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For Tony Awards watchers on the West Coast, the impossible weirdness of CBS’ scheduling

A view of the stage at the last Tony Awards in New York in 2019.
A view of the stage at the last Tony Awards in New York in 2019. The 2021 ceremony will take place in Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre.
(Charles Sykes / Invision/AP)

Unless you live in a cave without a phone, you might want to consider temporarily relocating to one if you’re a West Coast theater fan hoping to enjoy an unspoiled viewing of the 74th annual Tony Awards.

CBS is continuing its archaic tradition of delaying its broadcast in the Pacific time zone until three hours after East Coast fans get to watch live. But wait, it’s weirder and more convoluted than that.

This year’s celebration of theater is sliced into two parts, each lasting two hours: the actual awards ceremony, when all but the top three awards will be given out, and a concert special titled “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” The awards for best play, best revival of a play and best musical will be given out during this star-studded special, which will be hosted by Tony-winning actor Leslie Odom Jr. and will include appearances by Lin-Manuel Miranda and “Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt.

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Here’s where things get frustrating. The main awards ceremony, hosted by six-time Tony winner and current nominee Audra McDonald, will not be shown on CBS. It is only streaming live on Paramount+ beginning at 4 p.m. in the Pacific time zone. It will end here at 6. That’s when the splashy special starts in New York City.

A 10-time nominee, Graciela Daniele finally wins her Tony — a special award for lifetime achievement — just as “The Gardens of Anuncia” opens.

At this point, West Coasters should retreat to their social media-free caves for three hours. Have a glass of wine, stare at your navel and don’t bother emerging until 9 p.m. Then, and only then, can you watch the delayed broadcast of the “Broadway’s Back” special on CBS.

Think you can simply subscribe to Paramount+ and watch “Broadway’s Back” (and learn what wins best musical and play) in real time with your Midwest and East Coast friends? Think again. Even the Paramount+ stream will be delayed until 9 p.m. here.

Yes, that is ridiculous in an era of Twitter and YouTube, not to mention a slap in the face to paying subscribers of a streaming service. But on Sunday night, Left Coast theater fans will just have to pretend they live in the early aughts.

If you’re not up to speed on the pandemic-postponement particulars of the awards, here’s what you need to know: The 2020 Tonys were delayed until this year. Because of pandemic shutdowns, the pool of eligible shows is 18, down from 34 in June 2019. Qualifying productions opened on Broadway between April 26, 2019, and Feb. 19, 2020. The best revival of a musical category has been dropped this year because of that window. The category of lead actor in a musical has just one nominee: Aaron Tveit of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”

Leading the nominations for musicals is “Jagged Little Pill” with 15 and “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” with 14. In the play categories, the nominations leaders are Jeremy O. Harris’ “Slave Play” with 12 and Matthew Lopez‘s “The Inheritance” with 11.

Here’s the complete list of nominees.

The Tony nominee gets candid about her painful “Moulin Rouge!” role and her “isolating” exit from commercial theater.


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