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Tonys 2012: THR Live-Blogs Broadway's Biggest Night

Tony Awards Neil Patrick Harris on stage - H 2012
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Get the play-by-play on Sunday's ceremony as Neil Patrick Harris returns to emcee, 'Once' battles 'Newsies' and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cynthia Nixon and other stars vie for awards. Plus: superproducer Scott Rudin is a contender for "Death of a Salesman."

8 p.m. Last year's winner, The Book of Mormon, opens the show with a number involving James Earl Jones and Judith Light and, naturally, host Neil Patrick Harris.

8:03 p.m. Harris cracks, "Welcome to the 66th Annual Tony Awards, or as we like to call it, 50 Shades of Gay." Ba-dum-dum.

8:07 p.m. NPH sings! He dances! He does it all! (Standard Billy Crystal-style opener.)

8:08 p.m. Patti LuPone comes out onstage mowing a lawnmower. That is all.

8:10 p.m. Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family makes a cameo, then disappears to make room for .. Little Orphan Annie? NPH gives her a stern lecture, then keeps singing and dancing and doing it all.

8:12 p.m. Paul Rudd announces the award for "best performance by an actress for a featured role in a play."

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8:13 p.m. And the Tony goes to Judith Light, who many of us know as Angela from Who's The Boss, for her role opposite Stockard Channing in Other Desert Cities. She declares: "I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in New York tonight!"

8:15 p.m. Nick Jonas, aka OMGNICKJONAS, introduces a performance of Newsies, which is nominated for best musical.

8:17 p.m. Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan leads a raucous gang of turn-of-the-century newsboys in a spirited scene from the Disney-backed show. The only thing missing is Christian Bale.

8:19 p.m. Don't they know print is dead?

8:25 p.m. Back from commercial! NPH is rattling off some ha-ha, not-so-funny combinations of titles of movies and plays, a la "My Left Footloose."

8:26 p.m. Amanda Seyfried, who portrays Cosette in the upcoming Broadway-to-big screen adaptation of Les Miserables, introduces the award for best actor in a musical. She is very pretty and shiny.

8:27 p.m. It's Michael McGrath! He stars opposite Kelli O'Hara in the Gershwin revival, Nice Work if You Can Get It.

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8:29 p.m. Bernadette Peters, one of the grand dames of the Great White Way (movie over, Patti), intros a performance from Stephen Sondheim's Follies, featuring co-star (and Tony nominee) Danny Burstein.

8:39 p.m. A scene from the new musical Ghost. Actress Caissie Levy (in the Demi Moore role) sings an uber-dramatic version of "Unchained Melody" with the guys who play Sam Wheat and Evil Carl, respectively. This just makes me want to see the movie instead.

8:42 p.m. And the award for best direction of a musical goes to -- drumroll -- John Tiffany for Once, the musical romance based on the 2007 indie romance of the same name. "Once is a story about when people believe in each other," quoth Tiffany.

8:44 p.m. Mike Nichols wins best direction of a play for the hit revival of Death of a Salesman featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman. "I got to do (Arthur Miller's) greatest play, and I got to do it with the cast from heaven," he says.

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8:46 p.m. Nichols gets choked up talking about the quality of the cast and crew.

8:47 p.m. Cue the "wrap it up, get off the stage" music, as Nichols observes: "The salesman has got to dream. it goes with the territory." Deep. Now cut to a shot of Nichols' wife, Diane Sawyer, who's choked up herself.

8:50 p.m. Oh, look! It's the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar, singing about Jesus and superstars and other related spiritual/retro rock-opera things. Flashback to our mother singing "I Don't Know How To Love Him" at the top of her voice.

8:57 p.m. NPH is hanging upside down from a rope, like Spider-Man! He remains in that position as Angela Lansbury and some dude talk about theater education. Funny!

8:59 p.m. Jessica Chastain, aka Next Year's Tony Winner for The Heiress, announces best actor in a featured role in a play.

