The widely acclaimed first Broadway production of Larry Kramer's classic The Normal Heart took three honors during the incredibly entertaining 65th Tony Awards ceremony, hosted by a spirited Neil Patrick Harris, who set the tone for the evening with his witty opening number by declaring, "Broadway ... it's not just for gays anymore!"
The Normal Heart, which was first produced off-Broadway in 1985, made its official Broadway debut this spring, and chronicles the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Heart also won awards for Ellen Barkin (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play) and John Benjamin Hickey (Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play).
The often irascible Kramer gave a heartfelt, though uncharacteristically subdued, speech when he accepted (along with producer Daryl Roth) the award for Best Revival. "To gay people everywhere, whom I love so dearly, The Normal Heart is our history," Kramer said. "I could not have written it had not so many needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people, an exceptional people, and that our day will come."
Actress Tyne Daly paid tribute to famed writer Arthur Laurents before introducing the In Memoriam reel, which remembered Broadway veterans who died during the past year, including Elizabeth Taylor and Lanford Wilson.
The evening's big winner, as predicted, was The Book of Mormon, the gleefully vulgar musical comedy about missionaries in AIDS-ravaged Africa, which won nine awards, including Best Musical.
Presenter Robin Williams, sporting a gray beard for his role in Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo, was perhaps referring back to Harris's opening number when he cracked, "This is an incredible room. The only beard here is on my face."
From his opening tune through his freestyle rap that closed the show, Harris proved to be an engaging host. A highlight was his comical one-upmanship number opposite former Tonys host Hugh Jackman, sung to the tune of several Broadway standards.
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