The 2009 Tony Awards

From the adorable three Billy Elliots to Bret Michaels’ near decapitation by set piece, VIEW OUR GALLERY of the best moments from Broadway’s biggest night.

Bryan Bedder / Getty IMages

Bryan Bedder / Getty IMages

Kiril Kulish, David Alvarez, and Trent Kowalik

The three young boys who shared the Best Actor in a Musical Tony (a first for three actors sharing the same award) were shocked into incoherence when they first took the stage in adorable suits to accept their statues. “Oh, my God,” one said as they stood awkwardly around the microphone and giggled. “This is quite unbelievable,” Alvarez said. “We want to say to all the kids out there who might want to dance—never give up,” Kulish said.

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Marcia Gay Harden

Harden looked stunning in a green mermaid gown and picked up her first Tony as Best Actress in a Play for her role in the marriage comedy God of Carnage—one of the night’s big winners. Harden noted that as the show is about marital strife, she wanted to thank her husband “for preparing me so well for the role.”

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Anne Hathaway

Though not in any New York shows this year, Hathaway was in attendance to introduce the cast of Hair, which later went on to snag the coveted Best Musical Revival award. Hathaway most likely relished the chance to mingle with the theater scene as preparation for her next project—she will be performing in Twelfth Night in Central Park this summer.

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James Gandolfini

The Sopranos star was all smiles for the evening—making a crack onstage that he was “no relation” to the actor who played lovable ogre Shrek. Though his co-star in God of Carnage, Marcia Gay Harden, picked up the award for Best Actress and Gandolfini lost out in his category to Geoffrey Rush for Exit the King, he can be content that he is now officially a star in the hottest show in town.

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Dolly Parton

Parton showed off her assets in a knockout pink dress as she joined the cast of the musical 9 to 5 (which she penned) during the opening mash-up musical sequence. Parton also presented, but sadly, her musical wasn’t nominated for many awards, and it didn’t win for best score. That said, any resurgence of Dolly is all right with us—and the sparkly Tony crowd.

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Frank Langella

While presenting the award for Best Actress, Langella joked about being overlooked by the Tonys this year for his play A Man for All Seasons. “They must have been out of town for our four-month sold out run,” he joked. He also remarked that awards seasons “bring out the best” in everyone, before presenting Marcia Gay Harden with her statue.

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Alice Ripley

You’d think the relatively unknown (outside the theater world) Ripley would have been excited just to have won for Best Actress in a Musical (for her turn as a bipolar housewife in Next to Normal), but Ripley began shouting (loudly) for emphasis when talking about the importance of theater and art. “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit,” she said, quoting JFK. No one can say that show people are a timid lot.

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Angela Lansbury

The seasoned actress (the grandest of Broadway’s current crop of grande dames at 83) won Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Blithe Spirit, becoming only the second woman in history to scoop up five Tony awards. Lansbury was all modesty and grace in a subdued white pantsuit and pearls. “Thank you for having me back!” she said—a true class act.

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Neil Patrick Harris

The reluctant host turned out to be a big hit, and pulled no punches when it came to lampooning Broadway’s elite. He went for the requisite/obvious Jeremy Piven sushi/mercury poisoning joke, but his closing number left no star’s rock unturned. “This show could not be gayer / if Liza was named mayor / and Elton John took flight,” he sang to the tune of “Tonight.” Doogie Howser, M.C., you can stay.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

Geoffrey Rush

The always excellent Rush won Best Actor in a Play for his role as a dying ruler in Eugene Ionesco’s black and absurd Exit the King, and thanked his audience for proving that “French existential absurdist tragi-comedy rocks.”

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

Karen Olivo

Olivo had one of the most touching acceptance speeches of the night: She teared up and could barely talk when awarded Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as the fiery Anita in West Side Story. “Oh, my God, I just want to dedicate this to everyone who has a dream,” she said, before blurting out “sorry” and leaving the stage. The actress, who starred in last year’s Tony winner, In the Heights, before moving on to West Side Story, was the big—and only—winner from Arthur Laurents’ bilingual revival.

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Mamma Mia

The producer’s idea to include touring, un-nominated musicals in the Tonys’ programming caused an outrage among Tony traditionalists, and they must have felt justified in their complaints after seeing the off-kilter, lackluster rendition of “Dancing Queen,” by the cast of Mamma Mia (a show that is several years old, already a movie, and seemed massively out of place at the Tonys this year). The three main dancers were isolated on a separate stage, as the rest of the cast seemed to be out of step, and microphone problems abounded. Yikes.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

The Opening Sequence

The opening number was an energy-filled, modern mash up of the night’s musicals—and actually avoided being pure cheeseball camp, which is saying a lot for any Tony medley. “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls blended into a song from the hair band musical Rock of Ages, which was performed by Poison’s Bret Michaels (who was later almost decapitated by the set descending on his head). Host Neil Patrick Harris joked about the incident, saying Michaels’ near-disaster gave a new meaning to the word “headbanging.”

Seth Wenig / AP Photo


Hair (or the full name, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical) won the competitive Best Musical Revival category, beating out Guys and Dolls, Pal Joey, and West Side Story with its youthful explosion of peace and love. The cast’s performance of “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In” at the end of the opening number medley turned into a contagious feel-good group sing-along with cast members throwing flowers into the audience.

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Jane Fonda

Fonda was nominated for feature actor in 33 Variations, and considered a front-runner for the statue, but lost the honor to Marcia Gay Harden. Still, Fonda looked stunning, and—to make the obvious comment—it’s clear that all those aerobics paid off.

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Yasmina Reza

French playwright Yasmina Reza spoke after her comedy of manners, God of Carnage, picked up the award for Best Play (along with Best Actress and Best Director). “I dedicate it to my mother who overcame her fear of flying to be with us tonight,” she said in a heavy accent.