Tony Awards Hang in Balance as Organizers Petition Striking Writers Guild for Waiver to Televise Show, Consider Alternate Courses of Action
The 76th Tony Awards are scheduled to celebrate the best work of the 2022-23 Broadway season on June 11 — but, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, a number of decisions over the next few days will determine if the ongoing writers strike will force the ceremony, which is supposed to air on CBS and stream on Paramount+, to move forward in a non-televised format or to be postponed.
According to multiple high-level sources, a script for the Tony Awards was completed before the Writers Guild of America declared a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, of which CBS and Paramount+ are member companies, on May 2. (The Tony nominations were announced just hours later.) But without a waiver from the Writers Guild granting special dispensation for the show, guild members would almost certainly show up to picket outside the venue: New York’s United Palace theater in Washington Heights. And prominent members of the Broadway community — such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was on the picket lines this week in New York — have made it clear that they will not cross a picket line in order to attend. (It seems unlikely that Ariana DeBose, who hosted last year’s show and is scheduled to host this year’s, would do otherwise, although she has yet to comment on the situation.)
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This week, this season’s Tony Awards Management Committee — which comprises eight representatives of the Broadway League, including president Charlotte St. Martin and well-known producers Jordan Roth and Scott Sanders, and eight representatives of the American Theater Wing, including president Heather Hitchens — formally petitioned the Writers Guild for such a waiver, noting how much financially struggling Broadway shows depend on exposure from the Tonys telecast for a box office bump. (This season, shows hanging on in hopes of a Tonys bounce include the front-running musicals Some Like It Hot and Kimberly Akimbo and the play Leopoldstadt.)
An answer from the Writers Guild is expected before Monday, and virtually nobody from the Broadway contingent expects special dispensation to be granted. So the management committee has set an emergency meeting for Monday morning to determine the best path forward.
The two alternate courses of action apparently being weighed are: (a) stick with the date of June 11 and hold a non-televised presentation of the awards, perhaps in the form of an intimate dinner or press conference with nominees and media in attendance; or (b) postpone the ceremony until the strike comes to an end and the show can be televised.
Representatives of the Broadway League, which includes many producers and theater owners and operators, are more inclined to support the first option, as many shows may not be able to survive for months on end without the imprimatur of a Tony on their marquees and promotional materials.
The American Theater Wing, however, is apparently more open to a delay, as that organization is seen as the guardian of the Tony Awards brand, which would not be helped by a non-televised presentation.
The 74th Tonys, honoring the 2019-20 Broadway season, took place in September 2021, 15 months after it was originally scheduled — partly because the pandemic prevented large gatherings for many months, but also partly to coincide with the reopening of Broadway. In the meantime, many of the nominated shows had closed.
“We can’t have another weird Tonys,” says one Broadway producer who is a part of this season.
Additional reporting by Caitlin Huston.
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