugh and shake your head at the thing. But… I only took it as recognition of my work and the work of our show. ” He can win his category if he gets 60% of the vote.

red Mill resumed performances on Friday and tonight Tveit and the cast will perform live on The Tonys. Shaw, who is also a Tony voter, says the recognition that comes from nominations and victories has a real impact on the world. “These are not laurels that come from Olympus here,” she explains. “This is an industry award given by industry members to other industry members, and the purpose of the awards is obviously to celebrate. But it has a big impact on their claims. contractual in the future. “

And a Tony win can mean a big box office, Azenberg explains, “The Tonys are very useful as a hype to sell tickets to any show that is nominated or that certainly wins, it certainly still has an impact. The musical winner always has an impact on business. . “

The ceremony will be divided into two

And the show itself is a Broadway commercial. Emmy Award-winning Ricky Kirshner produces the separation ceremony – two hours on the Paramount + streaming service, where most of the awards will be presented, and a two-hour concert titled “Broadway’s Back!” on CBS, where the best musicals, plays and covers will be announced. “We’ve got a bit of everything,” Kirshner says, “and the three nominated musicals will do a full production number, so you can see what their shows look like for real.”

Kirshner also believes the ceremony will be even more emotional than usual. “I think there will be times during the four hours of Sunday when someone comes out who hasn’t been in front of an audience for 18 months and is just emotionally overwhelmed. You realize that for these people it is. their lives, live performances, and they did without. “

Shaw believes that after the long silence caused by the pandemic and the losses suffered by the theater community (like those who died from COVID, including playwright Terrence McNally, songwriter Adam Schlesinger and actor Nick Cordero) , it is appropriate to hold the Tony now. “He does everything an awards season should do,” she explains. “It celebrates, it uplifts, it reminds, it advertises. But it ends too. It ends something. It says it’s over. Now we’re doing this new thing.”

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