Thursday, November 19, 2020

B'way in Limbo: Tonys Delayed; More Shows Rescheduled

Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge and Slave Play
received multiple 2020 Tony nominations.
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.