More than a year after Broadway shut down due to COVID, we’re finally getting around to actually having the Tony Awards. After a few false starts, including an announcement that they would air the show in a digital format last fall that didn’t come to fruition, the American Theatre Wing has announced that the 2019-2020 Tony Awards will finally happen on Sunday, September 26, half on CBS and half on its sister Viacom streaming service Paramount+.
The gist of the strategy: The bulk of the actual awarding of trophies for the 2019-2020 season is being shuffled off to Paramount+, starting at 7pm ET that night. Then, at 9pm ET, CBS itself will air “a two-hour live concert event” dubbed The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!, which will feature “superstar Broadway entertainers and Tony Award winners re-uniting on stage to perform beloved classics and celebrate the joy and magic of live theatre.” That will also have performances from the three Best Musical nominees (Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge!, and Tina) and include the live presentation of the three biggest awards of the night: Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Musical. (There weren’t any musical revivals eligible.) For those streaming, the Broadway’s Back! will also be available on Paramount+ and CBS’s streaming apps. No host has been announced yet, but a press release promises that more details will be revealed “in the coming months.”
The split aspect of this year’s ceremony seems to stem out of some internal debate about how exactly the Tony Awards should function as the theater industry returns from COVID. The Broadway League and American Theatre Wing, which administer the event, promised that aside from the three awards “other winners will be celebrated throughout the broadcast” on CBS. But it seems clear that the focus of the network TV side of the event is meant to be on advertising Broadway as an industry. Broadway shows have announced plans to start returning in September, with Hadestown claiming the first spot on September 2, and several more all aiming for the 14th, which would let producers use the CBS airtime to boost ticket sales. Those involved in the productions that aren’t returning this fall, including the Tony-nominated plays that have all ended their runs, are likely to feel more left out, since their part of the celebration seems to be more on the streaming-only side of things. Anyway, congrats to Aaron Tveit, the only nominee for Best Actor in a Musical, who can finally mark on his calendar when he’ll get his award. I mean, unless they postpone again.