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Tony Awards cancel June 11 live telecast amid writers’ strike

Hollywood’s writers’ strike has disrupted plans for Broadway’s biggest night.

On Friday, the Tony Awards Management Committee and CBS canceled plans for a live awards show on June 11, according to a person close to the situation who was not authorized to comment. The decision was made after the Writers Guild of America denied a request for a waiver that would have allowed the show’s producers to stage a live show without striking writers protesting outside the Tony Awards’ venue in New York City.

Officials feared a live telecast would be doomed by the threat of a picket line, which members of the creative community were expected to honor. Without big names, the telecast would have been awkward at best.

Theater workers belong to different unions, but the longtime broadcast home of the Tony Awards — CBS — is part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is the group that the WGA is striking against.

WGA officials were not immediately available for comment. Representatives for the Tony Awards, which are jointly presented by the Broadway League, the national trade association for the commercial theater industry; and the American Theatre Wing, a not-for-profit service organization for both the theater community and the community at large, were also not immediately available for comment.

The Tonys have long been a prestigious event for CBS, but the show itself is more important to Broadway producers, who rely on the exposure on the national network to market their productions. The televised ceremony doubles as a widely seen advertisement for what’s currently playing; oftentimes, productions struggling to fill seats will stay open in hopes that a win, or even exposure via a notable musical number, will boost ticket sales. (This year, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’” and “Bad Cinderella” swiftly announced their closing notices shortly after being shut out of the nominations.)

The decision to cancel the live show comes as many productions are still struggling to regain their footing after the COVID-19 pandemic closed Broadway for 18 months.

The Tony Awards Management Committee and CBS plan to meet Monday to sort out whether they should go forward with a show composed of pre-recorded segments, including musical numbers, or if they should postpone the event until the WGA strike is settled.

The 76th Tony Awards is the first major awards show to be affected by the writers’ strike. It was planned to be broadcast live from the United Palace, in two parts: a first round of honors awarded during a pre-show presentation to be streamed on Pluto TV, followed by the main ceremony airing on CBS and Paramount+. Ariana DeBose was to host the telecast for the second time. The Hollywood Reporter first reported that the June 11 live show had been canceled.

The Tonys’ decision follows last week’s pivot by MTV, which opted at the last minute to pre-tape its Movie & TV Awards after Drew Barrymore stepped down as host of the live ceremony and the Writers Guild of America announced plans to picket outside the its venue, Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. The red carpet was also scrapped after stars reportedly dropped out of the event.

This Tony year’s nominations are led by the stage adaptation of “Some Like It Hot” with 13 nods, followed by the new musicals “& Juliet,” “Shucked” and “New York, New York,” each with nine nominations, and the critically lauded “Kimberly Akimbo” with eight. Additionally, J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell made history as the first nonbinary-identifying actors to be nominated for Tonys.

Among the Hollywood names who received nominations were Jessica Chastain, Ben Platt, Jodie Comer, Josh Groban, Samuel L. Jackson, Corey Hawkins, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sara Bareilles, Wendell Pierce and Sean Hayes.

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