NEW YORK — Citing concerns for “the health and safety of the Broadway community,” representatives of the Tony Awards announced Wednesday a postponement of the June 7 ceremony. They added that the event would be produced at some future date “when it is safe to do so.”
The terse statement from the awards’ press office said that rescheduling the 74th annual presentation of the awards, which was to take place at Radio City Music Hall and telecast live by CBS, would be made “in coordination with our broadcast partner.” The awards are administered jointly by the Broadway League, a trade group for producers and theater owners, and the American Theater Wing, a theater education and philanthropic group.
The announcement is a further blow to a Broadway season that was just about to get into full spring swing when COVID-19 compelled the theater district’s 41 Broadway houses to shutter on March 12. Several shows that were to open, including Martin McDonagh’s play “Hangmen” and a revival of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Laurie Metcalf and Rupert Everett, have since been abandoned. Others that were in previews, such as the new musical “Six” and a gender-reversed revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s “Company,” remained in limbo.
The Tonys are the single most important marketing event on the theater calendar. It’s not a guarantee by any means, but a Tony for best play — and especially best musical — can mean the difference between millions at the box office and an early closing. Last year’s Tony winner for best musical, “Hadestown,” has been a robust commercial success, hugely boosted by the eight trophies it collected last June.
Even for shows that don’t win, the national exposure that even a sliver of the three hours of network airtime confers amounts to vital advertising; the ceremony attracts several million viewers each year. New musical productions pay for the opportunity to display their tuneful wares on the telecast, and the right song might propel even an also-ran to some cash-register comfort.
Broadway producers had said they were hoping to resume the season during the week of April 13, but as the virus’ toll continued to rise dramatically in New York City, the certainty rose that the notion was wishful thinking. Some shows, such as a forthcoming pair by Roundabout Theatre Company — a revival of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s “Caroline, or Change” starring Sharon D. Clarke, and a new play, Noah Haidle’s “Birthday Candles” with Debra Messing — have been pushed back to the fall. Several other shows were scheduled to open before the Tony nominations deadline at the end of April.
A new date for the Tonys will be announced “once Broadway opens again,” the Tonys’ statement said.