The Big Night of Musicals is a highly anticipated television event that features live musical performances from popular Broadway shows. Music fans across the country eagerly await the annual special to see impressive production numbers, incredible vocalists, and unique interpretations of iconic musical theater songs. With the event usually broadcast on network television each year, many are wondering if the Big Night of Musicals will air as scheduled in 2023 amidst the challenges of the current health crisis.
Background on the Big Night of Musicals
The Big Night of Musicals began in 2003 as a collaboration between Broadway producers and major television networks to showcase musical theater to a wider audience. Some of the most renowned Broadway composers and lyricists have been involved with the project over the years, viewing it as an opportunity to bring Broadway into households nationwide.
While the concert special was only an hour long in initial years, its popularity led producers to expand it to a three-hour primetime program starting in 2010. The extended runtime allows for more musical numbers and mini-acts from various Broadway shows new and old. The Big Night of Musicals has featured songs from classics like West Side Story, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and Rent as well as recent hits like Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Moulin Rouge.
With elaborate sets and costumes, all-star casts, and a live orchestra, the production quality rivals that of the Tony Awards. In fact, the Big Night of Musicals has picked up Emmy Awards in technical categories like Lighting Design and Costume Design. Though not an awards show per se, performances often give a hint at what shows may sweep the Tonys that year.
Past Hosts of The Big Night of Musicals
Being selected to host The Big Night of Musicals is a prestigious honor. Over the years, acclaimed stars of both screen and stage have been tapped for the role.
|Neil Patrick Harris
Producers aim to find hosts with both strong musical theater connections and widespread name recognition who can capably guide viewers through the evening. As evidenced by the list above, they have selected from film stars, recording artists, Broadway veterans, and TV personalities over the years. Hosts help sustain excitement in the weeks leading up to the broadcast through appearances on talk shows and magazine interviews. Their opening monologues also tend to inspire laughs and set an enthusiastic tone.
In addition to the standout vocal performances showcased annually, The Big Night of Musicals has featured many memorable unscripted moments over the past two decades:
– In 2009, Daniel Craig filled in for an injured actor during a Les Miserables scene and shocked viewers by revealing an impressive singing voice.
– Jennifer Hudson and Neil Patrick Harris performed an impromptu duet of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” in 2013 after some technical difficulties with a set change.
– Lin-Manuel Miranda freestyled rap verses summarizing the plots of different musicals in his 2017 opening number.
– Cynthia Erivo blew the roof off with a powerhouse rendition of “I’m Here” from The Color Purple in 2021.
– Last year, Billy Porter’s extravagant costumes and over-the-top production of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray included backup dancers, confetti cannons, and dozens of costume changes in 5 minutes.
Moments like these generate buzz both during and after the broadcast each year. Live television always allows for the unexpected, and the energy and risks involved make The Big Night of Musicals exhilarating for those watching at home.
Impact of the Health Crisis on Live Theater
Of course, producing a live television event on the scale of The Big Night of Musicals requires months of preparation and rehearsals. While organizers have likely been planning the 2023 edition for some time already, the challenges posed by COVID-19 cannot be ignored.
Broadway theaters shut down in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic and only gradually resumed performances over a year later in summer and fall 2021. Specific productions have continued to cancel shows due to positive COVID-19 tests among cast and crew. Various health and safety measures have been implemented, including vaccine or testing requirements, mask mandates, and modifications like plexiglass barriers to allow for distancing between actors on stage.
The hugely disruptive impact of the pandemic has devastated the theater community financially and logistically over the past two years. While television and film projects have managed to resume under strict protocols, mounting complex theatrical productions remains a formidable challenge. The uncertainty has forced many creatives and performers to seek other work.
Furthermore, the virus surges that tend to accompany new variants remain an ongoing threat. Future closures and hiatuses could once again become necessary for public health. Another Broadway shutdown seems unlikely at this stage given wider availability of vaccines and effective COVID treatments. Nonetheless, the ripple effects on those involved in theater are likely to persist for some time.
Potential Issues for This Year’s Big Night of Musicals
The producers of The Big Night of Musicals face considerable obstacles this year. Even if Broadway shows are running as normal, pulling together the special requires extensive coordination and resources.
Logistics may prove difficult given the cutbacks and changes across the theater industry during the pandemic. Securing rights, orchestras, contractors, and personnel presents more complications than usual. Travel restrictions could impact international artists and creatives slated to work on the program.
UNION The various unions representing Broadway talent also introduce complex factors into the planning. Residuals, rights of publicity, mandatory fees and more must be negotiated for an endeavor of this scale. Union regulations may dictate minimum cast sizes for musical numbers or restrict the amount of rehearsal time with leads busy doing 8 shows a week.
