Tony's Most Memorable Moments

Dancing Mormons, dangling spiders and heartbreaking speeches make for a compelling broadcast

Neil Patrick Harris took on Tony-hosting duties for the third-time last night, introducing the 66th Annual Tony Awards, “or as we like to call it, ‘50 Shades of Gay.’” Here were some of our favorite moments from last night’s broadcast. 

COME TO JESUS MOMENT. The pre-taped opening had Elders Cunningham, Price and the chorus boys from “The Book of Mormon” singing “Hello,” the show’s first number. The missionaries knocked on dressing room doors, trying to drum up interest in their literature, but getting no love from James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick or Ricky Martin, who slammed his door on them. Harris joined the cast at the end, then segues into “What if Life Were More Like Theater,” showing off a seven-second costume change and controlling the “weather” on a digital screen with a clap of his fingers. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, as a spotlight-stealing understudy, and Patti LuPone, as a lawnmower pushing next-door neighbor, make cameos.

“ONCE” AND FOR ALL. “Once,” the musical based on the Dublin-set indie movie romance, ended the night with 8 Tonys, including best musical. Accepting his award early in the night as best director, John Tiffany said: “‘Once’ is a story about how when people believe in each other, they can move forward in life.” Later on, when Steve Kazee won as lead actor, he held up his award and dedicated it to his mother, who died on Easter Sunday: “I want to say thank you to my cast and to my beautiful leading lady, who has held me up for the past two months. This cast has carried me around and made me feel alive, and I will never be able to fully repay them.”

VENOM. “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” though eligible for the Tonys, was not among the record 16 shows represented with performances on the awards broadcast. But the troubled musical got some Tony love from host Harris: While Angela Lansbury and Theodore Chapin extolled the virtues of the American Theatre Wing, the host descended from the ceiling, upside down, and just sort of hung out behind them. “Any concerns I had about this ‘Spider-Man’ rig failing have been overshadowed by the searing pain in my junk,” he said. We can only wonder what Angela Lansbury was thinking at that moment.

TWICE-BITTEN. Brit actor Andrew Garfield, soon to appear on screen in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” was considered a front-runner for the featured actor Tony for his work in “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” Instead, that trophy went to Christian Borle, star of NBC’s “Smash,” for his performance as the villainous Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a prequel to “Peter Pan.” 

REVIVAL UPSET. “The Gershwins Porgy and Bess” won the best musical revival Tony over heavily favored (and long-shuttered) “Follies.” Accepting the statue, producer Jeffrey Richards said: “I want to thank the Gershwin estate, which gave permission for us to do this show and gave us a mission to bring ‘Porgy and Bess’ into the 21st century ...” This can be interpreted as a backhanded slap at Stephen Sondheim, who let his feelings about changes in the production be known in a controversial letter to The New York Times. Next best “Porgy” moment: the look on Audra McDonald’s face when she won the Tony—her fifth, though first as a lead actress. McDonald addressed daughter Zoe, 11, in the audience: “This was a great night for mommie, but the night you were born was the best night ever.”

LIVE, FROM THE CARIBBEAN. Though “Hairspray” closed on Broadway in 2009, it  had its own revival during the Tony telecast, via two numbers performed live from the Caribbean Sea, aboard the Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas. Harvey Fierstein, the show’s original star, introduced the song in cruise garb: a swimsuit, an inner tube and a cocktail in his hand. Later, Harris took a jab at the segment: “I just got terrible news: the cast of ‘Hairspray’ has been taken over by Pirates .... of Penzance.” Royal Caribbean, no surprise here, was a new sponsor of the Tony Awards.

VENUS IN TRANSIT. Nina Arianda, accepting her Tony for best actress in a play (“Venus in Fur”) from Christopher Plummer: “Sir, you were my first crush. When that whistle was blown in ‘The Sound of Music,’ it made my day. Plummer seemed delighted.

THERE'S NO TIME. Neil Patrick Harris closed the show with a number about ... not having enough time to close the show. Harris' calling card is a hastly written number where he recaps things that had hapened. He did the same thing again this year, before being cut off at the last moment: "If I had time .... I'd say how 'Once' won, 'Once' won twice, then 'Once' won more ..." 

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