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06.13.11

10 Buzziest Moments from the 2011 Tony Awards

The Book of Mormon wins big, Daniel Radcliffe makes dancing magic, and nobody from Spider-Man is hospitalized. Shannon Donnelly on the wildest moments from theatre’s big night.

Neil Patrick Harris Butches Up the Tonys

Host Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with a rallying cry to the Glee generation (who were all probably over on Oxygen watching the premier of The Glee Project) to say that theatre is for everyone. And he means everyone. “Attention every breeder, you’re invited to the theatre, it’s not just for gays anymore!” he sang in the cheeky opening number, which included perhaps the classiest use of “sodomy” in a song lyric ever. Brooke Shields unfortunately broke the illusion that the number was improvised when she fumbled her part of the song, but hey, that’s the fun of a live performance.

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Two Points for Gryffindor!

Daniel Radcliffe was, alas, overlooked for a Tony nomination for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, perhaps due to a Hollywood-backlash following last year’s A-list-heavy winners list. But don’t cry for Radcliffe just yet. “The people that do this job for awards and recognition are kind of worshiping at the wrong altar, and I’m not really quite sure if I want to know those people,” he told Entertainment Weekly. With that level a head and an ability to hoof his way through high-energy dance numbers like these, there’s no doubt he’ll have a long and varied career after he hangs up his wizarding robes in the final Harry Potter film, due out in July.

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Spider-Man Jokes Fly Better Than Actual Spider-Man Actors

Making fun of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is too easy at this point, especially considering the show couldn’t even pull itself together and open in time to be eligible for this year’s Tonys. Still, too easy or not, Neil Patrick Harris unleashed a wicked cavalcade of hilarious jokes at the beleaguered show’s expense. Our favorite? “I sent Bono a congratulatory cable, but it snapped.”

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The Bumblebee Flies

Newcomer Nikki M. James gave one of the evening’s most heartfelt speeches in her win for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her performance in The Book of Mormon. “Tony, come on over, live with me!” she said, gripping her statue, before thanking her castmates, creatives, and family. “There’s a story about bumblebees,” James said. “Physicists couldn’t figure out how they did it, how they flew, and we all know that they do, we’ve seen them do it. And they did it because nobody told them that they couldn’t, and because of sheer will and determination. And I have come from a long line of bumblebees.”

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Believe in Book of Mormon

In the dark days before the Internet, Tony Award broadcasts were invaluable for giving regional theatre fans maybe their only chance to see snippets of the season’s new shows. Now, you can easily find those same snippets on YouTube. But the funny, heartfelt, wholly original performance of “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon evoked the Tonys of old, when theatre kids nationwide would glue themselves to their TVs hoping to see something as magical as this.

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The Normal Heart Beats On

Larry Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart, which focuses on the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City, is as relevant as ever, given that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is now 30 years old and we’re still no closer to a cure. The always-eloquent Kramer gave a rousing speech after The Normal Heart won Best Revival of a Play. “To gay people everywhere, whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history,” he said. “I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people and exceptional people and that our day will come.”

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“Side by Side” by Colbert and Cryer

If you missed the brief, star-studded production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which starred Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone, Jon Cryer, Christina Hendricks, and more, you can happily catch it in select movie theatres this week. This number only gives you a small taste of the fizzy fun of this short-lived, buzzy production.

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Frances McDormand Doesn’t Dress, Still Impresses

Frances McDormand’s Tony look didn’t exactly scream “traditional awards show attire,” what with a denim jacket and bedhead, but who cares? Her ballsy, determined acceptance speech for her role in David Lindsay-Abaire’s criminally undersung play, Good People, was one of the most genuine moments of the night. “I love my job. I love my job!” McDormand gushed.

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Mark Rylance Breaks More Than Just the Fourth Wall

Mark Rylance, winner of Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Jerusalem, continued his penchant for unusual speeches with a paean to walls. No, seriously. At least it’s more interesting than a laundry list of thanks to people we don’t know.

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And Thus Did Book of Mormon Win All the Tonys in the World

In getting ready to announce the final award of the night, presenter Chris Rock said, “We know what the Best Musical is. This is such a waste of time, it’s like taking a hooker to dinner, okay?” And indeed, The Book of Mormon won the big prize after sweeping most of the other categories throughout the night. While Mormon’s hot streak took some of the nail-biting out of the ceremony, it’s still nice to see an original production win big over the movie adaptations and jukebox musicals that usually dominate the Broadway landscape.

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Shannon Donnelly's work has appeared in The Daily Beast, Gawker, and Inside New York, among other publications. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in writing. You can read more of her writing here, or follow her on Twitter.