From the moment Neil Patrick Harris uttered his first line as host of the 2011 Tony Awards, “Good evening. I’m teen heartthrob Neil Patrick Harris,” the tone was set for a seriously speedy and side-splitting awards show. From the opening number to the finale rap, the evening flew by as the popular song-and-dance man broke out his comedy guns for Broadway's big night. In case you missed them, we took it from the top and picked out our five favorite moments from Harris’ hosting duties.
1. Broadway: It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore!
Harris got the 2011 telecast off to a hilarious start with the opening musical number “Broadway: It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore!” Backed by badass ensemble members from current Broadway shows (nuns, stewardesses, Mormons and sailors), Harris declared: “It’s not just for gays, the gays and the Jews/The cousins in from out of town you have to amuse.” He invited straight people to “come in and be inspired, there’s no sodomy required!” Heading into the audience to get musical help from Stephen Colbert, Bobby Cannavale and Brooke Shields, Harris thought better of enlisting an Oscar winner on the front row: “Al Pacino! You’re way too famous to participate in this bit.” When the awesomely over-the-top production number, written by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger, came to a close, Harris summed it up in the only way possible: “So…there’s that.”
2. Tony Host Showdown: Neil Patrick Harris vs. Hugh Jackman
In an “only on Broadway” moment, Harris went head-to-head with former host and Tony winner Hugh Jackman in a sing-and dance-off. In a game of Broadway-style one-upmanship, the duo performed lyrics like, “Any show you can host I can host better” and “You’re the top/You’re the War Horse pony” before breaking out into full-on Chorus Line choreography and more. We’ll call the showdown a draw, though Harris did seem a bit more winded than Jackman as they took their bows. At least he was the first to admit it. “That was tough!” he cried. “Now I know why you’re all six-packy.”
3. Wrap-up Rap
He sang. He danced. He joked. And before the night was over, Harris broke out a talent Broadway had never seen before: rapping. With the lyrical genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda on his side, the host delivered a wrap-up rap so new the ink wasn't yet dry on the teleprompter, including everything from the night’s biggest successes (“It takes a lot for a recipient to humble me but everybody cried for gorgeous Nikki James, the bumblebee”) to the most well-publicized Tony snubs (“Daniel Radcliffe kicked some butt, and we were so elated. Even Voldemort was sad he wasn’t nominated.”) Read the entire rap here, and take Harris’ last words to heart: “What’s next? Who knows? Anything goes. Now go see a mother____ Broadway show. Thank you, good night.” We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
4. 30 Seconds of Spider-Man
In a bit that surely sent Broadway.com drinking game players into rehab, Harris spent half a minute getting the night's obligatory Spider-Man jokes out of his system. “It’s such a big story, I need to do something… so let’s put 30 seconds on the clock,” Harris said. His zingers included "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lawsuits"; "Spider-Man, where the only thing not falling are the ticket prices"; “Julie Taymor found out it was over when she woke up with the head of War Horse in her bed,” and, “Spider-Man: Turn of The Daaaaaaaaaark,” before time ran out. Time or no, Harris couldn’t resist getting in one final dig: “I sent Bono a congratulatory cable…but it snapped.”
5. Company Command Performance
Harris took a brief hiatus from his hosting duties and stepped out on stage sans tuxedo to reprise his role as Bobby in Company, leading the cast of the famously starry concert version of the show, which played four performances with the New York Philharmonic in April. Harris and his co-stars, including two-time Tony winners Patti LuPone (also a 2011 nominee) and Katie Finneran, were joined by TV stars including Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks and Jon Cryer to show off their best step-ball-changes in "Side by Side" from the classic Sondheim show. Good looks and talent too? It hardly seems fair.