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February 4, 2018 1:28 PM   Subscribe

The Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, otherwise known as the Tonys, have been awarded since 1947. The awards ceremonies have been televised since 1967 and are notable for their opening numbers, which reached an apotheosis between 2011 and 2013, when Neil Patrick Harris hosted for three successive years.

The 65th Tony Awards in 2011 featured Harris performing an original song, "It's Not Just for Gays Any More." With lyrics by The Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum and music by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, it set the standard for elaborate melodies and wordplay that seemingly only Harris could execute with minimal rehearsal time. (The shaky audience cameos by Stephen Colbert, Brooke Shields and Bobby Cannavale -- but not Al Pacino, deemed by Harris "way too famous to participate in this bit" -- demonstrated how hard it is to pull this kind of thing off.)

The 66th Tony Awards in 2012 began with the cast of The Book of Mormon reprising that show's opening number, followed by Harris performing another Javerbaum/Schlesinger original, "What If Life Were More Like Theater?" Patti LuPone, Amanda Seyfried and "understudy" Jesse Tyler Ferguson made appearances.

All of this was only prelude, however, for the epic 67th Tonys opening, which marked the ceremony's return to Radio City Music Hall. Beginning with Harris on stage with an acoustic guitar (an homage to Once), the opening number, Bigger — written this time by Next to Normal's Tom Kitt and national treasure Lin-Manuel Miranda (previously, previously, previously, et al.) — escalated to titanic proportions, eventually incorporating acrobats, urchins, a disappearing act, and Mike Tyson. Harris's rapid fire delivery of Miranda's proto-Hamiltonian lyrics beginning at the 5:46 mark set up an over-the-top finish, earning a rapturous standing ovation from a crowd of seasoned pros who presumably thought they had seen it all at that point. The 200-person production, which went off without a hitch, had not had a full run-through until a few hours before.
posted by How the runs scored (34 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
I got pointed to this video by following Lin-Manuel's twitter and it's just pure joy. (Both LMM's twitter and this particular video). Lin mentioned that they were all holding their breath when Neil had to jump through that hoop because the number would be "over". But he makes it, of course. It'd be interesting to peak into that alternate timeline to see how they handled that. Anyway it's a good video for when you need a pick me up, you just want to see talented people doing what they do best and loving it.
posted by bleep at 1:41 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


Anyway it's a good video for when you need a pick me up, you just want to see talented people doing what they do best and loving it.

Yes! It's in my rotation of videos 100% guaranteed to make me smile and feel better about the world.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 1:47 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Holy shit Neil Patrick Harris is phenomenal.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:02 PM on February 4 [21 favorites]


Definitely a favorite thing to watch! (Debra Messing has a great reaction toward the end).

See also: his 2014 Hedwig performance.
posted by Glinn at 2:12 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


I periodically go back and watch all of these on YouTube, because they're just so great.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:26 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Holy shit Neil Patrick Harris is phenomenal.

Yes, this is a long-established scientific fact. I'm glad you've finally come to realize it.
posted by hippybear at 2:42 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Holy shit. Live theatre (or recordings) just make me cry for some reason.

I'm so moved by this.

How incredibly amazing and wonderful. I need to go see more live theatre.

And loved the dig at taped Les Mis and how out of breath he was. Definitely live lol!
posted by sio42 at 2:46 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I love these videos, but my favorite video of "Bigger" was shot from inside the Production Truck, showing off just how bonkers the actual Broadcast part of the show can be
posted by WeX Majors at 2:52 PM on February 4 [22 favorites]


Also holy fuck why did that 2013 opening number just make me burst into tears? That was not expected.
posted by hippybear at 2:53 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


For those who may have been wondering at the time - this is why Neil Patrick Harris got the gig hosting the Oscars. The reason that his Oscar hosting stint pales in comparison is because of the writers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:55 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Oh - and equally fun are the closing-number raps that they did. Here's a fun video of Lin-Manuel Miranda writing one of them on the fly, during the ceremony, for Neal Patrick Harris to learn super-quick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:59 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


NPH's biography has fun stuff to say about all these numbers, including the anecdote that the "there's no sodomy required" line from the 2011 opener was definitely not approved—he was told to sing "same-sex love" instead—but he realized there was nothing anyone could actually do about it if he used the original lyric in the single, live performance.
posted by one for the books at 3:02 PM on February 4 [22 favorites]


Basically, Neil Patrick Harris is the God Of Everything and he is a god who sings and dances and is capable of doing anything on no matter how short the prep time is and Jeebus what do we all have to do to get him to do it all, all the time?
posted by hippybear at 3:04 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Him reading the rap LMM wrote and nailing it almost immediately was amazing. Such talent.
posted by sio42 at 3:11 PM on February 4


And that anecdote about the song lyric is awesome!

I'm so happy this all exists
posted by sio42 at 3:12 PM on February 4


Of all the awards shows that happen, the Tonys are the one that I find thrilling, because of the live performances. It's literally a showcase of the things that talented people are doing in a city across the country from me that I will never see but am always excited to have in my living room.

There was a time when the original cast of Spamalot and Christo's The Gates were happening at the same time, but I couldn't convince my husbear that this would be a great weekend in NYC.

