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Stars, Snubs and Surprises at the 2012 Tony Awards

June 11th, 2012

James Corden, Audra McDonald, Nina Arianda & Steve Kazee. Photo by Walter McBride/Retna.

All that’s left of this year’s Tonys is a trail of body glitter left on the 1 train by some hungover chorus boy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relive them with a look back at the night’s big winners and losers. (Get the full list of Tony winners here.)

Biggest Winner: With a pack leading eight wins, Once, the little show that could proved to be a freight train mowing down the competition. Given that it was based on a small independent film, expect Sundance to be swarmed by music theater writers next year. Pack extra leg warmers.

Best Reason to Watch the Tonys vs. the Oscarsother than dancer butt: The Tonys aren’t afraid of comedy. James Corden’s triumphant, masterclass in low comedy wouldn’t even have been nominated for an Oscar let alone won one. Somewhere, Steve Martin is shaking his fist and thinking, “Why didn’t I do All of Me on Broadway?!”

Best Audition for the Next Spider-Man Villain: When the every-peppy cast of Godspell jumped into the audience, Andrew Garfield was seen recoiling in fear from a swirling apostle attempting to pull him into the aisle. It would seem that all you need to stop Spidey is a tube of greasepaint and a follow spot.

"Porgy and Bess". Photo by Michael J. Lutch.

Biggest Surprise: The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess got its revenge on Sondheim by taking the trophy for Best Revival over Follies in a jaw dropping reversal, particularly considering the former’s controversial reception and the later’s near universal critical hosannas. The lesson: Tony voters have short memories about shows that are no longer on Broadway.

Biggest Snub: The lack of award love for the masterful Follies (one win for Costumes) extended to its leading lady. While not nominated, Bernadette Peters was given a special Tony for her charitable work but was given the award off the air like she was a regional theater in a bad dress. If Stonewall hadn’t happened decades ago, this might have lit the fuse for rioting.

Best Gimmick: Those Gypsy gals were right; a little striptease gimmick goes a long way. In an opening number about what if life were like a musical (that felt more appropriate to a collegiate review), host Neil Patrick Harris performed a seven second costume change on stage that was jaw droppingly cool. Theater people would be lost without velcro. And uppers.

Judith Light. Photo by Walter McBride/Retna.

Best Breath Control: The wonderful Judith Light proved her theater chops, not by winning a Tony, but by seemingly giving her acceptance speech in one determined breath. Tony Danza would have blacked out after just thanking his agent.

Best No-Longer-Jailbait Makeover: Nick Jonas. Military cut. Is it OK to find him suddenly hot? Don’t ask; don’t tell.

Best Reason to Blame Agnes DeMille: Just when I thought the Tonys had escaped their dreaded “scenes from nominated play” problem with an entertaining package of clips and songs from this year’s crop, they go and blow it during the presentation of the award by describing the shows while dancers in wigs mime/pose/interpret moments from said plays. Look, there’s Dream Laurie dancing with Dream Stockard Channing!

Best Late Night Buffet: Clearly the after-hours buffet on a Royal Caribbean cruise is awesome because everyone was eating instead of watching the number from Hairspray being broadcast live from their ship. Shots revealed a half empty theater…and the skinniest Tracy Turnblad ever. Girl, it’s all you can eat on board! You’re talented, you’re already cast and the part is supposed to be chunky…you’ve got carte blanche!

Best “Sixteen Going on Seventy”: Having received her Best Actress Tony from Captain Von Trapp himself, Nina Arianda went all May/December by admitting Christopher Plummer was her first crush. She cooed, “When that whistle was blown in Sound of Music, you made my day.” I’ll never be able to watch that movie again without feeling slightly dirty.

Biggest Leap of Imagination: I’m still trying to picture 5-time Tony winner Audra McDonald as a child with “a pot belly and afro-puffs”…and hoping she posts proof on twitter. By the by, the incandescent Ms. McDonald has won a Tony 63% of the times she has stepped on stage in a Broadway show. Take that Meryl.

Cristin Milioti & Steve Kazee in "Once". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Best Stuck Landing: Not since Kerri Strugg has something hobbled toward the finish only to save the day with a stuck landing…but the Tony Awards pulled it out of the fire with a strong last hour filled with emotional speeches (Steve Kazee, I love you. There, I said it.), funny bits (Matt & Trey’s faux posh Best Musical intro) and a witty closing number (NPH finally given material worthy of his hosting talents).

Best Musical Number: No performance lit that electric fuse in the way a Jennifer Holiday or Michael Jeter did in the past (though James Corden’s self-flagelating fight came very close and Newsies was impressively acrobatic). In fact, the best musical scene of the night belonged to the preview for the film adaptation of Les Miserables; our room got silent and I’ll admit I had a little tear in my eye by the end. What? I’m not made of stone.

Best Win by a Friend Who Totally Deserved It and I’m So Proud of Him This Morning I Could Burst: Congrats to Christopher Gattelli on his win for Best Choreography. When will you be having a party to view the trophy? And can I sit in the room when you’re auditioning replacement dancers for the show? Please?

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