The 2009 Tony Awards

ABOVE: Hair producer Oskar Eustis accepts the award for Best Revival of a Musical with this: “Peace now, freedom now, and [indicating his ring finger] equality NOW. Justice forever!” That’s Mr. Broadway 2009, Anthony Hollock on the right.

What a strange beast was this year’s Tony Awards. The “most expensive opening ever” (above left) was indeed spectacular – but audio problems abounded. But hey, we did get to hear the sound of Bret Michaels’ head smacking into a lowering backdrop. (Yeah, I replayed that one a few times.) Neil Patrick Harris was an affable, if underutilized host, white knots were everywhere, Gavin Creel and the cast of Hair ripped the roof off Radio City (above right), and Alice Ripley gave the strangest, scariest, most pompous acceptance speech this side of Phylicia Rashad. The winners:

Best Musical – Billy Elliot
Best Actor in a Musical – David Alvarez, Kiril Kulish and Trent Kowalik, Billy Elliot
Best Actress in a Musical – Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
Best Revival of a Musical – Hair
Best Play – God of Carnage
Best Revival of a Play – The Norman Conquests
Best Actress in a Play – Marica Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Best Actor in a Play – Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Best Featured Actress in a Musical – Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Best Featured Actor in a Musical – Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot
Best Special Theatrical Event – Liza Minnelli, Liza’s at the Palace
Best Direction of a Musical – Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
Best Direction of a Play –Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
Best Original Score – Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (lyrics), Next to Normal
Best Featured Actress in a Play – Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Best Featured Actor in a Play – Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The show ran a few minutes long, meaning a lot of your DVRs didn’t catch what for me was the highlight of the entire production, Neil Patrick Harris’ hilarious musical recap of the evening. Amazingly, he was able to memorize lines about things that had only occurred minutes earlier. And major points to the song’s writers for acknowledging the over-the-top gayness that is the Tonys.