Billy Porter, while accepting his Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, remembered the performance that took his “breath away”: Jennifer Holliday's scorching rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Decades later, a handful of new musicals—and host Neil Patrick Harris—attempted to create another breathtaking theater moment. Did they succeed? Here's the best of the 2013 Tony Awards:
There's a reason people get excited when Neil Patrick Harris is announced as Tonys host. The How I Met Your Mother star proved why once again leading an opening number that began spoofing last year's Best Musical, Once. “I wouldn't be here if someone else hadn’t passed on hosting,” he joked. Considering the standing ovation, which lasted for a full minute, that’s really hard to believe.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella may have lost the Tony for Best Revival to Pippin and star Laura Osnes may have been runner-up to Pippin’s Patina Miller, but the show proved why it was a critical darling this season with its performance of “It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago.” The show’s real draw, its razor-sharp funny book, was ever-so-briefly teased by Tony nominee Victoria Clark as the Fairy Godmother: “You’d be surprised how many beautiful gowns have crazy people in them.”
Sometimes people joke about musical theater and they make jazz hands. Sometimes a musical is so iconic that it's the reason that the jazz-hands cliché even exists. That’s Pippin, led by Patina Miller, gender bending (and winning the Tony for Best Actress) as the Leading Player. If the tease of "Corner of the Sky" and "Magic to Do" offered by the company of Pippin wasn't enough, head to the circus in Times Square, where the cast (especially Tony winner Andrea Martin) is swinging on trapezes—and flashing some jazz hands—eight times a week.
Ask anyone who watched Smash why they kept subjecting themselves to the nonsense every week, and they would all undoubtedly offer one reason: Megan Hilty. The insanely talented actress was the clear highlight of the show, and, as it would have it, the Tony Awards. Hilty performed in a bit with her compatriots, fellow Broadway veterans who starred in TV series that were canceled this year. Andrew Rannells (The New Normal) and Laura Benanti (Go On) joined Hilty for a parody song about chasing Hollywood … and failing. Hilarious and entertaining, the song showed why Hollywood's loss is Broadway's gain.
Surrounded by candles, Cyndi Lauper sang a stirring version of "True Colors" in honor of Broadway stars who died this year. On its own, the performance was moving. Take into account that she was paying tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, Nora Ephron, Gore Vidal, and the sadly departed theater greats in their company, and the performance was even more moving. The entire night was a welcoming of sorts for Lauper, who won the Tony for composing the Best Musical winner, Kinky Boots.
"Just one more." That's what Cicely Tyson said after receiving a standing ovation for winning what was, remarkably, her first Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, for The Trip to Bountiful, joking that she never planned to return to the stage but couldn't resist taking this one role. She thanked "the thumbprints who have touched this being through the course of her career" in what proved to be one of the classiest acceptance speeches of the night.
Once again pulling off his signature move, Harris recapped the night with an original song. He brought along Audra MacDonald and her crystalline soprano to sing the chorus, too, which, as you'll see (and hear), is never, ever, a bad decision.