Returning to the Tony Awards for the first time in more than two years, Ricky Kirschner and Glenn Weiss of CBS and White Cherry Entertainment face a challenging task: how to present the award, celebrate the best in recent theater, and – perhaps most importantly – return home to Broadway. Arrived and open for business.
One result: ViacomCBS takes advantage of multiple platforms in the universe to extend the show to four hours (from its usual three hours on CBS) – but split time between Paramount Plus and CBS. The show, dubbed “The Tony Awards Present: Broadways Back”, is divided into two parts: a live presentation of most of the th annual annual Tony Awards for the first two hours, followed by a live concert event for the second two hours (including three main prizes: Best Game, Best revival and best musical instrument).
All four hours will be streamed at Paramount Plus, the last two hours will also be live on CBS.
“We sat down and creatively challenged ourselves on how we would bring the full potential of the new ViacomCBS to the Tony Awards,” said Jack Susman, CBS Entertainment Executive VP of Special, Music, Live Events and Alternative Programming. “It’s like a real-time, contemporary version of what everyone calls ‘convergent media.’ It merged Paramount Plus and CBS. We are now embracing this new linear and streaming combined ecosystem for three-hour broadcast telecasts. ”
Adra McDonald is hosting the award-heavy two-hour, then Leslie Odom Jr. is in charge of hosting the concert event.
Performing throughout the evening include: David Byrne and John Legend’s cast of “American Utopia” and the cast of “Not Too Proud”; McDonald’s and Brian Stokes Mitchell are performing a duet from “Ragtime”; With music by Edina Menzel and Christine Chenoeth “Wicked”; And the reunion of the cast members of “Hairspray” with Marissa Jarrett Winokur and Matthew Morrison. The telecast will be off with the cast of “Freestyle Love Supreme” including Lynn-Manuel Miranda.
Three Tony-nominated best musical contestants in the Primetime Special, “Jagged Little Peel”, “Moulin Rouge! Musical” and “Tina: Tina Turner Musical.”
Kirschner said there will be 20 to 25 prizes in the Paramount Plus section. “We really want to be clear that this is a full-fledged awards ceremony,” he said. “Our Jennifer Nettles is doing a song from her Broadway album. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of Jennifer Holiday ‘Dreamgirls’. There is a lot of misinformation out there. In the past, many of these awards were at a pre-show where they got a 10 second blurb in the air. Now they have received their full reward. ”
For the CBS broadcast, Weiss noted that it was intended to celebrate Broadway and the Broadway songbook, not just the recent 2019-2020 season (which was quickly shut down due to COVID-19).
“What we’re trying to do here is celebrate the theater being open,” he said. “We want people to be excited about going to the theater again. Last season was great, but there weren’t so many shows that would normally be there. We are waiting for the theater to open and we want people to just be in that mode. So it is not a concert presentation and formal awards show, but a much more casual and entertaining event. “
Added Susman: “A large part of CBS Telecast is now celebrating the reopening of Broadway and is excited to come to New York and return to live theater after a year and a half of being locked in their fridge house … Movies and television, these people, this community They have been starving for a year and a half. This is what we can do to help them get back on their feet and celebrate the industry. “
In addition to the individuals mentioned above, guests include Annely Ashford, Titus Burgess, Darren Chris, Beanie Feldstein, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Andrew Garfield, Josh Groban, Jake Gillenhall, Christopher Jackson, Johnson Sophos, Jasmine Sefs, Ann Miles, Babe Newworth, Kelly O’Hara, Ben Platt, Jeremy Pope, Andrew Ranells, Anthony Rap, Chita Rivera, Anika Noni Rose, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Leah Salonga, Courtney B. Vance, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and B.D. In.
“What we did during this epidemic, this show included, was a really tough experience,” Weiss said of bringing together this year’s Tony event. “Lots of logistics and lots of security and protocols worked. Many people could not make what we wanted because of the epidemic. So there is a balance. We’re really thrilled with the show we have, but it’s a titrop walk to get there. ”
The producers decided to hold this year’s event in the Winter Garden, as it is a smaller space than the usual home in Tennis, the Radio City Music Hall, but they wanted to make sure the event took place at an actual Broadway venue.
Strict COVID-19 protocol, including masks and vaccines, will be required to enter the venue. “Television has a set of guidelines and protocols, part of our return to work; There are different protocols on Broadway, ”Weiss said. “They’re parallel but they’re not exactly the same. So, we’ve compiled all the protocols and made sure that we cover the strongest things between the two if they ever differ. In other words, we wanted to create as secure a environment as possible, and if ever TV vs. Broadway rules are different, but we go with more intensity.
“And another thing is that these listeners will be like Broadway viewers during this live show,” he added. “Broadway viewers are open right now, if they are waxed and if they are wearing masks. So, since this is a TV show, we don’t want to be an exception like other TV shows. We want to present our audience being masked and waxed. This is a reality and we would like to welcome it. We want people to understand that when you come to see a show, it is a safe environment and that is the norm now. Come and appreciate the art. ”
Weiss and Kirschner have worked on various projects over the past 18 months, including the Democratic National Convention, the inauguration, and the Kennedy Center Honors. “But under Covid we did this first big audience show,” Kirschner said. “But everyone follows the protocol and everyone is tested and everyone is vaccinated. We are keeping people safe. ”
The decision to expand the show but splitting it into two, more audience-friendly concerts in primetime, came out of this unusual year and there was a desire to add more entertainment material to the CBS broadcast. But it can also serve as a template for how awards can be reconsidered in the future. Susman was not ready to go that far, but said that each incident would be analyzed on an individual basis.
“We’re moving forward on an individual basis, showing events by event, what the best plans are, and how we can do the best we can to make sure they see the partners and invested events on the platform they choose to watch,” he said. . ”It became a win-win for everyone involved. In this case it’s a win for Broadway League, it’s a win for Theater Wing, it’s a win for CBS, it’s a win for Paramount Plus. And it’s a win for spectators everywhere who can tap into this event, but they choose. ”