NEW YORK (AP) — Neil Patrick Harris was just a presenter this time, but he sure looked glad to be back from the Oscars. And why wouldn’t he be?
Even when uneven, the Tonys are the most reliably entertaining of the awards shows, and often the most warmhearted and uplifting, too. That was the case June 7, as the intimate, poignant, lesbian coming-of-age story “Fun Home” took best musical over more conventional fare, and longtime stage sweetheart Kelli O’Hara finally won a trophy after six nominations, charming the crowd with a goofy mix of bliss and relief.
Here are 10 memorable moments, including some you didn’t see on TV:
A YEAR FOR WOMEN:
An early award — best score — signaled it was going to be a good night for “Fun Home,” but it was doubly important because composer Jeanine Tesori and playwright Lisa Kron are the first all-female team to win the award. “We stand on the shoulders of other women who came before us,” Tesori said. Kron also won best book of a musical, and one of the night’s two directing prizes went to Marianne Elliott for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time.”
AN 11-YEAR OLD STEALS THE SHOW:
One of the stars of “Fun Home” is Sydney Lucas, all of 11, who performed her sweet and exhilarating anthem of identity, “Ring of Keys,” to huge cheers from the crowd at Radio City Music Hall. Later, at the Tony after-party, she confessed she’d been terrified.
“I always get nervous before I sing, and I had to stop myself from looking at everyone in the crowd,” Lucas said as she stood on a buffet line and posed for photos. “But something always happens when I start performing: I forget who I am.”
Asked how it felt for her show to win the big prize, Lucas noted that she’d been working on it for three years — a big chunk of her life. “The work really pays off,” she said.
STRAIGHT OUTTA JUILLIARD:
He’s not 11, but Alex Sharp is only 26, and just a year ago was finishing up at Juilliard, which made his victory as best actor in a play “insane,” he told the Tony crowd.
Later at the after-party, Sharp, the star of “Curious Incident,” said there was “no way” he’d expected to win. “Listen, before this role I was preparing to be unemployed for 10 years,” he said. The actor, who beat out movie stars Bradley Cooper and Bill Nighy for the Tony, said his job is so exhausting that he spends his free time simply tending to work-related injuries, such as a stress fracture to his elbow.
DOING THE WORM:
Longtime Broadway favorite O’Hara got so goofy by the end of her speech, she starting doing a dance she called “The Worm.”
Moments earlier, when her name was called as best actress in a musical for “The King and I,” the crowd had given her a standing ovation — an emotional highpoint of the ceremony.
“You’d think that I would have written something down by now, but I haven’t,” she said, referring to her six nominations. “I don’t need this, but now that I have it, I’ve got some things to say.”
WHY CRANSTON LOVES THE TONYS:
At the after-party, past acting winner Bryan Cranston mused that O’Hara’s speech, and the crowd’s enthusiasm for her, was one of the reasons he always loves the Tonys.
“It’s the best awards show there is,” said Cranston, last year’s winner for “All the Way.” ”There’s something small about the feeling of Broadway. It’s a close-knit community. So Kelli wins, and there’s this jubilant reaction because she is just so deserving.”
TOMMY TUNE’S TEXAS DREAM:
Alas, the TV audience didn’t get to see the lifetime achievement award given to song-and-dance man Tommy Tune. They would have heard him recount how his “father’s great dream for me was the same as every Texas father’s dream for their first-born son — they wanted us all to leave Texas, go to New York, and dance in the chorus of a Broadway show. And I did it!”
FUN HOME, NOT PHONE HOME:
We could have used some more singing and dancing from talented hosts Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth; they didn’t get enough chances. One of their funnier comic moments, though, was when Chenoweth came out clothed as E.T. “I said ‘FUN Home,'” Cumming quipped.
A TIME TO DANCE:
This was a dance-heavy theater season, in which shows like “An American in Paris” and “On the Town” featured classical ballet dancers. Christopher Wheeldon, one of the world’s best ballet choreographers, lost out on the directing trophy for “Paris” but won the choreography award, and congratulated fellow nominees for “bringing dance to the forefront of your shows.”
On the other hand, Annaleigh Ashford, who plays a bad ballerina in “You Can’t Take it With You,” accepted her featured actress Tony for what she called “the worst dancing that ever happened on Broadway.”
LARRY DAVID ON WHAT MAKES A MAN:
Larry David’s “Fish in the Dark” didn’t have the critics laughing, and got no Tony nominations. But David had the Tony audience laughing when he appeared with Jason Alexander, who’s replacing him in the show, and went on a diatribe about how the measure of a man isn’t being nominated, it’s showing up when you’re NOT. He also argued, tongue firmly in cheek, that anti-Semitism was to blame for his lack of a nomination.
WELCOME HOME, NEIL:
Harris, a storied past Tony host, came to present an award and informed the audience that first, he had some Tony predictions that he’d locked into a box — a reference to an unsuccessful bit in his Oscar gig a few months ago. He looked much happier on the Tony stage. Here’s hoping he’ll be back soon with one of his famous musical numbers.