9 p.m. It's Christian Borle, from Smash! He wins his first Tony for Peter and the Starcatcher, an imagining of the origins of Peter Pan. (Christian plays the Captain Hook-y character Black Stache.) As Chastain reveals his name, Andrew Garfield -- who was also up for the award for his role as Hoffman's son in Salesman -- clapped loudly with approval. Overcompensating, Spidey?

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9:02 p.m. Matthew Morrison, sporting some Glee hiatus stubble that would never been seen on Will Schuester, intros a performance from Nice Work If You Can Get It.

9:04 p.m. Matthew Broderick comes out onstage, and yes, he is genuinely talented with a winsome stage presence and velvety smooth voice. Alas, he got snubbed for an award.

9:11 p.m. And we're back! With James Marsden, who could easily compete in a Sharpest Cheekbone Contest with Hugh Jackman. It's still not clear why Marsden is presenting the award for best actress in a featured role in -- typing this is hard! -- a musical. Whew. WHAT'S HIS AGENDA?

9:12 p.m. Judy Kaye wins her second Tony for Nice Work As You Can Get It, where she had a "featured" (translation: supporting) role.

9:15 p.m. Ellen Barkin is onstage, doing that thing where she talks out of one side of her mouth and it looks sultry and cool. She introduces a scene from Starcatcher, with Borle as Black Stache.

9:18 p.m. Cue a montage of all the plays that we never got to see (and couldn't afford to see anyway!). But plays are good for the soul! Yay, the arts! Theater!

9:19 p.m. Actor James Corden gets big laughs for his uproarious performance in the farce One Man, Two Guvnors. If he doesn't win the Tony, then I demand a recount!

9:20 p.m. More montage-ing. Is this a wedding?

9:21 p.m. Tony nominee Tracie Bennetts does her best Judy Garland impression in a number from End of the Rainbow, the play in which she stars as the troubled icon. Grab the popcorn, we could watch this all night.

9:28 p.m. And we're back from an endless series of commercials with NPH singing a medley of songs from South Pacific and Light in the Piazza and Rent and other Broadway musicals. (If only he could break his contract with How I Met Your Mother .... .)

9:30 p.m. Sheryl Crow presents the award for best music and lyrics from a musical. Fun fact: Crow is writing the music-slash-lyrics for the upcoming B'way version of the film Diner, premiering this fall.

9:32 p.m. SHOCK: Alan Menken and Jack Feldman win best score for Newsies, the Disney flop-turned-beloved cult movie-turned-moneymaking musical.

9:34 p.m. YES: It's a scene from the lush adaptation of Porgy and Bess, starring the hypertalented, multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald. She's singing "Summertime."

9:37 p.m. Porgy co-star and Tony nominee David Alan Grier makes a cameo. The actor, perhaps best known for In Living Color, has gone fully Broadway of late, and was previously Tony-nominated for the 2009 play Race.

9:42 p.m. It's Tyler Perry, presenting the award for best rival of a play. I can't believe he did not ad lib, "Tyler Perry's Death of a Salesman."

9:43 p.m. As expected, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman wins the Tony. Producer Scott Rudin is onstage with Hoffman, Garfield and Nichols (recently interviewed by THR). "Thank you very much for this honor," he says, ecstatic as PSH beams with pride.

9:45 p.m. Josh Groban intros the weepie theme "Falling Slowly" from Once. Fun fact: that song previously won an Oscar for best song, transforming it from a coffeeshop ballad into a coffeeshop ballad with an Oscar.

9:47 p.m. Steve Kazee, who plays "Guy," is singing "Gold," my favorite song from the show. Kazee, nominated for a Tony for best actor in a musical, is a natural actor with the same roguish artiste vibe as Glen Hansgard, who starred in the movie.

9:50 p.m. Cut to a shot of Hangard and Once co-star (and ex-girlfriend) Marketa Irglova clapping in the audience. I'm wondering if they wish they were up there instead, although five years later, it's likely they want to move on from Once and win recognition for something else.

9:57 p.m. Back from commericial, NPH jokes: "While you were gone, Tyler Perry just sold out the entire season of Porgy and Madea."

9:58 p.m. Jim Parsons, currently on Broadway in the play Harvey, does an audience explainer of -- on a scale of serious to not serious -- Tony-nominated plays Clybourne Park, Other Desert Cities, Venus in Fur and Peter and the Starcatcher.

