This 12 months’s Tony Awards are formed by Covid and a worn-out Broadway enterprise technique

Time Square, New York, April 8, 2016 Times Square is a major New York landmark and is adorned with billboards and advertisements.

William Rodrigues dos Santos

If this had been a normal year, the Tony Awards would have been in June and Broadway would have been preparing for its lucrative Christmas season. Instead, the Great White Way is expected to remain closed until at least May 30, 2021, and its annual awards ceremony will take place this Sunday evening.

The coronavirus pandemic ended the 2019-2020 Broadway season early, limiting the number of eligible candidates and eliminating the 2020-2021 season entirely. As a result, categories such as Best Revival and Best Original Score had no nominations for Tonys on Sunday and the best actor in a starring category had only one nominee.

“If the pandemic had come two weeks later, we would have seen a completely different Tonys,” said Derek Miller, a theater professor at Harvard University.

Prepare the stage

The Tonys aren’t just a time for Broadway to give awards and celebrate the past season of shows. The ceremony has become an important part of advertising in the industry and has influenced how and when producers launch their shows.

“The Tonys have become so important that now shows are pre-loaded into a season so they open right before the awards,” said Miller. “A large number of Broadway shows are open in late March and early April.”

Producers want their shows to debut right before the Tonys so the performances are fresh in the minds of voters and less of their money at risk. With this strategy, a show that debuts in March is only open for about two months before finding out if a Tony nomination will bring a boost.

But this year the pandemic resulted in closings as things prepared. First, the shows had to open by April 23rd to be nominated for the 2020 Awards. However, after the closings were announced, the date was set for February 19.

“That timing proved terrible with the pandemic outbreak in the US as the theaters closed at the exact point where the last spate of shows opened,” Miller said.

“Six,” “Hangmen,” “Company,” “The Lehman Trilogy,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “Sing Street,” and “How I Learned to Drive” all prepared for theirs before debut but never done.

Had the pandemic arrived later in the spring, these shows would have opened and there would have been a greater selection of plays and musicals for the annual awards ceremony.

Of course there are exceptions to this strategy. Nominated for a handful of Tony Awards this year – including the only nominee for Best Actor in a Musical – Moulin Rouge opened in July 2019, almost a full year before the 2020 Awards were announced.

“Tina”, also awarded for Best Musical, opened in November and “Jagged Little Pill” debuted in December.

“Our Broadway community has been incredibly resilient during this difficult time and we look forward to paying tribute to the cast and performers,” said Heather Hitchens, President and CEO of the American Theater Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, in a joint statement in October.

The power of a Tony

Just being nominated for a Tony Award draws attention to a show and can increase ticket sales. However, the real marketing power lies in winning.

In June 2018, “The Band’s Visit” won the top Tonys categories, winning awards for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Director in a Musical .

In the week following those victories, the show grossed $ 1.1 million in ticket sales. The last time the musical hit the $ 1 million mark for a week of sales was the first week of January 2018.

The best musical winner of 2019, Hadestown, played to a sold-out audience before making it big with the Tonys. In total, the show took home eight prizes and continued to sell tickets until it closed in March of that year. At the time, Hadestown was selling average weekly ticket sales of $ 1.2 million.

For this year’s Tony winners, the award is about prestige and the possibility of financial gain for individual artists, directors and writers. Those taking home the award could use it to cash in on future salary increases or higher price tags for future projects. However, the victories are unlikely to do anything for the shows themselves.

Miller doesn’t expect Broadway’s strategy to change once the pandemic is under control. It stipulates that producers will return to this formula because it can be so lucrative.

“People will rightly view this as an extremely unusual event that occurred at just the right moment,” Miller said.

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