The Tony Awards scrambled to find its host this year, eventually landing on Kevin Spacey, and that was the theme of the game but nervous opening of the CBS telecast. Awards shows can’t shake the obligation to do an opening number, it seems, so Spacey showed up with a cast on his arm a la Ben Platt as the title character in “Dear Evan Hansen” (the favorite for the best musical award later tonight). And he started singing.
“I know they loved James Corden, but I’ll show I came to play,” Spacey sang.
The best bit was when a stagehand switched the cast to Spacey’s leg as Spacey moved into a song from “Groundhog Day,” an in-joke about star Andy Karl’s ankle injury as the musical opened. But the hosting anxiety was quickly worked thin, even with Stephen Colbert popping out from under a giant groundhog mask, Whoopi Goldberg dispensing advice from a closet and Billy Crystal cracking wise about Milton Berle on video.
How desperate was it? Spacey ended up in a “Sunset Boulevard” gown as Norma Desmond (cut to Glenn Close, Broadway’s Norma two decades ago and now, laughing). Knocking off the lyrics to the show’s “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” Spacey sang, “As if they never asked those other guys.”
Ah, well. Now on with the show! The ebullient feel-good musical that was at Washington, D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre last fall, “Come From Away,” got the first number and was infectiously energetic; that’s the kind of thing that will have to carry the night.