Hugh Jackman sang and danced. Neil Patrick Harris was charming. Someone made a John Travolta/Idina Menzel joke. The Tony Awards were nothing if not predictable on Sunday night, but there were still lots of great moments and impressive performances from the nominees. And one surprising rap. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:
* Hugh Jackman’s opening number.
Host Hugh Jackman hopped and hopped and hopped his way through the opening number (an homage to 1953 film “Small Town Girl”), meeting up with Neil Patrick Harris in an elevator — we were pretty sure it was going to be a Solange/Jay Z joke, but not so much. Then he hopped out on stage where Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Fantasia and the cast of “After Midnight” took over.
* That rap.
Speaking of Jackman, the eager-to-please host joined LL Cool J and T.I. for a rap version of “Rock Island” from “The Music Man.” Who else thought it worked surprisingly well? The audience appeared to love it judging by the amount of dancing. Afterwards, Jackman announced that his new rap nickname will be “Biggie Tap Shoes.”
* Audra McDonald’s historic win.
The actress made Tony history with her sixth acting win — the most of any actress ever — and the moment was epic, with huge applause and McDonald breaking down on stage crying. She thanked her parents for “disobeying the doctors’ orders” and not medicating her as a hyperactive child, and instead helping her channel energy when they realized she was interested in theater.
* “Aladdin” performance.
The cast of “Aladdin” made a splash early in the show with a dizzying performance of “Friend Like Me.” James Monroe Iglehart, who played the genie, led the charge in his dazzling blue costume. He was rewarded for his efforts in the show later with a win for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical.
* Neil Patrick Harris as “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
NPH reprised his role — he would win a trophy for it later in the show — wowing the crowd in full costume, along with his co-star Lena Hall. Quite the multi-tasker, he went into the audience and managed to give Sting a lap dance, seductively lick Samuel L. Jackson’s glasses and sit in Kevin Bacon’s lap.
* Lena Hall’s acceptance speech
Was there a more delightful speech than Lena Hall? The “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” actress and first-time Tony winner accepted the prize for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical, and was visibly trembling and shaking as she emotionally thanked her family. The second best part? Neil Patrick Harris’s thrilled expression as she gave him a shout-out.
* The John Travolta joke
Well of course there was going to be some mention of Travolta’s infamous flub of Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars. Jonathan Groff got the honors, mimicking Travolta (the “wicked-ly talented”) when he introduced the actress’s performance of “Always Starting Over” from “If/Then.” Obviously, he got her name right.
* Alan Cumming
The actor impressed everyone with his flawless, very shirtless performance from “Cabaret,” and caused Hugh Jackman to joke that he was a plus to the local economy, because “sales of nipple glitter are skyrocketing.”
* The “Rocky” number
Incorporating a wrestling ring into a musical number? No wonder it won the award for scenic design.
* Carole King
Does it get better than Carole King singing along with a musical based on her own songs? Probably not. She was easily the most excited person in the room when Jessie Mueller won best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical for “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”