The 2011 Tony Awards Were Really Gay, Kinda Awesome

The Tonys are the perfect award show because there’s singing and dancing and it’s too gay to function. It’s a little bit about the awards, but it’s mostly about the performances.

Like any good non-New Yorker theater fan, I set aside a night to watch the Tony Awards every year, and I have to say, this was my favorite in recent memory. Yes, “Spider-man” was boring, “Memphis” was unnecessary, and Chris Rock needed to stop, but whatevs. There were a lot of great things that happened, too, especially if you like men’s choruses, which I do but for reasons which would not be appropriate to this situation.

Neil Patrick Harris was totally charming as the host. Everyone knew he was there to sing, and he did.

This year’s opening number was called “(Broadway Is) Not Just For Gays Anymore,” although a more appropriate titled might be “Not Just For Gay Men Anymore.” Not even Brooke Shields could ruin it.

This is one of those times when it’s important to separate the “G” from “LGBTetc.” Let’s be real: Out Lesbians, bisexuals, and trans* people haven’t been as visible both in scripts and behind-the-scenes, historically speaking, as the gay men. The Tonys were mostly for guys this year too, except for “Sister Act.” It’s not that the stories they’re telling are unimportant; they were just predominantly male-driven.

BUT I DIGRESS. Another topic for another day.

Neil Patrick Harris sang a duet with Hugh Jackman, who’s hosted the awards before and also was in “Oklahoma!” many moons ago in a far off place. In a night of gay things, this song may have been The Gayest of The Things. And “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” performed, so that’s saying something.


Neil Patrick Harris was also a part of this random performance from “Company” that had a bunch of famous people in it, including Christina Hendricks. For like, half a second, it looks like there’s a lesbian couple! But there’s not, DON’T WORRY.

Eve Ensler was given the Isabelle Stevenson Award for “The Vagina Monologues” and for founding V-Day, which is kind of a big deal but they didn’t even mention it on TV.

In other news, Sutton Foster is the perfect human.

She won for Best Leading Actress in a musical for “Anything Goes” and for being awesome. Seriously, watch her tap dance (and then stand awkwardly at the front of the stage for a verse) and then mix/belt her face off. Woah.

This is how a dream comes true. Also, like she did in her first Tony acceptance speech, she gushed about her dresser. Guys, I teared up. It was great.

But the real star of the night was Frances McDormand, who won for Best Leading Actress in a Play for “Good People” and accepted the award looking like she just got off the subway. She’s my hero. She and Mark Rylance because who recites a poem instead of thanking people? Badasses, that’s who.

The other great speech of the night was Nikki M. James, who won Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “Book of Mormon” (over Patti LuPone!). She looked gorgeous and cried and refused to leave the stage when they told her to wrap it up.

Much to no one’s surprise, “Book of Mormon” cleaned up with nine awards, including Best Musical.

Like it’s closest relatives, “The Producers” and “Avenue Q,” it’s meant to be offensive, but here’s the thing: It’s really great that this won. The past decade or so of Broadway has become less and less original and more and more based on movies. People don’t want to invest in something they aren’t sure of, so if they have a choice between “Rocky” the musical and something unknown, “Rocky” will win every time.

“Mormon” has a lot going for it: catchy music, an irreverent story, and most importantly, a well-known creative team. Honestly, “South Park” is probably what gave the show the boost it needed to succeed. But the story is original and smart and funny, and that’s what American musical theater has traditionally been. It’s a nice change.

Daniel Radcliffe performed with “How To Succeed Without Really Trying” or “How To Succeed On Broadway Without Being a Broadway-Caliber Singer.” I know a lot of people liked it, but I was not one of those people. Harry Potter, I love you, but you’re not a good enough singer for that role. I’m not apologizing.

I don’t know very much about the plays this year, to be honest. “War Horse” won five awards, including Best Play and also has a giant puppet of a horse that looks like something from “Lion King.”

The other big winner among the plays was “Normal Heart,” which won Best Revival, Beat Leading Actor in a Play and Best Leading Actress. It’s about the AIDS pandemic’s effect on the gay community and is really heartbreaking. You should at least read it, I am thinking.

The show closed with Neil Patrick Harris doing a freestyle rap that made me miss “In The Heights” and Lin Manuel Miranda. It was a run-down of the awards, but the end was pretty relevant.
























You can find a complete list of the winners here.

So what do you think? Were you OK with how everything went down? Were you following Gavin Creel‘s drunk tweets? I heard there was also basketball on last night, but that must’ve been on a different channel.

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Intern Grace

Grace Ellis has been writing and making hack-job graphics for Autostraddle since 2011 and is a co-creator and co-writer of the comic book series Lumberjanes. She is mostly an intern in name only. (Mostly.) She lives in Columbus, Ohio because why anything. Also, she wants to write the Black Widow movie and feels like if she just keeps telling people, eventually she will be allowed to do it. She has a Twitter and a Tumblr, both of which are pretty above average.

Grace has written 89 articles for us.


  1. Grace, it’s possible this is the first real article you wrote and it’s about BROADWAY BROADWAY BROADWAY! What i’m saying is we should be friends ASAP.

  2. I’m pretty sure the performance from Company wasn’t totally random, but to showcase the NY Philharmonic’s production from earlier this year. They did the same thing a few years back with Off-Broadway productions that weren’t eligible for awards, as well as already closed shows once upon a time.

    • You’re right on all counts, of course. And it was a good performance, and I’m glad it was a part of the show. It just felt a little out of place? Just because it was suddenly Sondheim in the middle of mostly uncomplicated new music and because NPH was singing the lead for like the 12th time that night. I liked it, though.

