Tonys Delayed and Shows Reschedule
By: David Sheward
November 20, 2020: The lights on Broadway will remain dim for even longer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the Broadway League announced that all 41 of its member theaters will be shuttered until May 30, 2021. This is the latest in a series of extended closures since the stages closed on March 13. In the wake of this announcement, many shows have had to reshuffle their schedules and the Tony Awards have been pushed back even further. Broadway’s highest honors for the abortive 2019-20 season have been delayed numerous times but the nominations were given out on Oct. 15 with Jagged Little Pill netting the most with 15 and Moulin Rouge garnering 14. Slave Play took 12. It was expected that the awards would be handed out online sometime in late fall. But with Broadway shows not returning until June of next year, Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin has stated in an interview with Sirius XM host Julie James, “We don’t have a decision date yet. Since we’re not opening in March, we have more planning time.”
How much planning time do you need, Charlotte? It’s been eight months. On the surface this foot-dragging doesn’t make sense. All the other theater plaudits including the Drama Desks, Outer Critics Circle, New York Drama Critics Circle, Obie and Lortel Awards, were given out in modest, socially distanced ceremonies online or on New York-1, months ago. But when we consider the raison d’etre of the Tony is NOT to honor the best of the season, but to provide a commercial platform to advertise currently-running shows and stoke the box office, it adds up. Dispensing trophies several months before playgoers can buy tickets lessens the Tony impact to almost nothing. So the producers would rather wait until the awards can result in some cash. Will we have to wait until 2021 for the 2020 Tonys? Probably. I guess the producers of Moulin Rogue did not get the memo, because I just received a lavish promotional book on the show, the kind sent to Tony voters just as we are casting ballots.
In addition to gumming up plans for the Tonys, the latest delay means several shows which have announced opening dates for spring 2021 will have to reschedule again. Several have already released new dates. It’s looking like there will be no new shows on the boards before the fall of 2021. Perhaps because tourists will not feel safe to travel to the Big Apple until then. A recent study made the dire prediction that international tourism to Gotham will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
The Music Man revival with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, which has recently put its marquee up at the Winter Garden, will now begin previews Dec. 20, 2021 and open on Feb. 10, 2022. MJ, the Michael Jackson bio tuner, will commence performances in September of 2021 at the Neil Simon.
We’ve had an announcement for a totally new play not previously seen on Broadway and not delayed by COVID. Thoughts of a Colored Man, Keenan Scott II’s rumination on the African-American experience previously seen Syracuse Stage Baltimore Center Stage, will open sometime in the 2021-22 season.
Roundabout Theater Company and Manhattan Theater Club have released updated info on their rosters. For Roundabout, Caroline or Change and the Broadway premiere of Alice Children’s 1955 Trouble in Mind will now open in the fall of 2021 at Studio 54 and the American Airlines respectively, while Diane Paulus’ mixed-gender 1776 has been pushed back to spring 2022. (Jeffrey L. Page will co-direct 1776 with Paulus) Off-Broadway productions include Mansa Rah’s ...what the end will be at the Laura Pels and Dave Harris’ Exception to the Rule.
Meanwhile, Manhattan Theater Club has shifted its plans to include a newly-announced revival of Lackawanna Blues, Rueben Santiago-Hudson’s solo play about his childhood, previously seen Off-Broadway at the Public in 2001 and as an HBO film in 2005. Santiago-Hudson will repeat his performance in his own play on the stage of the Samuel L. Friedman in the fall of 2021. Then the following spring sees the revival of Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive with original stars Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse on the same stage. Off-Broadway at the City Center Stage I space, MTC will present Simon Stephens’ Morning Sun and Anchuli Felicia King’s Golden Shield.
The Minutes, Tracey Letts’ absurdist comedy about a surrealistic small-town council meeting, had to vacate the Cort for planned renovations and will now open March 15, 2022 at a theater to be announced. That is exactly one year after its original, pre-pandemic planned opening.
Plaza Suite, American Buffalo, Take Me Out, and Diana all had specific dates and theaters for March or April 2021 and will now have to readjust their schedules. Diana filmed a performance in the empty Longacre Theater and the results will premiere on Netflix next year. An untitled new play by Lynn Nottage, Flying Over Sunset, and Sing Street had unspecified openings for spring 2021 or winter 2021-22. Still no word on what will happen to unopened shows such as Company, The Lehman Trilogy, Mrs. Doubtfire, or Six. Also there is no news on West Side Story and Girl from the North Country which opened not long before the theaters shuttered.
2021-22 Broadway Season Calendar (so far)
MJ (Neil Simon)
Trouble in Mind (Roundabout/AA)
Caroline or Change (Roundabout/Studio 54)
Lackawanna Blues (MTC/Friedman)
Feb. 10, 2022–The Music Man (Winter Garden)
March 15, 2022–The Minutes
How I Learned to Drive (Friedman/MTC)
2021-22 Season (date unspecified)–Thoughts of a Colored Man