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.
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 in a play Tony 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.”