10:01 p.m. SHOCK PART TWO: Clybourne Park wins best original play! The show is a spinoff of A Raisin in the Sun, and had "Tony" written all over it with sober and powerful themes of race and gentrification.

10:04 p.m. Elena Roger and Ricky Martin, two actors snubbed for Tonys, perform "And The Money Kept Rolling In" from the popular Evita revival. Michael Cervervis, who plays Fascist leader Juan Peron, was the only actor nominated from the show. Make no mistake, people. Ricky was robbed. I repeat: Ricky was robbed.

10:14 p.m. Corbin Bleu, the former High School Musical star turned full-time celebrity Broadway mascot, leads a rounding performance from Godspell.

10:15 p.m. LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, aka Inigo Montoya (prepare to, you know), present the award for best revival of a musical with a medley of songs from -- wait for it -- musicals. Adorable!

10:16 p.m. SHOCK PART THREE: Porgy and Bess wins! Well-deserved, at that.

10:19 p.m. Harvey Fierstein walks out in an intertube (quirky!) to intro a scene from Hairspray, for which he won the Tony for his role as Edna Turnblad in the 2002 update of the musical.

10:30 p.m. Jackman's wife, Debora-Lee Furness, introduces his special Tony trophy for, basically, being an ambassador of all that is good and awesome on Broadway. "Hugh is being recognized for his extraordinary contributions to the Broadway community, both as a performer and a humanitarian," says Mrs. Jackman, sporting an elaborate display of pink feathers on her otherwise conservative black dress.

10:33 p.m. "I know how much you hate public speaking," Jackman, accepting his award, told his wife. "This is probably the greatest thing you have ever done for me." Big laughs there. A brave woman, that Debora-Lee Furness.

10:34 p.m. NPH jokes: "I just got terrible news that the cast of Hairspray has been taken over by pirates." Ba-dum-dum. THUD.

10:36 p.m. Kazee scores the Tony for best actor in a musical. "I want to say thank you to my cast and my beautiful leading lady (Cristin Milioti). ... This cast has held me up and made me feel alive." His mother lost her battle with cancer on Easter Sunday, he explains, dedicating his award to her.

10:37 p.m Milioti, who plays "Girl" in Once, gives a standing ovation.

10:39 p.m. In one of the night's biggest upsets, One Man, Two Guvnors' Corden scores the Tony for best actor in a leading role in a play. His competition: Phillip Seymour Hoffman; Frank Langella; John Lithgow and James Earl Jones. When Corden's name is announced, Jones looks genuinely shocked. (Yeah, James, we thought Phil would win too.)

10:40 p.m. In one of the night's most gracious speeches, Corden calls Hoffman his "favorite actor," saying: "There is no such thing as 'best.' Honestly, I am overwhelmed."

10:41 p.m. Cut to a performance from the musical Leap of Faith starring Raul Esparza. Flashbacks of earlier's Godspell singalong.

10:51 p.m. Captain von Trapp Christopher Plummer presents the award for best actress in a play to the radiant Nina Arianda of Venus in Fur, an erotic drama co-starring Hugh Dancy (snubbed). "Sir, you were my first crush! When that whistle was blown when you sounded the music, you made my day," she coos.

10:54 p.m. As the "get off the stage" music begins to play, Arianda scolds:  "I might not do this again! Hold on!"

10:55 p.m. BAM! In the span of under a minute, McDonald wins her 157th Tony -- this time around, for Porgy and Bess.

10:56 p.m. "The entire company, they're filled with light and soul and spirit -- they move me!" She also thanked her fiance, stage actor Will Smithson, for advising her to take the role.

11:01 p.m. Last year's Mormon winners, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, mocking pretentious theater people with faux lockjaw and fancy lapels, present the Tony Award for best musical to ....

11:03 p.m. ONCE! But we saw that coming, no?

11:05 p.m. NPH sings us out with an original song (about an awards show host perpetually being out of time) -- and a glass of what is apparently whiskey, Rat Pack-style.

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com