Here’s what you need to know to get up to speed for the 2019 Tonys.
If you had to rank the EGOT awards in terms of mass interest, the Tonys would probably, if we’re being honest, come in last behind the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys. The very nature of theater makes it hard for most fans of general entertainment and pop culture to engage on a meaningful level. It’s just not as easily mass consumed as music, television or movies.
More to the point, the Tonys can be a particularly difficult beast for which the casual fan to engage. Only productions showing on Broadway in their opening season are eligible for Tonys. Meaning shows (and actors, actresses, scores, choreography etc.) are up for awards before they can really generate any national word of mouth, let alone put on national tours.
Still, if you enjoy theater, musicals, or maybe just James Corden, there are plenty of reasons to tune in on Sunday June 9 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. Should you so desire, here’s a brief guide to the 2019 Tonys.
The basics: Or, what are the Tonys?
The Tonys, formally the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards, are a collection of awards that recognize “the pinnacle of theatrical excellence.” Specifically, the Tonys honor new productions that opened during the eligibility period in 26 competitive categories including performance, design (costume, scenic, lighting, sound), direction, choreography, score and book. However, because of the “Best Revivals” categories, you will also hear the names of familiar plays and musicals (and actors and actresses and all the crew categories are eligible regardless of whether they worked on a new production or a revival).
Like other award shows, the Tonys also award a number of honorary trophies. There is the Regional Theatre Tony (given to a non-profit production group in or outside New York City) and the Excellence in Theatre Education Tony (given to a K-12 educator), but there are also a number of lifetime/general contribution awards. The Special Tony recognizes “extraordinary contribution” (as an example, the 2018 Special Tony was given to Bruce Springsteen) and the Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement recognizes an extraordinary body of work. The Isabelle Stevenson Tony recognizes charitable and humanitarian work, and the “Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre” is a Tony for anything or anyone that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories.
The Tony Awards Nominating Committee is made up of 50 theater professionals who are asked to see every new Broadway production for the year in question. They meet after the deadline and determine nominations with the standard award show approach of secret ballots.
As for who votes on the awards themselves, the Tonys website counts approximately 846 eligible voters from The Broadway League and various boards and guilds.