The returning Tony Awards host, Ariana DeBose, an Oscar-winning actress and Tony nominee for “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” will use her platform to create a big musical number about the current Writers Guild of America strike. DeBose is an out and proud lesbian and a champion for LGBTQ+ rights. This historic stance by the union has significantly impacted the Tony Awards. In a statement about her second round of duty as host, she said, “So looking forward to celebrating this incredible season and the people who make the work happen. Here’s to adding some uptown flavor to the magic of the Tony Awards.”
The Uptown reference in the statement refers to a change of venue to the United Palace, which will host the 76th Annual Tony Awards on June 11, despite the ongoing WGA strike. The theater has a rich history, having opened in 1930, and is billed as “Times Square entertainment nearer your home,” according to United Palace CEO Mike Fitelson. Now to the big news. The WGA has denied a request for a waiver to allow for the Tony Awards to air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ on June 11.
Last week, the Tony Awards Management Committee 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. The management committee has set an emergency meeting for Monday morning to determine the best path forward. The two alternative courses of action being considered 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, including many producers, theater owners, and operators, are more inclined to support the first option, as many shows may only survive for months on end with the imprimatur of a Tony on their marquees and promotional materials. However, the American Theater Wing is more open to a delay. That organization is seen as the guardian of the Tony Awards brand, which a non-televised presentation would not help.
While the Tony Awards honors the Broadway industry, which many in the field argue is separate from the television and film industry and still needs the awards part of its post-pandemic recovery.
The show was scheduled to be split into two parts, with a pre-show entitled “The Tony Awards: Act One” airing live on Paramount Global’s FAST platform, Pluto TV, from 6:30-8 p.m. ET/3:30-5 p.m. PT. The main ceremony was set to air on CBS from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. ET/5 p.m.- 8 p.m. and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+. The pre-show hosts had yet to be announced.
For the second time in history, the Tony Awards have been disrupted. The 74th Tonys, honoring the 2019-20 Broadway season, took place in September 2021, 15 months after its original scheduled date. Theaters had been closed for much of that time, but the ceremony coincided with marketing around the comeback of Broadway.