The Tony Awards, Or, The Neil Patrick Harris Comedy Hour (or Three)

If there is any celebrity alive who could resurrect the long-decomposed corpse of the hour-long variety show, it’s Neil Patrick Harris, who gave the often plodding Tony Awards a serious kick in the rump last night.

In a Broadway season so lackluster the ceremony stooped to a live feed of a scaled down Hairspray number from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Harris Charm® made the three-hour-long ceremony feel shockingly breezy. From his snazzy opening number with Patti LuPone pushing a lawnmower in an evening gown (looking like a bizarro twist on Audrey’s “Somewhere That’s Green” fantasy) to his written-in-the-wings closer, “There’s No Time,” Harris crooned, hoofed, cracked jokes and even hung upside-down in a riff on both Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark‘s dangling acrobatics and Death of a Salesman nominee Andrew Garfield, who will play the webbed wallcrawler in this summer’s blockbuster film.

Yes, Harris miraculously pulled fresh gags out of the Spider-Man musical. Move over, Anne Sullivan, there’s a new Miracle Worker in town.

Best Musical contenders Newsies and Once gave electric performances sure to bump ticket sales. Best Actress winner Audra McDonald, nominees Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier, and the cast of Best Revival Porgy and Bess wrenched the heart and buoyed the spirit with a knockout medley.

Nice Work If You Can Get It‘s Kelli O’Hara sweetly sang her Gershwin tune looking like West Side Story‘s tomboy, Anybodys, joined the gang at Newsies. (As for Matthew Broderick, if I may rip off a lyric from Crazy For You, he’s “dancing” and I can’t be bothered now.)

Not all numbers translated well to television:  The Ghost trio was a mishmash of money notes that should have vanished. Featured actor nominee Danny Burnstein’s showstopping “Buddy’s Blues” from Follies was brilliantly uproarious in the theater, but garish when out of context on the small screen.

Evita‘s Ricky Martin and Elena Roger confused the usually bustling “And the Money Kept Rolling In” with “Requiem for Evita.” And what was with the silhouetted tableaux of the Best Play nominees, moving in slo-mo like Disney’s Carousel of Progress?

But the speeches—Oh, the speeches! Parental death was a running theme, making for some of the most heartfelt thank-yous in recent years: Best Featured Actress Judy Kaye (Nice Work If You Can Get It) thanked her father, who died last week. And Best Actor Steve Kazee (Once) gave a shout out to his mom, who passed away on Easter Sunday. Newsies‘ leprechaun-like lyricist Jack Feldman gets our Short, But Sweet Award: after the glossy, bloated, boring speech by composer Alan Menken, Feldmen gave a brisk rundown of his childhood dream to write a musical, thanked his partner and, finally, raised his award toward Heaven and exuberantly shouted, “Look, Ma! A Tony!”

By the way, please help us erase the sight of Hugh Jackman planting an awkward smooch on wife Deborra-Lee Furness. It was like a facehugger from Alien.

Instead, we’ll think of Bernadette Peters, who looked absolutely ravishing in a violet Donna Karan mermaid gown. She might not have been nominated, but the Follies star certainly looked like a winner last night.

There was no clean sweep at this year’s ceremony, and very little drama to divide theaterfolk about the winners. Once won Best Musical; Clybourne Park won Best Play. But it almost barely mattered. (Here’s the full list of winners.) Everything felt like entertaining fill-in for the real star of the entire evening. It wasn’t the spirit of Broadway. This show was all about the ebullient pizzazz of Neil Patrick Harris. Someone give him his own show, whether on stage or TV, stat!

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #bernadettepeters #broadway #dramaclub stories and more


  • OutMaturity

    Great review and you hit it on the head!

    Neil Patrick “freshened” for the home viewing audience the awards presentation, just as he has the other two times he has hosted. I did note however, he is also an or perhaps THE executive producer of the show. Perhaps that is why he had free-rein to do about anything to make it fun and loving! He did just that!

    I’m now looking forward to attending some of these shows presented as they tour the country and I even made plans to see three live theatrical performances now showing in my area right now. Just all the while, watching Harris and this “fun” Tony Awards show!

  • w.e.

    I’m a little speechless – not about NPH, but that Queerty has actually employed someone who can write intelligently and has an excellent command of the English language.

  • Chris

    I thought it was great that the show this year featured so many performances, even from shows that weren’t nominated, but are still running. Being showcased on the Tony’s can do great things for the box office, even if the show doesn’t win. When Broadway brags about record box office, many people don’t realize that much of that income is focused on the huge blockbuster musicals,it is still tough to keep the curtain rising on smaller musicals and plays.

  • Alexa

    Excellent review! It was a good show and for once I approved of most of the winners.

    The only quibble I have with the review is that the Broadway season is not lackluster, the reason for the cruise ship performance was $$$$. It really sucks that a non-Equity performance not from Broadway was showcased like that when there were several real Broadway shows currently running that could have used the exposure of a performance on national TV.

  • Aaron Coleman

    @Alexa: You’re right. The musicals were lackluster, IMO, but the selection of plays was particularly above par this season.

  • Michael Bedwell

    And Tracie Bennett’s vocal abortion of Tallulah Bankhead doing an impression of Judy Garland will hopefully soon put that incomprehensibly praised show out of our misery.

  • R.A.

    This year they cut out everything that was not national television worthy and the result was anything but “plodding.”

    Making a show out of what’s available on Broadway nominated or not, made for a great television show, so it was a lot more than just Harris – who was absolutely terrific.

  • Will

    I would disagree about the show as a whole. It was never really a snooze-fest, even in those years before NPH took over, and certainly not in comparison to the annual plodding disaster that is the Oscars. There was a great deal to have fun with last night and while all the current musical material wasn’t top drawer, that’s the breaks. The awful Judy Garland piece aside, the talent and energy were there in abundance.

    As for Mr. Harris, BRAVO!!! and please do this again and again. You are inventive, massively talented and a hell of a lot of fun.

  • Michael Preston

    I have to say that I’ve never been a Neil Patrick Harris fan. However, after watching him host the Tony Awards, I am a fan! he was PHENOMINAL!!! His humor was spot on; not overly done; and truly funny!! Neil Patrick Harris you have gained a fan!

  • Chuck

    Not as good as last years, but NPH is hands down the best awards show host and singlehandedly makes the Tonys the best televised awards show, much more fun than the Oscars, Emmys, or Globes.

  • Rich

    I so want to be David Burtka.

  • Lance

    Ugh NPH is such a media whore, and not funny.

  • Larkin

    as awards shows go, he’s a fabulous host.

    Is there anything NPH can’t do? (besides a woman?)

  • Damian

    @Larkin: Find a butch husband?

  • Bill

    @Michael Bedwell: Exactly! I wanted to see that show until I saw her perform. Not anymore.

  • Chris S.

    Bernadette did win. . . she got a special Tony honor for her charitable work. That’s more an honor anyway because it’s bestowed on you and not a competition.

Comments are closed.