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

Neil Patrick Harris and Audra McDonald
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By Randee Dawn
It's Wolverine in tap shoes! Hugh Jackman barely breaks a sweat as host for the 68th Tony Awards.Theo Wargo / Today

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.")

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.

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

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."

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

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