The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

At last, the Tonys set the date: The theater awards will be handed out Sept. 26 on CBS

The theater district in Manhattan has been dark for more than a year. (Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — Broadway buffs can sleep tonight with thoughts of Tonys dancing in their heads. The awards show has an air date — at last.

Sunday, Sept. 26, is the day for what has to be the most torturously cliffhanger Tonys in the accolades’ 74-year run. Never mind that the awards are for a short list of 18 shows in the truncated 2019-2020 season — wait, when was that again? And some of the nominated productions feel so distant that their titles barely register: “Sea Wall/A Life”? “The Sound Inside”? “Grand Horizons”?

In any event, the show will go on, fully 11 months after the nominees were revealed. The Tonys’ organizers announced Wednesday that the ceremony will begin on the streaming service Paramount Plus at 7 p.m. ET that Sunday and continue at 9 p.m. ET on CBS, for a two-hour “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back.” The telecast will originate from a Broadway theater to be named later, and other details — such as format and presenters — also will be disclosed at a future date.

The historic shutdown of Broadway by the coronavirus on March 12, 2020, occasioned the extraordinary disruption of theater and by connection, these Tony Awards, which under normal circumstances would have been handed out in June 2020. The protracted delay has a promotional tie-in: The Tonys’ administrators — the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing — as well as CBS, were waiting for the reopening of Broadway to stage the event.

Cue the lights: Broadway is back in September

That’s because the Tonys are the single most important marketing tool available to the 41 theaters, ranging from about 600 seats to 2,000, that are designated as Broadway houses. Some productions featured on the broadcast experience a bump at the box office, which might benefit the 20 or so shows, the vast majority of them long-running musicals, that have set reopenings for September. First to return will be “Hadestown,” the most recent Tony-winning best musical. It will start performances Sept. 2; “The Lion King,” “Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “Chicago” will be next, on Sept. 14.

Ordinarily, the 2019-2020 season would have ended at the end of April 2020, and all shows that had their official openings before that would have been eligible for the forthcoming trophies. But for these Tonys, the season cutoff was Feb. 19, 2020, which means that a few productions that opened just after that, or had not had their opening nights, are not eligible in this round of awards. These shows include several big musical productions: “Girl From the North Country,” constructed from Bob Dylan’s songbook; Ivo van Hove’s multimedia reimagining of “West Side Story”; and “Six,” the raucous pop musical about the wives of King Henry VIII.

‘Six’ seemed bound for Broadway glory. Then covid-19 shut it down on opening night.

Three musicals that did open before the cutoff date are in contention for the most coveted prize — best musical: “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” based on the Baz Luhrmann movie; “Jagged Little Pill,” with a score by Alanis Morissette; and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” All three have announced plans to reopen.

Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’s scalding satire about interracial couples undergoing a therapy involving antebellum reenactment, garnered 12 nominations — a record for a play. It will vie for best play with Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance,” Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons,” Adam Rapp’s “The Sound Inside” and Simon Stephens and Nick Payne’s “Sea Wall/A Life.” (None of the plays have plans to return.)

Aaron Tveit, who stars in “Moulin Rouge!,” can also sleep more soundly now, knowing that his long wait is over. In the category of best actor in a musical, he is the only nominee.

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