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The Road to the Tonys



It’s Broadways biggest night… but it takes years of work to get there.

Since the very first ceremony back in 1947, The Tony Awards (formally known as the Antoinette Perry Awards) have been central to this little group of 41 theatres that we call Broadway. Every season, plays and musicals from 41st to 54th street vie for their chance to receive the top honor of a Tony… but how does the competition actually work? Broadway Spin is here to give you the inside scoop about the journey to theatre’s biggest night!

It’s all in the timing.

Although the Broadway season runs year-round, there is a strict cutoff date for shows to officially open and be considered eligible for the Tony Awards in a certain season. This year, shows were required to open on or before Thursday, April 25th in order to be in the running for Tony nominations. This means that shows like Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which are currently playing but opened after April 25th, are not eligible.

50 people have the power (kinda). 

The Tony Awards nominating committee consists of about 50 theatre professionals, who are required to see every new Broadway production. The nominators then meet after the eligibility cutoff, and nominations are announced the next morning! The 2019 Tony nominations were announced on the morning of Tuesday, April 30th, by Brandon Victor Dixon and Bebe Neuwirth.

But 831 also have the power.

When the Tonys were first established, voters consisted only of individuals who served on the board of the American Theatre Wing, and members of performer and craft unions. Eligibility was expanded in 1954, and today there are approximately 831 eligible Tony voters! Current voters include members of the Broadway League, board and advisory committee members of The American Theatre Wing, members of the governing boards of theatrical unions (Actor’s Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild; the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; United Scenic Artists; and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers), members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, the board/council of the National Association of Talent Representatives, and the 50 Tony nominators.

There’s one big rule, though:

Tony balloting is completed online, and takes place in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. Voters must see every nominated production in a given category in order to be eligible to cast their vote in such category. For instance, if a Tony voter had seen each of this year’s Best Musical nominees apart from Hadestown, they would not be allowed to vote for this season’s Best Musical.

Campaigning for a Tony is a very real thing. 

Is there anything that shows can do to help their chances of securing that award on the second Sunday of June? Of course — the work never stops! Once shows are nominated for Tonys, it’s time for them to campaign for the win! Beyond the performers who are part of a show, there is an entire team of people behind-the-scenes leading efforts to court Tony votes. Shows will send gifts to voters, which can be anything from signed posters, to original scripts, to glossy souvenir books. In 1997, the original production of Titanic put on a performance with their whole cast aboard a ship in the South Street Seaport Museum! Campaigning can become extravagant, but the rules and regulations provided by The Wing and The League ensure that it never becomes harmful to any productions — full legalese below for your reading pleasure 🙂

“Any public communication, including all communications by a production to the Tony Nominators and/or Tony Voters, oral or written, that promotes a particular production or element thereof or other candidate for a Tony Award by disparaging or casting any negative or derogatory light on a competing production, element, person or achievement, whether by name, title or otherwise, is expressly prohibited,” states The Wing’s official Tony rules document.

While producers, general managers, and marketing teams are teaming up to campaign on behalf of their productions, the individual nominees themselves spend their (minimal) downtime attending various publicity events including the “Meet the Nominees” press day, the Tony Nominee Luncheon at the Rainbow Room, and the Tony Honors Cocktail Reception. Nominees from each of the 26 award categories are present at these events, and each has become a tradition in rounding off the Tony season.

Win or lose — post-Tonys it’s time to party.

Immediately following the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall, guests head over to the official American Theatre Wing after party at The Plaza Hotel. Winners, nominees, and everyone involved in theatre’s biggest night celebrate their achievements at The Plaza, but the party certainly doesn’t stop there! Each show typically hosts its own individual after party as well, for the cast, crew, and anyone else involved in the production. Even later in the evening (or earlier in the morning) industry folk regroup for the exclusive, invitation-only after-after party at the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side, hosted by Broadway press agency DKC/O&M. If you’re lucky enough to score entry to the glamorous bash, chances are you’ll be celebrating amongst Broadway’s finest until the sun comes up! Sounds great, doesn’t it? That is, until you remember that not everyone’s weekend lasts through Monday…

Want to be part of the action?

How can you attend the Tonys? Every year, a limited number of tickets to the Tonys go on sale to the public. This year’s tickets were priced at $525 or $725 each. The Tonys also offer a limited amount of student rush tickets, which are available to purchase in-person at the Radio City Music Hall box office for $100, with a valid student ID!

But even if you can’t make it to Radio City, take our Tony’s predictions quiz for your chance to win a free spin for 2 Broadway tickets! And then make sure to tune in to CBS at 8:00pm this Sunday, June 9th, to catch James Corden hosting the 73rd Annual Tony Awards!

PS: As always, every Tony-nominated show on Broadway is in play at Broadway Roulette!