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Neil Patrick Harris, Audra McDonald win big at celeb-filled Tonys

Theo Wargo / Today
It's Wolverine in tap shoes! Hugh Jackman barely breaks a sweat as host for the 68th Tony Awards.

Broadway veterans and newcomers alike earned prizes for their performances on the Great White Way on Sunday night at the 68th annual Tony Awards, held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Audra McDonald became the record-holder for most regular acting Tony Awards by an actress, picking up a sixth prize for her performance as Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill." (Julie Harris also has six awards, but one of them is a special lifetime achievement award.)

Meanwhile, two TV vets picked up lead actor prizes: Neil Patrick Harris won in the musical category for playing the title transsexual in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," and Bryan Cranston won in the play category for his first-ever Broadway performance in "All the Way," in which he plays President Lyndon B. Johnson. Cranston's play and Harris' musical went on to win Tonys in their own rights later in the evening.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," the most-nominated show of the season, won for best musical.

The Hollywood theme of the evening was set early on, with host Hugh Jackman hopping from the red carpet onto the stage while passing by luminaries including Sting, Clint Eastwood and Neil Patrick Harris. He noted that the Tonys are "the only place you can see 'Rocky' on Broadway, Bryan Cranston in the Oval Office and Wolverine in tap shoes." Later, Jackman proved he's up for anything by rapping the opening number to "The Music Man" while flanked by LL Cool J and T.I. (Jackman's new rap name? "Biggie Tap Shoes.")

First Hip Hop performance on #thetonyawards w/ @troubleman31 @thehughjackman

A photo posted by llcoolj (@llcoolj) on

But being a celebrity is no guarantee for attention on Broadway's biggest night, and early on prizes in the 26 categories stayed largely within the stage community:

Mark Rylance took home the first prize of the night, as featured actor in a play, Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," while featured actress in a musical went to a breathless Lena Hall from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." And Jessie Mueller won for her lead role as Carole King in "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical," an award she was able to accept while the real-life singer/songwriter watched on from the audience.

Theo Wargo / Today
Audra McDonald has now surpassed Angela Lansbury in Tony Award wins.

James Monroe Iglehart's robust performance as the genie in "Aladdin" earned him a prize for featured actor in a musical. Directing Tonys went to Darko Tresnjak ("A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder") and Kenny Leon ("A Raisin in the Sun").

But Oscar nominee ("Hotel Rwanda") and self-described "Jewish Nigerian Brit" Sophie Okonedo earned a Tony for her featured actress in a play role in "A Raisin in the Sun," setting the stage for more Hollywood actors to break through later in the evening. "Raisin" also won for best revival of a play.

Amid all of the award presentations were samples of some of the Great White Way's show-stopping numbers from productions like "After Midnight," "If/Then," "Aladdin," "Cabaret" and "Les Miserables."

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    The 2014 Tony Awards

    Hugh Jackman kept things moving at the 68th annual awards program, billed as "Broadway's biggest night."

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    Get the party started -

    Hugh Jackman kicked off the 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York on June 8, 2014 with an enthusiastic hopping number from red carpet to stage, then still had enough energy to jump into a song-and-dance number.

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    Lady in red -

    The wickedly good Idina Menzel stood out on the red carpet and on stage; she was nominated for her performance in "If/Then."

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  • Image: Fran Drescher arrives for the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York

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    Wish come true -

    Fran Drescher was around to help present at the Tony Awards, and currently appears on Broadway in "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella."

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    Not pottering around -

    Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke were on hand to support his play "The Cripple of Inishmaan," which was nominated for a Tony Award.

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    Winner by a mile -

    Lena Hall was clearly emotionally moved as she accepted the award for best performance by an actress in a feature role in a musical for "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

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    Best friends forever -

    James Monroe Iglehart (with Adam Jacobs as Aladdin) won a Tony for his expansive performance as the genie in "Aladdin," and performed "Friend Like Me" from the musical during the Tony Awards.

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    Inching along -

    Actor and past Tony host Neil Patrick Harris performed a song from his current Broadway musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," and won a Tony for his lead role in the musical.

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  • Image: The cast of Les Miserables performs during the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York

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    Can you hear me now? -

    The cast of "Les Miserables" performed "Do You Hear the People Sing" during the Tony Awards; the musical was nominated for best revival.

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    Eye of the tiger -

    Andy Karl and the cast of "Rocky" performed onstage during the Tony Awards; the musical was nominated for five awards.

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    What a welcome! -

    Alan Cumming reprised his role in "Cabaret" and performed with his "beautiful" orchestra at the Tonys; the play was nominated for two Tonys. Cumming won a Tony for his original incarnation of the role in 1998.

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    Breaking Broadway -

    Bryan Cranston won his first Tony Award for his lead performance as President Lyndon B. Johnson in "All the Way."

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    Making history -

    Audra McDonald accepted the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play for "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill." The prize was her sixth, which set a new record for most straight acting roles won by an actress on Broadway.

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  • Image: Jennie Barber and Christine Dwyer perform a scene from "Wicked" during the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York

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    Wicked good -

    Jennie Barber (l.) and Christine Dwyer performed "For Good" from "Wicked," which was celebrating its 10th anniversary on Broadway, during the Tonys.

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  • Image: The cast and crew of "A Raisin in the Sun" accept the Award for Best Revival of a Play during the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York

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    Sun shines -

    "A Raisin in the Sun" earned a Tony for best revival of a play at the Tonys.

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    Music men -

    T.I., Hugh Jackman and LL Cool J launched into a rap version of a tune from the classic musical "The Music Man," and afterwrad Jackman joked that he now had a new rap name: "Biggie Tap Shoes."

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    Near and far -

    Sophie Okonedo, who described herself as a "Jewish Nigerian Brit," accepted an award for her featured role in "A Raisin in the Sun" at the Tonys.

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  • Image: Jessie Mueller and Carole King perform during the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York

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    Making beautiful music -

    Jessie Mueller won for her performance in "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical," in which she played the singer/songwriter -- and earlier in the show, got a chance to sing with the real-life King.

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  • Image: Sutton Foster performs with the cast of "Violet" during the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York

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    Making her way -

    Sutton Foster may not have won a Tony on Sunday, but her performance with the cast of "Violet" was certainly one of the evening's best.

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    Gentlemen prefer awards -

    The production with the most nominations this season, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" took home the best musical Tony for the night.

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    All together now -

    Hugh Jackman invited all of the Tony Award winners from the night on stage to bid the audience farewell after a lively, exciting evening.

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