Tony: Broadway hopes to dazzle its way out of the pandemic

NEW YORK – Broadway needs a boost these days so it’s intelligently called one of its most popular, well-known stage veterans to help Audra McDonald.

McDonald’s was tipped to host the Tony Awards on Sunday, a telecast that theater producers hope could serve as a flashy announcement that a post-pandemic Broadway is returning to normal.

“I was honored that they asked me, and I’m so happy to be a part of bringing Broadway back online, as it were,” McDonald told the Associated Press. “Broadway is my family.”

The typical three-hour awards show this year has been expanded to four, with McDonald handing out Tony for the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. and “Broadway’s Back!” Celebrate the second half, including the awarding of the top three trophies – best game resolution, best game and best musical. (The Tony Awards air at 7 a.m.-9 p.m. ET / PT on Paramount +, followed by the second broadcast from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET / PT on CBS.)

“I do everything I can to remind people of the power and magic of live performance,” Odom told the AP. “Whether they need me to take a pat on the face or run around on a stage full of rakes, whatever we do to remind people of the magic that happens in these theaters, we do it . “

The live special includes David Byrne and the cast of “American Utopia”, John Legend and the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud”, a reunion of the cast members of “Hairspray” and a number of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Freestyle Love” Supreme “Group.

Broadway stars will be in power: Annaleigh Ashford, Kristin Chenoweth, Andre De Shields, Courtney B. Vance, Jake Gyllenhaal, Idina Menzel, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Ben Platt, Chita Rivera, Wayne Brady, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Cyndi Lauper, Norm Lewis, John Lithgow, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jennifer Nettles and BD Wong and more.

The Tonys last took place in June 2019, when “Hadestown” earned a total of eight trophies – the most wins of the night – including the best musical. So much has happened in the meantime.

Broadway theaters closed abruptly on March 12, 2020, shutting down all shows and interfering with the spring season. Some were re-launched in September, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton,” and “The Lion King.” More will open or reopen this fall and winter, including a Michael Jackson musical and a revival of “The Music Man” starring Hugh Jackman.

The Tony Awards and the Special Special finally conclude a pronounced nomination chapter — the three musicals vying for the main prize, “Tina-” The Tina Turner Musical, “” Moulin Rouge! The musical “and” Jagged Little Pill “will also appear – and we are also looking forward to promoting shows that have survived the pandemic or need help after it.

“I think they’re going over it in a way to make it a party. And I think that’s what people need and what they’re hungry for,” said Adrienne Walker, who played Nala in “The Lion King. “plays and who performed at the 2019 Tonys. “I think it will increase everyone’s enthusiasm for the Broadway return and just hopefully keep the train going.”

McDonald is not just a host. The six-time Tony winner also has skin in the game: She is up for the Best Actress Award in a game that, if won, would give her seven awards, breaking her own record for most Tony Awards won by a singer .

“If that happened, it would be amazing. There are a lot of amazing women in this category this year. It’s wonderful when it happens, it’s wonderful when it does not happen,” McDonald said. “I’m just happy that we’re finally getting the chance to do this again. It’s been a scary time, so I’m thankful there’s a game to get the skin in.”

During the 18 months that Broadway was closed, seismic shifts occurred. Scott Rudin, once praised as a key producer of demanding work, was dropped and withdrawn after charges of bullying. And civil rights groups have risen to make Broadway a more equitable and inclusive space following the death of George Floyd.

Powerful changes are already being implemented, including The New Deal for Broadway, which outlines a series of reforms and commitments for the theater industry to ensure equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. And there was an uncharacteristic burst of black-led works: The Fall line-up has written seven new plays by black writers, five of which will make their Broadway debuts.

The coronavirus sick Broadway veterans, including actors Brian Stokes Mitchell, Gavin Creel and Laura Bell Bundy as well as composer David Bryan. It claimed the lives of Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally and Tony-nominated actor Nick Cordero. Two Tony nominees this year — Danny Burstein and Aaron Tveit — are also battling COVID-19.

Evidence of the pandemic is across Broadway. Disney musical “Frozen” is not coming back, nor is the once Rudin-backed 2020 revival of “West Side Story.” The two-part Harry Potter game is condensed in one go to COVID-19. The public is asked to be vaccinated and masked.

“We have to be gentle with what we just went through,” says Selia Keenan-Bolger, who returns to the stage adaptation of “To Kill and Mockingbird.” “I know that out of my life there has been a great deal of grief processing both as an actor in the theater and as an audience member in the theater. And so I hope this gives us a space to heal after this year that we have gone through.”


Associated Press journalist John Carucci contributed to this report


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