September 26 marks the biggest night of the year for Broadway, which is currently in the process of reopening following a worldwide pandemic that shuttered venues for 18 months. Tonight, however, writers, actors, designers, producers, and theatre fans around the world celebrate together when the 74th Annual Tony Awards are presented in a two-part ceremony.
Record-breaking six time Tony winner Audra McDonald and Hamilton Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. host the Tony ceremony, typically presented on a Sunday in June but postponed for more than a year due to the pandemic. The evening, in fact, celebrates the truncated 2019–2020 season, since most shows went dark March 12, 2020; eligibility for nomination began April 26, 2019, and ended February 19, 2020.
McDonald emcees the awards portion of the evening, streaming on Paramount+ at 7 PM ET, while Odom, Jr. hosts the live concert event, Broadway’s Back!, airing at 9 PM on CBS, Paramount+, and the CBS app. If you're not a Paramount+ subscriber, you can get a seven-day free trial at ParamountPlus.com.
Among those joining Odom, Jr. for the second portion of the night are McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Annaleigh Ashford, André de Shields, Ruthie Ann Miles, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Ben Platt, Chita Rivera, BD Wong, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kerry Butler, Christopher Jackson, Jeremy Pope, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jon Batiste, Stephanie J. Block, Tituss Burgess, Darren Criss, Robbie Fairchild, Beanie Feldstein, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jordan Fisher, Santino Fontana, Andrew Garfield, Jared Grimes, Josh Groban, Jennifer Holliday, Nikki M. James, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ron Cephas Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Norm Lewis, John Lithgow, Lindsay Mendez, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jennifer Nettles, Lynn Nottage, Adam Pascal, Bernadette Peters, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Rapp, Anika Noni Rose, Lea Salonga, Ali Stroker, Black Thought, Courtney B. Vance, Daniel J. Watts, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Both parts of the evening are being presented at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre, only the second time the award ceremony has been held at the venue (soon to welcome a revival of The Music Man).
The nominations for the 2020 Tony Awards were revealed October 15 last year by Aladdin Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart. The Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill led the pack with 15 nominations, earning at least one nomination in every eligible category (including six for the show's principal performers). Moulin Rouge! was not far behind, earning 14 nominations. Those two productions and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical comprise this year's Best Musical category.
In the Play categories, Jeremy O. Harris' Slave Play and Matthew Lopez's The Inheritance came out on top with 12 (the most ever for a play) and 11 nominations, respectively. Joining the two in the main production category are Bess Wohl's Grand Horizons, Adam Rapp's The Sound Inside, and Sea Wall/A Life from Simon Stephens and Nick Payne.
Winners for a majority of the categories will be revealed in the first part of the ceremony, hosted by McDonald on Paramount+. The subsequent CBS concert, however, will feature the presentation of the night’s final three categories: Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Musical. The three aforementioned nominees for the latter category will perform. TV watchers can also expect a performance by EGOT winner John Legend (with the cast of Ain’t Too Proud) and a Hairspray tribute with members of the original Broadway cast, including Marissa Jaret Winokur, Matthew Morrison, Kerry Butler, Chester Gregory, and Darlene Love.
The Tony Awards previously announced several special awards recipients. Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre went to veteran press agent Irene Gandy, stage manager Beverly Jenkins, PRG Scenic Technologies President Fred Gallo, and New Federal Theatre (founded by Woodie King, Jr.). Other honorees include Lifetime Achievement recipient Graciela Daniele, Isabelle Stevenson Award recipient Julie Halston, and Special Tony honorees David Byrne's American Utopia, Freestyle Love Supreme, and the Broadway Advocacy Coalition.
American Utopia and Freestyle Love Supreme will also be part of the CBS concert, the latter offering a closing performance with Lin-Manuel Miranda, James Monroe Iglehart, Christopher Jackson, Wayne Brady, and more.
“I am so glad that we’ve found a way to gather safely to honor and recognize all the incredible work that was done in the 2019–2020 season,” said McDonald, a Tony nominee herself this year for her performance in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, in a recent statement. “While we look back, my greatest hope is that this event marks the beginning of a new era for Broadway—one with renewed commitment to inclusivity and belonging as well as appreciation for the sacred experience of live theatre.”
“Broadway is a part of my DNA, and I’m so thrilled to see it open back up again,” added Odom, Jr., who received two Oscar nominations earlier this year for his work as an actor and songwriter in One Night in Miami... “There are so many talented artists going back to work and doing what they love for audiences who have missed these tremendous performances.”
The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! is produced in collaboration with Tony Award Productions, a joint venture of the League and the Wing, and White Cherry Entertainment, the team behind the annual Tony telecast. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss are executive producers for White Cherry Entertainment. Weiss serves as director.