I don't have many regrets but....
posted by hippybear at 3:15 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I just watched the hedwig video and now I want to stay up all night watching nph musical videos
posted by sio42 at 3:18 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


So, can anybody pinpoint precisely when, where, or how NPH escaped the box during "Bigger"?
posted by cheshyre at 3:41 PM on February 4


Imagine if Neil Patrick Harris and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were to work together.
posted by hippybear at 3:41 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


So, can anybody pinpoint precisely when, where, or how NPH escaped the box during "Bigger"?

It's Maaaaaagic! /Doug Henning
posted by hippybear at 3:42 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Also, not seeing NPH in the Broadway debut of Hedwig a major disappointment in my life. I'm glad we have at least one performance from the show captured via the Tonys. From everything I've heard, it was an entirely electrifying and stunning run.
posted by hippybear at 3:50 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Also holy fuck why did that 2013 opening number just make me burst into tears?

Does it to me every time! It's generally around when he says, "We were that kid!" but sometimes even before.
posted by merriment at 3:59 PM on February 4 [13 favorites]


I'm sad I missed that as well. Jumping around in those heels was a feat of daring do I didn't expect anyone to pull off so confidently.

How is he so sure of himself, mentally and physically to just exist like that? I'm in awe

Also I went down a youtube black hole that started with the Tony's and nph, went stage left to a duet with Wolverine, then hedwig, then ended up down the street with James Cordon and philharmonic a capella and nph, then linmanuel in a car with James cordon and they pick Audra Mcdonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Jane Krakowski
They do a bit of this a bit of that and then bust out one day more and they're all playing different parts and I'm just transported bc it's les mis, the best induction to crying ever, and they just go go and sing notes that car had never heard and I want yo be in that car. How can I get karaoke at work meetups to be that awesome?

I've got some work to do

I have a plan
It's a grand
Won't be just a flash in the pan
We'll knock em dead
You always said
We need lots of dough to make bread!

Exit stage left thanks stumbles and twists and ankle
posted by sio42 at 4:08 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


That Lin-Manuel Miranda episode of carpool karaoke reminded of being a choir/drama kid in high school. Singing on the bus to concerts, singing in stairwells, just building up this whole repertoire of broadway tunes. Just that pure love of the music and singing together.
posted by Orlop at 4:22 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


So, can anybody pinpoint precisely when, where, or how NPH escaped the box during "Bigger"?

I suspect that the stairs are a lot bigger on the inside.
posted by Tsuga at 5:05 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


So, can anybody pinpoint precisely when, where, or how NPH escaped the box during "Bigger"?

Easy, as the door closes <redacted by IMP (internet magic police)> but what's amazing is the ten second sprint around to the lobby and into the back of the house and keeping enough wind to continue singing. It does look like he took a couple steps to catch his breath. That was one fast gag!
posted by sammyo at 5:22 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


None of these ever get old. I read somewhere, maybe in NPH's autobiography, that when he sings "I just learned this dance like half an hour ago", that is actually true - in order to accommodate all the different casts, each group got one runthrough of their part of the act before showtime. Also that "it's Pippin!" was originally part of a longer rhyming couplet but even Neil can only run, jump through hoops, and sing so much at one time.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:26 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Ok, forget jumping through the hoop in that 2013 opener--my extreme trust issues had me nearly shrieking when he got boosted into a lift by the cheerleaders.
posted by TwoStride at 5:47 PM on February 4


This is so fantastic, thank you for putting this together, How the runs scored.

NPH holding it down year after year is truly amazing, but I especially love the end of “Bigger” for all the time that’s allowed (because of an audience of seasoned professionals losing their minds) to get quick shots of the backup cast. They’ve been doing 8 shows a week, learning these bits on the side, get one run-through, and manage not to trip over themselves or run into each other while singing and dancing, and I will never not be in awe of that.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:10 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


Imagine if Neil Patrick Harris and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were to work together.

My 2 major (age-imappropriate) crushes working together...I'm swooning like a teenager at the thought.

Thanks so much for this post and for the links in the comments. I've spent a happy hour in the YouTube rabbit hole. (Currently watching the amazing "Jackson 5" from the Motown musical and will search for clips of the originals shortly.)

Finally, can someone please explain the mechanics of the disappearing act. As talented as NPH is, I am sure he is as bound by the laws of physics as the rest of us are.
posted by she's not there at 10:30 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Oh, how I love that 2013 opening act. I discovered it through my then-craze for Hedwig and the Angry Inch (I loved the movie and the music continues to be in regular rotation on my playlist) and watching NPH in this number is sheer goddamn JOY. I either wind up laughing delightedly or weeping. Sometimes both. That man is a treasure.
posted by Nieshka at 10:47 PM on February 4


Look what I found—almost 8 minutes of NPH with JGL.

Enjoy.
posted by she's not there at 12:57 AM on February 5


I feel like this crowd probably already knows this factoid, but just in case - Adam Schlesinger is the Musical Producer for Crazy Ex Girlfriend. Spotify has a few of his demos on each season's soundtrack, and he is just magical.
posted by politikitty at 12:05 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Finally, can someone please explain the mechanics of the disappearing act.

There's a dramatization of the creation of that effect called The Prestige. It's worth watching. Good cast, too.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on February 7


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