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Fantasia Barrino, left, and Patti LaBelle arrive at the 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 8, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Audra McDonald, Bryan Cranston top Tonys
Winner » Neil Patrick Harris takes home best actor in a musical after years of handing out the awards to others.
First Published Jun 08 2014 10:15 pm • Last Updated Jun 08 2014 10:15 pm

New York • A Broadway veteran, a newbie and a former host made history Sunday at the Tony Awards.

Audra McDonald became the show’s most decorated actress, while Bryan Cranston won a best actor trophy for his Broadway debut. Neil Patrick Harris took home best actor in a musical after years of handing out the awards to others.

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McDonald won her sixth Tony for portraying Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill," putting her ahead of five-time winners Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris for the most competitive wins by an actress. Among those she thanked were her parents for not medicating their hyperactive child.

The latest win — for best lead actress in a play — also makes McDonald the first grand-slam performance winner. She previously won as best featured actress in a play ("A Raisin in the Sun" and "Master Class"), best lead actress in a musical ("The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess") and best featured actress in a musical ("Ragtime" and "Carousel").

Cranston — in a role far from TV’s chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White in "Breaking Bad" — won the best lead actor for playing former President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s "All the Way," which also was crowned best play.

Hugh Jackman kicked off the show with a bounce, hopping up and down like a kangaroo during his opening number Sunday. Big, high-kicking musical numbers from "After Midnight," ‘’Aladdin," ‘’Rocky" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" kept the energy level up but no clear overall winning show had yet emerged.

The bearded Australian, back as host after a nine-year absence, greeted many of the night’s featured performers as he cheerfully bounded past them backstage. He then joined the cast of the musical "After Midnight" for a rousing rendition of "It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing)." He later rapped with LL Cool J and T.I. to a reworked song from "The Music Man."

The first award of the night was for best featured actor in a play and it went to Mark Rylance, who won his third Tony for playing the countess Olivia in "Twelfth Night." Rylance, who previously won for "Jerusalem" and "Boeing-Boeing," is also nominated for best lead actor honors for his evil title character in "Richard III."

The best featured actress in a musical Tony went to Lena Hall in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," playing a woman who dresses as a man and plays Harris’ boyfriend. Hall wished her dad a happy birthday and gave a shout-out to her soon-to-be-born niece. "Friendship is magic," she said. The show later won for best musical revival.

Harris performed a song from the show, looking unrecognizable in a miniskirt and blond feathered wig. He gave an audience member a lap dance and took Samuel L. Jackson’s glasses away and licked them. Another highlight was songwriter Carole King singing with the cast of the show based on her early years — "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical."


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Darko Tresnjak won for directing the musical "A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder" and thanked his mother, a skydiver during World War II now too frail to be there. The musical also won for best book of a musical and costumes for a musical. Away from the cameras, the now-closed musical "The Bridges of Madison County" won for best score and best orchestration.

Kenny Leon won his first Tony for directing the revival of "A Raisin in the Sun." He thanked, among other, his star Denzel Washington, and the women in his life. He even managed to plug his next work, "Holler If Ya Hear Me."

One of his "Raisin" stars, Sophie Okonedo, won for best featured actress in a play. "I am loving it on Broadway," she said. She thanked producer Scott Rudin for believing that a "Jewish, Nigerian Brit" could play the iconic role of Ruth Younger. The show also won best play revival.

James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the manic Genie in "Aladdin," won for best featured actor in a musical and could barely contain his glee as he thanked a long list of people that included God and his wife.



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