This year's Tony Awards just got trickier. Due to a strike from the Writers Guild of America, the 76th Annual Tony Awards will not be able to broadcast live June 11 as originally announced. A two-part ceremony had been planned, with a pre-show of performances streaming live on Pluto, and the main awards ceremony broadcasting live on CBS and streaming live to premium-level Peacock members. It remains unclear how Broadway's top honors will proceed, though further news is expected Monday, May 15.
Organizers had hoped to receive a waiver from WGA allowing the Tony broadcast to go on as planned, but The Hollywood Reporter revealed May 12 that this request was denied.
The union, representing screenwriters for TV and film, has been on strike since May 2, primarily over breakdowns in negotiations for royalties from streaming media. This has led to a shutdown of film and TV production. Though WGA does not represent Broadway writers, it does represent the writers who work on the Tony Awards ceremonies, a team that prepares everything from comedy bits for the host to the banter that presenters read.
The broadcast also encompasses workers from a number of other TV and film unions, such as SAG-AFTRA—which represents screen actors. Those unions have come out in solidarity with WGA's strike, making the prospect of the Tonys happening as originally scheduled difficult. Industry experts have said an end to the current strike is far from imminent, with a resolution possibly months away. The previous Writer's Strike lasted three months, from November 2007 to February 2008.
Reports point to two likely outcomes for the Tony Awards, either postponing the ceremony until the strike has ended or announcing winners in a small, non-televised reception. A choice between these plans is expected Monday.
This is a blow to Broadway shows that were hoping for a bump in ticket sales after the Tony Awards, not only from winning Tony Awards, but also having performances air on national television. For shows whose box office grosses have not been enough to cover weekly running costs, they often have cash reserves to allow productions to run at a loss in the weeks leading up to the big night, in hopes that the Tonys will help them find an audience. The absence of a national broadcast—or at least a national broadcast in June—could be an additional challenge for shows. It could even lead to some closing notices, even for productions that did well with Tony nominations.
Getting a waiver from WGA, as was granted the Grammy Awards in 2008, had been seen as the Tonys' best hope, but such a measure would not have necessarily meant clear skies. A waiver would not have, for example, prevented actors from sitting out of the evening in solidarity with the striking writers.
Organizers could also ostensibly have dusted off the playbook from the 1988 Tony Awards, which were also presented during a WGA strike. The evening saw host Angela Lansbury and all presenters speaking impromptu on general prompts set by the ceremony's producers, along with performances from such musicals as Into the Woods, The Phantom of the Opera, and Anything Goes. Such a strategy would require the evening's host, presenters, and actors to cross picket lines in order to participate, making it also an unlikely scenario in 2023.
Nominations for the Broadway honors were revealed May 2, with Some Like It Hot becoming the season's most nominated production with 13 nods. The title is one of five shows up for the venerated Best Musical Tony Award, along with & Juliet; Kimberly Akimbo; New York, New York; and Shucked. Up for Best Play are three works that are already Pulitzer winners: Between Riverside and Crazy, Cost of Living, and Fat Ham; along with Ain't No Mo' and Leopoldstadt. See the full list of nominations here.
Check back with Playbill for the latest news and developments regarding the 76th Annual Tony Awards.