Tony Awards 2021: How COVID-19 Changed This Year’s Live Performances

It’s almost time for the 2021 Tony Awards. Yes, at long last, Broadway’s biggest night is coming back. And because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this year’s award ceremony is going to look a lot different than in years past. For starters, Broadway was dark for over a year. So the Tony-nominated shows are the ones that opened in 2019. But the 2021 Tonys broadcast is also going to differ a lot from the show’s typical structure. Here’s what you can expect to see in terms of live performances from Broadway shows at the 2021 Tony Awards.

Reeve Carney and the cast of 'Hadestown' perform onstage during the 2019 Tony Awards. The 2021 Tony Awards take place Sunday, Sept. 26, marking the first Tony Awards ceremony since 2019. Given COVID-19 safety protocols, live performances at the 202 Tony Awards may look different.
Reeve Carney and the cast of ‘Hadestown’ perform onstage during the 2019 Tony Awards | Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

How to watch the 2021 Tony Awards

Broadway shows only recently commenced in New York City in September 2021. Where the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, etc., all figured out how to stage virtual ceremonies and get their employees back to work safely, Broadway theaters and producers opted not to have a virtual Tonys in 2020 and waited for COVID-19 vaccines to be available to reopen shows. Part of the length of the Broadway shutdown was due government decisions as well.

To make up for lost time, the Tony Awards will have a four-hour broadcast on Sept. 26 broken into two parts broadcast on two different platforms. The event is officially called The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! and the American Theatre Wing’s 74th annual Tony Awards. The first two hours will be hosted by six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald and will air exclusively on Paramount+. This is the official awards presentation part of the night, running from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

The second half of the Tonys will be hosted by Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr. and broadcast on CBS and Paramount+. It will also include the 2021 Tony Awards performances. Both events will happen live from the Winter Garden Theatre in Manhattan.

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2021 Tony Awards performances from nominees

Odom is hosting the Broadway’s Back portion of the night. Broadway’s Back will be like a live concert. The three nominees for Best Musical are Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge!, and Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. And rather than perform live as usual, their performances were filmed. These filmed performances will air during Broadway’s Back.

Because COVID-19 shut down the 2019-2020 season completely, no musical revivals were able to open. So the Best Revival of a Musical category does not exist at this year’s Tony Awards. And naturally, there will be no performances from revivals. The winners for Best Musical, Best Play, and Best Revival of a Play will be announced during Broadway’s Back.

The cast and crew of Hadestown accept the award for Best Musical onstage at the 2019 Tony Awards. The 2021 Tony Awards take place Sunday, Sept. 26, marking the first Tony Awards ceremony since 2019.
The cast and crew of ‘Hadestown’ accept the award for Best Musical onstage at the 2019 Tony Awards | Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

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‘Broadway’s Back’ performances at the 2021 Tony Awards

The second special will feature performances from Broadway alums. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth will perform a song from Wicked. McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell will sing a number from Ragtime. And other Broadway’s Back performers include David Byrne and the cast of American Utopia, a Hairspray cast reunion, John Legend and the cast of Ain’t Too Proud, and Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Freestyle Love Supreme.

Jon Batiste, Stephanie J. Block, Tituss Burgess, Jordan Fisher, Andrew Garfield, Lea Salonga, Jake Gyllenhaal (who’s nominated for three Tonys this year), and more stars will also make appearances during the broadcasts.

The last Tony Awards were in 2019. Hadestown won Best Musical. Oklahoma! won Best Revival of a Musical. The Ferryman won Best Play. And The Boys In the Band won Best Revival of a Play.