By: David Sheward
September 26, 2021: After a year and a half, the long-delayed Tony Awards will finally be presented tonight. When all the Broadway theaters shut down in March 2020, the accolades were in limbo. The Drama Desks, Outer Critics and Obies decided to honor the achievements of the abbreviated 2019-20 theater season either online and by press release in the late spring of 2020. But the Tonys dithered for months, probably because they wanted to wait until all the theatres could be reopened to maximize the publicity values.
I can’t really blame the producers and Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, for this. The COVID shutdown has devastated the industry and they need all the TV coverage they get to lure a outbreak-weary public back into the seats. I have seen one Broadway show (Pass Over) and a few Off-Broadway ones (Fruma-Sarah, What Happened, The Last of the Love Letters and Sanctuary City) since the shutdown. Everyone has to show a vax card or app and wear a mask. It’s still a bit scary because there are reports of even vaccinated people becoming infected with the new variant. I can also understand the controversial programming decisions for this weirdest of all Tonys. For the first time in decades, the majority of the awards presentation will be not be available for free on broadcast TV. From 7-9PM EST almost all of the awards will be handed out in a ceremony hosted by six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald on Paramount Plus, CBS’s streaming service. Then from 9-11PM, there will be a “Back to Broadway” concert, hosted by Tony winner and Oscar nominee Leslie Odom, Jr. on CBS, celebrating the return of live theater with musical numbers from the nominated and long-running shows. The awards for Best Play, Musical and Play Revival will be distributed during the CBS (there are no nominees for Best Musical Revival). Paramount Plus is NOT free, but there is a free seven-day trial period and I’ll bet there was a surge of subscriptions made by theater fans like me today. Paramount Plus will probably see a huge number of cancellations within the coming days once every Broadway baby has commented, memorized and hashed over the ceremony.
Normally, this move would drive me insane, but these are extraordinary times. Only a relatively small number of viewers across America are interested in who wins. Most of the pubic wants to see the musical excerpts, so in order to attract the biggest audience, they have put the most popular element of the show on the broadcast portion. The theater needs a shot in the arm and if it means handing out the awards on a pay-per-view basis, so be it.
So here are my predictions for tonight. I’ll list both my preference and predictions, when they are the same, I will only list one choice:
Play: (preference): The Inheritance; (prediction): Slave Play.
Musical: (preference): Jagged Little Pill; (prediction): Moulin Rouge.
Play Revival: (preference): A Soldier’s Play; (prediction): Betrayal.
Actor (Play): (preference); Ian Burford, Linda Vista; (prediction): Tom Hiddleston, Betrayal.
Actress (Play): Mary-Louise Parker, The Sound Inside.
Actor (Musical): Aaron Tveit, Moulin Rouge (he’s the only nominee).
Actress (Musical); Adrienne Warren, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
Featured Actor (Play): (preference): Paul Hilton, The Inheritance; (prediction): David Allen Grier, A Soldier’s Play.
Featured Actress (Play): Lois Smith, The Inheritance.
Featured Actor (Musical): Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge.
Featured Actress (Musical): Lauren Patton, Jagged Little Pill.
Director (Play): Stephen Daldry, The Inheritance
Director (Musical): (preference): Diane Paulus, Jagged Little Pill; prediction: Alex Timber, Moulin Rouge.
Choreography: (preference): Jagged Little Pill; (prediction): Moulin Rouge.