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Tony Awards Recap: From Red Carpet to ‘The Book of Mormon’ Sweep

Andrew Rannells and the cast of 'The Book of Mormon' performs on stage during the 65th Annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre on June 12. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Andrew Rannells and the cast of ‘The Book of Mormon’ performs on stage during the 65th Annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre on June 12. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)

By Jim Taylor – Congrats to ‘The Book of Mormon’. I lost count just how many Tony’s the outrageous show earned last night.

Just as we knew it would be, the Mark Rylance acceptance speech for best actor in ‘Jerusalem’ was without question the moment of the evening: A poem. About walking through walls. Repeating his weirdness of three years ago, Rylance going completely off subject. What an endearing fellow. What a fine actor. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back. To the beginning of Sunday evening on the upper west side.

Love that red carpet.

Just a couple of thoughts about those moments before the 65th annual Tony Awards. Perfect gentleman Mark Rylance showing off his lovely wife and his lovely earring. And Vanessa Redgrave showing off an aura that only the great ones have. She’s got it. Always has. An almost heavenly nimbus around her. Aside from that: I have it on good authority the fabled red carpet is actually rented. And it was rolled out on a sidewalk a block and half from the legendary Beacon Theatre. Just thought you should know. So…..oh look, the show’s starting…

Neil Patrick Harris with a bright and lively introductory number dedicated to Broadway: ‘It’s not just for Gays Anymore’. Which just about says it all. Lot’s of tongue-in-cheek. Oh that Brooke Shields…blowing her lines. Ummmm her line. Anyway, on with the show:

First presenter Alec Baldwin. Handed out the Tony for best female in a featured role to Ellen Barkin. For her memorable performance in ‘The Normal Heart’. She croaked out her acceptance speech in a very humble manner, calling her performance the most important role of her career. “This is for you”, she yelled out to playwright Larry Kramer, “and for all the bullets in your belt”.

And then John Benjamin Hickey’s heartfelt acceptance, picking up the Tony for best male in a featured role for his performance also in ‘The Normal Heart’.

You could see a trend coming. An hour or so later, ‘The Normal Heart’ picking up a Tony for best revival of a play. Larry Kramer proudly telling gays in the crowd: “Our day will come”.

Nice song and dance from the ‘How to Succeed group. And then John Leguizamo doing a sell job for his one man show

Another swell song and dance from ‘Catch Me if You Can’. Which blew away the ‘How to Succeed…’ group. Norbert Leo Butz reminded us why we’d see anything he’s in. God what a talent. No wonder later in the evening he nailed the Tony for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical.

Spiderman not nominated of course. But that didn’t stop a slew of jokes about the show. Seven of them in 30 seconds from host Neil Patrick Harris. (“It’s the only show on broadway where the cast…is really in casts…”)

David Hyde Pierce delivering the Tony for best musical to the South Park boys for ‘The Book of Mormon’. Best direction for a play: the Brits behind ‘Warhorse’.

Best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical handed out to newcomer Nikki M. James in ‘The Book of Mormon’. What an emotional acceptance speech. That included some babble about bumble bees.

And then. Stephen Colbert. Who was not particularly funny. Simply introducing the song ‘I Believe’ From ‘The Book of Mormon’. For the second time of the night: the f-word creeping into the show, Though i’m sure it got bleeped from the air. The song sure served to remind what a funny show it is. Deserving of what was still to come.

Still don’t know quite what to make of the duet from Neil Patrick Harris and former Tony host Hugh Jackman. Except they seemed to be having a real good time.

Then a high point from Brooke Shields. Apologizing for her earlier f-up. By using the f-word.

John Larroquette wins best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical. Nice words for his un-nominated co-star Daniel Radcliffe, without whom he acknowledged he would have been home Sunday home watching. In his underwear.

Very cool couple of moments from cool dudes Bono and The Edge. Till they introduced a number from the not-nominated ‘Spiderman’. Zzzzzzz.

Robin Williams said something funny about Moammar Qaddafi before opening the envelope proclaiming the winners for Best Book of a musical. Again ‘The Book of Mormon’. For such funny guys, the ‘South Park’ guys sure don’t sparkle much do they?

Whoa. Let’s stop right now and give some kind of wardrobe award to Whoopi Goldberg for whatever it was she was wearing.

It came from London as the favorite to win the Tony for best play this year. And it held on. Thanks to a heartwarming story and groundbreaking puppetry from the folks at Handspring. Their work so exemplary.

At this point in the evening if I’m counting correctly it’s seven Tony’s for the Mormons but the Book comes up empty in three other categories.

Best un-nominated presence of the evening: James Earl Jones. Could he play God or what? Was Christie Brinkley channeling Loni Anderson? or Jayne Mansfield?

On behalf of her fellow cast members of ‘Good People’, Francis McDormand accepted the Tony for best actress in a leading role in a play. Wearing a blue jean jacket, showing her rock and roll stripes, McDormand noted the last time she was in the Beacon Theatre, Greg Allman was on stage recovering from his liver transplant. That was followed by the effervescent Sutton Foster, accepting for best actress in a leading role in a musical. Loved the tearful goodbye to her dresser.

Chris Rock…rocked. Noting that he missed the best basketball game of all time to hang out with Nathan Lane, he showed up to hand out the big Tony of the night: for best musical. Waiting for which he pointed out was a waste of time. Like taking a hooker to dinner he said. Yep, ‘The Book of Mormon’, the big winner.

The wrap up rap from Neil Patrick Harris a gallant try.

See you next year for the 66th.

WCBS 880′s Jim Taylor shares his thoughts on Broadway and the 2011 Tony Awards.