Neither revealed any details about the evening. Will McDonald sing? “It’s post-2020,” she said. “Expect anything at all times.” And Odom? “My first words were use me up,” he said. “However I can help — if it’s a pie to the face, or singing a ‘Hamilton’ tune, whatever is of use, ask and allow me.”
They pledged to honor the work done on shows staged during the truncated 2019-20 season, even as they remind viewers that Broadway has reopened. “It’s been so long that these nominees have waited, and to let them have their prom night is what I want to do,” McDonald said. “I want to make it about them and their accomplishments.”
Broadway, Odom said, is “going to be OK, in time, but I don’t know how much time,” adding: “This is a tough spot we’re in, and I don’t want to be cavalier about what we’re facing. But in the end, there are young writers and performers all over the world trying to write with an urgency and a relevancy and a potency that gives theater new life and reminds us of its necessity.”
Both said that they believed the traditional “in memoriam” segment of this year’s awards ceremony — the first Tonys night since June 2019 — would be especially important, with over 680,000 deaths from the pandemic so far in the United States alone.
“Beyond making sure that we put on a great show for America, I also want to make sure that we get that ‘in memoriam’ section right, because we’ve lost so many, and we’ve been away for so long,” Odom said. “That’s a cloud hanging over the evening. There’s so many that we’ve lost from the theater, and we’ve lost a great deal of our audience as well.”
For McDonald, those losses are personal. Among those who died of coronavirus complications was the playwright Terrence McNally, a longtime mentor, collaborator and friend. (He was a writer of three shows in which she starred: “Master Class,” “Ragtime” and “Frankie and Johnny.”) She said she is also mourning the deaths, since the last Tonys ceremony, of the actor Nick Cordero, who died after a long battle with Covid, as well as the actresses Zoe Caldwell, who died of Parkinson’s disease, and Rebecca Luker, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.