At Sunday night’s Tony Awards, Broadway put on a united front about wearing masks in theaters for the safety of audiences and performers alike.
“Everyone here is vaxxed and tested, and everyone is wearing a mask,” host Leslie Odom Jr. said as he walked by celebs like Bernadette Peters and Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Every Broadway theater will look like this for a while, and that’s OK.”
But away from the glare of the cameras at the Winter Garden Theater, the lecturing stopped cold.
Up in the mezzanine bar, as Jennifer Holliday was brilliantly belting out her classic “And I Am Telling You” from the musical “Dreamgirls” onstage, I overheard a tuxedoed man loudly discussing the hot afterparty for “Slave Play” at Neuehouse, which appropriately was requiring proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test to attend.
“My assistant found a picture online of a BinaxNow test that was negative, and sent it,” one said with a laugh, encouraging his friends to do the same. Not so funny to your paying audiences, fellas.
“Slave Play” by Jeremy O. Harris was expected by everybody to win the Best Play prize, and the room was shocked into near silence when “The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez won instead.
Harris — channeling Stephen Schwartz when “Wicked” lost to “Avenue Q” in 2004 — vamoosed. And the viewing party at Neuehouse, sources said, turned the TVs off after the loss.
His buzzy bash was planned as a large-scale indoor event near Madison Square Park. It was also one of few fetes being thrown, along with the bash for the fabulous Best Musical victor “Moulin Rouge The Musical,” which was quietly thrown at Tavern on the Green as an outdoor-only get-together for about 300 people.
Other revelers, absent a place to go, poured into Midtown pubs such as the Glass House Tavern.
The main Tony Awards party, originally meant to be held in an outdoor tent, was canceled, organizers said, because the city wouldn’t grant them a permit. And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
In the Winter Garden, the show was divided in two parts — the dry nominees and winners portion was on the streaming service Paramount+ and a starry concert aired nationally on CBS. Some celebs only showed up for the glitzier network Broadcast. Kristin Chenoweth whooshed in, like Glinda the Good in her “Wicked” bubble, just before 9 p.m.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose “Cats” played the Winter Garden for 18 years, told The Post he was giddy to be back from across the pond for the first Tony Awards since the pandemic shuttered theaters last year.
“We got open in London six weeks ago, — finally finally — with our shows, and you know to be back here is of course extraordinary,” he said. “It’s so difficult to put into words, really, because it’s so moving for everybody involved in theater to be back doing what they love. And that’s the bottom line of it all. We’re back doing what we’ve been put on the planet to do.”
Lloyd Webber also revealed that his acclaimed West End musical “Cinderella,” with a book by “Promising Young Woman” winner Emerald Fennell, will likely open on Broadway next season.
“I would think we’ll be open by late summer next year,” he said.
You had to be a rock not to be inspired and moved to see Broadway — a beleaguered industry — come back together in celebration as its shows reopen.
But, Broadway, if you’re going to make safety demands of your audience at this trying time, don’t be a bunch of hypocrites.
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