One result: Leverage multiple platforms in the ViacomCBS universe by extending the show to four hours (compared to three hours on CBS) – but splitting the time between Paramount Plus and CBS. Dubbed “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back,” the show was split into two: a live presentation of most of the 74th annual Tony Awards for the first two hours, followed by a live concert for the next two hours ( with the three key prizes: best play, best cover and best musical).
The four hours will air on Paramount Plus, with the final two hours also being broadcast live on CBS.
“We sat down and creatively challenged ourselves to figure out how to bring the full power of the new ViacomCBS to the Tony Awards,” said Jack Sussman, CBS Entertainment’s executive vice president for specials, music, live events and alternative programming. “It’s kind of like the contemporary real-time version of what everyone calls ‘converged media’. It brought Paramount Plus and CBS together. For what was previously a three-hour broadcast, we are now embracing this new combined linear and streaming ecosystem.
Audra McDonald will host the two award-packed hours, followed by Leslie Odom Jr. handling the hosting duties for the concert.
Among the performances throughout the evening: David Byrne and the cast of “American Utopia”; John Legend and the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud”; McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell performing a duet of “Ragtime”; Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth with the music for “Wicked”; and a reunion of the cast members of “Hairspray” including Marissa Jaret Winokur and Matthew Morrison. The broadcast will end with the cast of “Freestyle Love Supreme,” including Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The prime-time special will also feature performances from the top three Tony nominated musical contenders, “Jagged Little Pill”, “Moulin Rouge!” The Musical ”and“ Tina: The Musical Tina Turner ”.
Kirshner said the Paramount Plus portion will include between 20 and 25 awards. “We want to be very clear that this is an award ceremony in its own right,” he said. “We have Jennifer Nettles doing a song from her Broadway album. We have Jennifer Holliday celebrating the 40th anniversary of “Dreamgirls”. There is a lot of misinformation out there. In the past, a lot of these awards have been on a pre-show where they got a 10 second blurb on the air. Now they are getting their full reward on air.
As for the CBS broadcast, Weiss noted that it was meant to celebrate Broadway and the Broadway songbook, and not just the final 2019-2020 season (which was quickly shut down due to COVID-19).
“What we’re trying to do here is celebrate the opening of the theater,” he said. “We want people to be excited about going to the theater again. The last season was great, but there weren’t as many shows as there normally would have been. We are looking forward to the opening of the theater and we want people to just be in this mode. It is therefore much more of a concert presentation and not an official awards ceremony, but a much more relaxed and entertaining show. “
Sussman added, “Much of CBS televising right now is celebrating the reopening of Broadway and getting people excited to come to New York and return to the theater after a year and a half in lockdown. in their fucking homes… unlike movies and television, these people, this community have been starving for a year and a half. Anything we can do to help them get back on their feet and celebrate this art is the purpose of this event. “
Besides those mentioned above, guests also include Annaleigh Ashford, Titus Burgess, Darren Criss, Beanie Feldstein, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Andrew Garfield, Josh Groban, Jake Gyllenhaal, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ron Cephas Jones, Cyndi Lauper, John Lithgow, Ruthie Ann Miles, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Ben Platt, Jeremy Pope, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Rapp, Chita Rivera, Anika Noni Rose, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lea Salonga, Courtney B. Vance, Andrew Lloyd Webber and BD Wong, among others.
“Everything we did during the pandemic, this show included, was a really tough experience,” Weiss said of hosting this year’s Tonys event. “A lot of logistics and a lot of security and protocol came into play. A lot of people we wanted were unable to attend because of the pandemic. So there is a kind of balance. We’re really excited about the show we’ve got, but it’s been such a tightrope walk, getting there. “
The producers decided to host this year’s show at the Winter Garden, in part because it’s a smaller venue than the Tonys’ normal home at Radio City Music Hall, but also because they wanted to make sure that the ceremony takes place in a real Broadway venue.
Strict COVID-19 protocols, including masks and vaccinations, will be required for anyone entering the site. “The television has a set of guidelines and protocols, which are part of our return to work agreement; Broadway has different protocols, ”Weiss said. “They’re parallel, but they’re not exactly the same. So, we compiled all the protocols and made sure that we cover things at the height of the two if they were ever different. In other words, we wanted to create a safe environment as much as we could, and if there were ever to be different rules between TV and Broadway, we would choose the one that is more intense.
“And the other thing is that this audience here during this live show will be like a Broadway audience,” he added. “Broadway audiences are open right now, if they’re upset and wearing masks. So just because it’s a TV show, we don’t want to make an exception like other TV shows may have. We want to present our masked and vaxxed audience. It is a reality and we want it to be welcoming. We want people to understand that when you come to see a show it’s a safe environment and that’s the norm right now. Come and enjoy the art.
Weiss and Kirshner have worked on several projects over the past 18 months, including the Democratic National Convention, Inauguration, and Kennedy Center Honors. “But this is the first mainstream show we’ve done on COVID,” Kirshner said. “But everyone follows protocols and everyone gets tested and everyone is vaccinated. We keep people safe.
The decision to expand the ceremony but split it in two, with a more user-friendly prime-time concert, arose out of this unusual year and the desire to add more elements of entertainment to CBS’s broadcast. But it could also serve as a model for how award shows might be reimagined in the future. Sussman wasn’t ready to go that far, but said each event would be analyzed individually.
“We’re going to move forward on an one-on-one, show-by-show, event-by-event basis, what’s the best plan and how to do the best job possible to make sure that more people on the platform they choose to watch it on are watching. the events in which we have joined forces and in which we have invested, ”he said. “It becomes a win-win for everyone involved. In this case, it’s a win for the Broadway League, it’s a win for the Theater Wing, it’s a win for CBS, it’s a win for Paramount Plus. And it’s a victory for viewers around the world who can enjoy this event, however they want. “