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Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp perform at the Tony Awards on Sunday in New York.Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The Tony Awards snubbed Canadians who wanted to tune in on Sunday night – and those who wanted to tune in from the Toronto area were snubbed twice.

The annual celebration of Broadway was a bloated four-hour affair this year, despite the fact that it was belatedly honouring a 2019-2020 theatre season that was shortened due to COVID-19.

The first two hours were broadcast live on the Paramount+ streaming service in the United States, while the second two hours were on the main CBS network as a special called The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!

But Canadians who subscribed to Paramount+ – some of whom did so specifically to watch the Tony Awards – could not find it on the streaming service on this side of the border.

Then, those in the Toronto area who tuned in to CBS at 9 p.m. found an NFL game instead – one that delayed the start of Broadway’s Back! by almost an hour.

Michael Rubinoff, a Toronto-based producer of Come From Away, was one of many Canadian would-be viewers who had assumed he would be able to watch the first part on Paramount+ – and then was additionally frustrated by not being able to watch the second part on CBS in real time.

“Awards shows are the type of thing you want to watch live,” said Rubinoff, who ended up finding out that, for instance, Moulin Rouge! had beaten the Alanis Morissette jukebox musical Jagged Little Pill in the best new musical category on social media (where many Canadians took to complain about and keep up with the Tonys).

Rubinoff said the Tony Awards broadcasts of musical numbers and winner speeches are often inspiring to Canadian theatre artists – especially young, budding ones. “I certainly have been watching them since I was a kid,” he said.

And then, of course, there are Canadian theatregoers for whom the Tony Awards are basically a long advertisement for Broadway – and who, before the pandemic, travelled in significant numbers to New York’s commercial district. (In the 2018–2019 season, about 19 per cent of the Broadway audience – representing about 2.8 million tickets sold – came from outside the United States.)

What a missed opportunity to lure Canadian visitors back across the border – which has been described as key to New York’s recovery. Especially given that many have been confused about whether they are welcome back since Springsteen on Broadway briefly did not allow AstraZeneca vaccine recipients to attend.

The more important question facing Canada, of course, is when will we be able to see commercial theatre on the scale of Broadway again within our own borders. But more on that another time.

On to some Canadian theatre awards: The nominees for the 2021 edition of the Tom Hendry Awards – which celebrate playwrights in a wide range of categories, mostly for works that have not yet had a professional premiere – were announced yesterday by the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

On the shortlist for the new Playwrights Guild Drama Award are Reneltta Arluk for Pawâkan Macbeth, Yolanda Bonnell for My Sister’s Rage and Dalbir Singh for Five Red Hands. You can tune in online on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. EST to find out who won this award and five others.

Opening this week:

  • Good Things to Do, an interactive experience from Vancouver’s Rumble Theatre conceived by playwright Christine Quintana in collaboration with the violinist Molly MacKinnon, returns online this week courtesy of Nightwood Theatre. The show – which I found “soothing” when I experienced it early in the pandemic – is running again until Oct. 2.
  • IMPACT 21, an international theatre festival run by MT Space in Waterloo, Ont., begins tonight and runs for two weeks. There are both online shows and in-person ones – including Mobs (or Exercises in Citizenship), a show created by Imed May, which considers citizenship in the wake of “a national uprising that led to the dismantling of one system and the establishment of another in Tunisia.”
  • UnCovered: The Music of Dolly Parton, a Musical Stage Company concert that was one of my picks for the fall, is having its in-person performances at Koerner Hall this week from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. (A digital version will be available from Nov. 24.)
  • As You Like It, another show featured in our fall arts preview, opens to critics at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre on Thursday. Look for my review of this “radical retelling” of Shakespeare’s comedy by Cliff Cardinal later this week.

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