While producers can draw on an ample pool of seasoned Broadway veterans to perform, casting specific stars as hosts or presenters brings another layer of uncertainty. Actors have dealt with greatly reduced and disrupted work opportunities, so they may be less available or eager to participate without proper precautions or incentives.
The behind-the-scenes crews responsible for lighting, sets, costumes and camerawork have faced severe cutbacks too. Staffing appropriately for a 3-hour live broadcast requires long-term planning. Technical shake-ups at the network broadcasting the show could also complicate matters.
If The Big Night of Musicals moves forward as intended this year, strict health and safety rules will need to be followed. Past shows have involved hundreds of cast and crew members working in close proximity, so this poses a significant COVID transmission risk without proper mitigation measures.
Recent award shows like the Grammys have required proof of vaccination, negative tests, symptom questionnaires and more. Similar rigorous protocols would need to be implemented by the producers of The Big Night of Musicals. They may also need to limit live audiences or forgo them altogether to minimize risks.
Performers would likely feel more comfortable if regular testing was conducted, masks were mandated off-stage, and ventilation was optimized in rehearsal and performance facilities. Precautions apply to instrument handling and sanitation as well.
Some productions around the world have made clever use of screens and barriers on set and stage to allow for distancing and separation between actors. More innovative solutions may need to be explored to deliver first-rate musical numbers while keeping coronavirus risks low. Disinfection and sanitation stations for hand-washing should be ubiquitous as well.
Creative Challenges and Opportunities
For much of the theater community, Do COVID-19 risks outweigh the benefits of moving forward with The Big Night of Musicals in 2023? That is a complicated question producers are surely grappling with.
Canceling once again would be disappointing and negatively impact many stakeholders. However, trying to forge ahead with an underwhelming or unsafe event could also damage the brand. Audiences have come to expect an exceptional experience from this beloved Broadway tradition.
That said, the unique circumstances of the past couple years present artistic opportunities as well. Some of the most poignant, cathartic art arises from great adversity. Leaning into the struggles and resilience of the Broadway community could make for powerful television.
Performers could pay tribute to essential workers through musical numbers. Songs from shows forced to close could honor the loss felt by those involved. The host’s monologue might thoughtfully acknowledge the impacts on mental health and grief inflicted by the pandemic. Creatively channeling the pain yet perseverance of theater could transform this year’s Big Night of Musicals into a remarkable experience for audiences at home.
Likelihood of a 2023 Broadcast
Considering both the logistical hurdles and hopes for a celebration of Broadway’s return, is a 2023 edition of The Big Night of Musicals likely?
Without insider knowledge of the discussions underway, predictions are difficult. However, given its strong track record and ratings success over nearly 20 years on air, cancellation seems improbable if health trends remain stable. With safety measures in place and typical meticulous planning, producers can probably pull off an impressive show under the circumstances.
The networks and streaming giants involved have a vested interest in broadcasting the prestigious event. COVID guidelines may necessitate adjustments, but with so many stakeholders eager for the theater industry’s revitalization, cancelation would only occur as a last resort. For devoted Broadway fans nationwide, a 2023 Big Night of Musicals seems not only possible but essential.
Potential Date Scenarios
Assuming the flagship Broadway concert special does move forward next year, when might viewers be able to tune in? The timeline varies annually but some predictions can be made based on past precedent.
|Low – avoids winter virus surge
|Medium – aligns with TV sweeps
|High – capitalizes on awards buzz
|Medium – competes with spring events
|Low – weather improves, Tony’s occupy late spring
|Medium – Holiday Season Appeal
|Medium – Holiday Season Appeal
Looking at the data, the highest probability is March or November/December. March timing allows producers to ride the marketing wave leading up to the Tony Awards. November or December provides synergistic programming during the holidays when CBS, NBC or ABC aim for big ratings.
Mid-winter also offers ideal timing to maximize exposure before the Oscars and Grammys occupy viewers’ attention. Whenever the exact night, rest assured The Big Night of Musicals will return to enthral audiences, uplift artists, and prove that Broadway talent can shine brightly once more.
The Big Night of Musicals represents the pinnacle of theater for both artists and fans. Its anticipated 2023 return, despite huge COVID challenges, will fittingly showcase Broadway’s resilience. While uncertainties remain, viewers can likely expect another fantastic show celebrating musical theater’s emotional power and vibrancy. Whatever adaptations prove necessary will be made by the skilled creatives behind this beloved tradition. After enduring an extremely difficult period, Broadway is ready for its much-deserved closeup once again.