Tony Awards: What to Expect and How to Watch Tonight

The awards ceremony will honor plays and musicals that opened during a pandemic-shortened eligibility period — from April 26, 2019, to Feb. 19, 2020. Only 18 shows were eligible for awards — about half as many as usual — and only 15 scored nominations.

The most-nominated shows are the musicals “Jagged Little Pill,” with 15, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” with 14, and “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” with 12, as well as “Slave Play,” which with 12 is the most-nominated play in Tonys history.

The ceremony, originally scheduled to take place in June 2020, has been repeatedly delayed and rethought; the nominations, chosen by 41 theater experts who saw every eligible show, were announced last October, and electronic voting, by 778 producers, performers and other industry insiders, took place in March. The ballots were stored by the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP, which somehow has managed to keep them secret ever since.

There are several unusual aspects to this season’s Tonys race.

All of the nominees for best score are plays — an odd situation caused by the fact that three of the four musicals that opened before the pandemic were jukebox musicals, meaning they did not have original scores, and the fourth was shut out by nominators.

In one category, best leading actor in a musical, there is only one nominee, Aaron Tveit of “Moulin Rouge!” He will win if he gets a positive vote from 60 percent of those who cast ballots in that race.

The Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, the two organizations that present the Tony Awards, decided, in discussions with CBS, that the portion of the evening with the broadest reach — that is, on network television — would be primarily a concert.

The goal is to highlight Broadway’s talent, and to remind viewers of the pleasures of live theater, with the hope that some of those viewers will then buy tickets to a show as theaters in New York (and around the world) seek to rebuild audiences.

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