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Tony Awards update: WGA clears way for 2023 show to go on

Amid Hollywood’s ongoing writers’ strike, the Tony Awards are going to go a bit differently this year.

The Writers Guild of America announced Monday that it would not picket Broadway’s annual prizes, scheduled for June 11, thereby allowing the event to proceed — albeit in altered form.

“Tony Awards Productions (a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing) has communicated with us that they are altering this year’s show to conform with specific requests from the WGA, and therefore the WGA will not be picketing the show,” the WGA said in a statement.

The guild did not specify the nature of the changes. The New York Times reported that the ceremony would include the presentation of awards and live performances of numbers from Broadway shows, but not any material scripted by screenwriters. A representative for the Tony Awards did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plan comes after the Tony Awards Management Committee and broadcast partner CBS on Friday canceled the June 11 live telecast over fears that the event would be doomed by the threat of a picket line, which members of the creative community would be unlikely to cross. CBS is part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group against which the WGA is striking.

“Responsibility for having to make changes to the format of the 2023 Tony Awards rests squarely on the shoulders of Paramount/CBS and their allies,” the union said in its statement Monday. “They continue to refuse to negotiate a fair contract for the writers represented by the WGA. As they have stood by us, we stand with our fellow workers on Broadway who are impacted by our strike.”

The 76th Tony Awards is the first major awards show to be affected by the writers’ strike. Although the Broadway fete is less a ratings boon than a prestigious event for CBS — last year’s event drew 3.9 million viewers, the ceremony’s second-lowest viewership recorded — the show is 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 its seats will stay open in hopes that a win, or even exposure via a notable musical number, will boost ticket sales.

Past irregular versions of the Tonys have not gone over well with viewers. The very delayed 2021 ceremony, which was split up into an awards show and concert across CBS and Paramount, garnered only 2.77 million viewers on CBS. The 2023 awards show is the first to celebrate the first full season after the COVID-19 pandemic closed Broadway for 18 months, from which numerous Broadway productions are still struggling to regain their footing.

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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