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Stars, Surprises & Jesus Jokes: On the Scene at the 2011 Audience Choice Awards

Stars, Surprises & Jesus Jokes: On the Scene at the 2011 Audience Choice Awards
The scene on the press line at the Audience Choice Awards.
Stars made the scene at the 2011 Audience Awards.

It was an awards ceremony like no other: Broadway’s best gathered at the Allen Room in the Time-Warner Center on May 15 for the 2011 Audience Choice Awards. Arriving from their Sunday matinees, the stars were ready to celebrate this fan-choice event in a fast, fun-filled show hosted by Vanessa Williams. (For a complete list of winners, click here.)

An hour before the ceremony, VIP guests began walking the red carpet, with eventual winner John Larroquette (Favorite Onstage Pair and Favorite Funny Performance) sandwiched between Sister Act’s Sarah Bolt (nominated for Favorite Breakthrough Performance) and Favorite Actress winner Sutton Foster of Anything Goes. Gorgeous Sister Act star Patina Miller posed with Williams and chatted with reporters alongside Daniel Radcliffe (who welcomed the crowd and went on to win of Favorite Actor in a Musical and Favorite Onstage Pair).

The event brought a new level of visibility to a prize that stage actors have cherished for a decade. Rather than receiving their awards at an informal afternoon gathering or individually in their dressing rooms, 2011 nominees kicked off the spring awards season in style, mingling over cocktails with stunning views of Central Park in the background.

“We wanted to make these the relaxed awards, to celebrate the industry and give people a great night out,” said John Gore, CEO of Key Brand Entertainment, owner of “Tens of thousands of fans vote to support the shows they love, and we thought it was important for more people to know about the Audience Choice Awards.”

As guests took their seats for the ceremony on tiers of cocktail tables, a montage of acceptance speeches from past winners (including Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff, Patrick Wilson, Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth) played on large screens. Williams proved to be a witty host, joking about being the star of Desperate Housewives, “or, as you in the theater call it, Wednesday matinees,” and bragging that she was wearing a vintage dress from her Miss America days, circa 1984.

Former video blogger Jackie Hoffman was tapped to give acceptance speeches for any no-show. Alas, the fabulous Jackie only got to take the stage once, when Billie Joe Armstrong of American Idiot won for Favorite Replacement. Speaking “on behalf” of the Green Day rocker, she thanked Jesus, who also received a shout-out from Book of Mormon composer Robert Lopez (accepting the Favorite Song award for “I Believe”). Meanwhile Sister Act producer Beverley D. Mac Keen greeted the show’s Favorite Musical win by pondering, “God, you like me? Why don’t you like the other God musical?”

Williams and Hoffman were assisted by three pairs of presenters, all former winners who had unique connections: Sutton Foster and Gavin Creel enjoyed a Thoroughly Modern Millie reunion, followed by Audra McDonald and Sierra Boggess (once and future stars of Terrence McNally's Master Class) and In the Heights collaborators and pals Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo. Less than an hour later, 16 awards had been handed out, and guests headed home (or downstairs to Time-Warner Center bars and restaurants!) with individually boxed Magnolia cupcakes as a keepsake of a sweet night.

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