    • This was definitely my favorite TONY’s in recent history. I love how they opened with a number about how Broadway isn’t just for the gays, but then the TONY’s proceeded to be the gayest TONY’s ever.
      And because I can’t really brag about this anywhere else, I work for the theatre company that did Anything Goes and we had a big TONY’s party. Sutton Foster showed up after the awards and I totally got my picture taken with her. She was super sweet and adorable. And a lot taller then I expected. While I didn’t much care for the show overall, I am really glad she won.

      • i met sutton foster at the fred and adele astaire awards earlier this year (i was working) and i was super excited because when i saw anything goes my number one feeling was “i’d like to marry sutton foster”
        (of course i acted totally cool (awkward and like i just learned to walk) when i met her)
        so anyway i’m glad she won.

  3. Loved NPH (like always), loved Sutton Foster, loved the Harris/Jackman duet, and I didn’t even know Daniel Radcliffe could sing even a little, so my reaction to him was more of a “woah! he’s singing?” I generally don’t care about who’s winning what, the performances are why I watch (the closest I’ll get to seeing the actual shows since I am broke and live in the middle of nowhere).

    Wish I could see: Book of Mormon, Anything Goes, and Normal Heart.

  4. I liked the Tony Awards. When NPH was rapping at the end, I could feel Lin-Manuel Miranda in it. I loved In The Heights! I’ll be waiting for those shows to tour in Toronto. Still hoping for a non-equity ITH tour to come to Toronto.

    The Spiderman “If This World Should End” performance ripped off We Will Rock You’s “Who Wants To Live Forever”. Starry background, love song, kiss at the end. Unless that is a stereotypical theatre scene.

    Where was Cheno???

  5. Pingback: Vulture’s Behind-the-Scenes Timeline of the Tonys (and the After-Parties) – New York Magazine | Real Digital News

    • i’m not allowed to watch the mavs play or they’ll lose. but i was busy driving and didnt even get to watch all teh gayness :(

  6. Pingback: Vulture’s Behind-the-Scenes Timeline of the Tonys (and the After-Parties) – New York Magazine | Bistro Press

  7. The Tonys were so predictable. The Scottsboro Boys should have taken home most of the awards, but we all knew that The Book of Mormon would sweep the boards. My only *shock* was Featured Actor and Actress in a Musical. I don’t even remember who was nominated for actor, but I did not expect Laroquette, and while I wasn’t surprised that Nikki M. James won, Laura Benanti deserved that. Oh, and Norbert Leo Butz. He’s an amazing actor, but that role was tiny and should have been supporting. I feel bad for Aaron Tveit, who truly was the leading man in the show.


  8. OMG the HORSE PUPPETS were OH MY GOD UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! The Lion King puppets were fantastic but you couldn’t RIDE THEM for gosh sakes. Blew me away!

  9. I see your [tos] reference there. Nicely played.

    I was only half paying attention to the Tonys last night, because I haven’t seen any of the shows this year so I didn’t really care who won. My favorite parts were the opening number and NPH & Hugh Jackman’s duet. And the performance from “Anything Goes” because I love tap dancing & Sutton Foster. The “Company” performance was pretty badass too. Seriously, Martha Plimpton. Oh and also Whoopi’s hat/entire outfit. WTF.

    And that concludes my Tony rundown.

  10. Oh and the rap at the end – I didn’t see that until just now on YT because I went to bed before the show was over but I LOVE LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA. He is amazing.

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  12. God I love NPH.

    Also, has anyone seen War Horse in New York? Because I saw it in London about two years ago and it was not Best Play level good. Technically it was really, really good and very creative. The puppets were mind-blowing. But I don’t remember the script or the acting being all that great. The narrative was also a little meandering. I won’t say anything about the acting, because that’s always different, but just curious if someone else had a different impression in New York.

    • I haven’t seen it but the people I know who have seen it said the exact same thing.

    • I saw it. The technical bits were incredible and evocative, but the script wasn’t really all that. The acting was good, but it wasn’t best play material, in my opinion. I’ve seen a couple others this year that were better, like “Jerusalem,” which had flaws, but had a wonderful script and great actors.

    • I know you asked about New York, but I saw it in London last November and loved it. I really didn’t care at all about the human characters, now that I think about it. The actors who worked the puppets blew me away though. The horses were so mesmerizing. I also really enjoyed the music.

    • I agree. But I think its level of production deserves an award, because the puppetry really is amazing (I too saw it in London and from what I hear it was actually a bit better there – perhaps due to the space? Space can mean so much) and the horses are so believable.

      I was sort of an advocate of Jerusalem for best play (also saw that in London…) but it’s true that it was really “the Mark Rylance show” – and he won for himself, so that makes sense.

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  14. I was rooting for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo but then I realized it wasn’t even nominated. I guess I just assumed it was nominated because it was amazing (plus a Pulitzer finalist, don’t those usually get Tony nominated?).

    Anyway did anyone else find the TV-friendly title “The Mother With the Hat” absolutely hilarious?

  15. I missed the tonys because my gf turned on her baseball game and then I forgot to change it. uhg.

    Anyway, I am very thankful for youtube and this recap.

    I figured Book of Mormon would sweep everything and it did.

    Sutton foster is a delightful and quirky person in person, which makes her flawless performances all the more impressive.

    I love it when Broadway is on the tv. It makes me feel like more people like it than just me.

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  18. I love the Tonys.
    My parents did not appreciate the opening number, so I was trying not to smile looking like an idiot too much while watching it, but I did anyways. xD (And I found out 15 minutes ago my grandma ranted to my mom about it, because I got a post ranted rant from my mom about that and the mindless “I am out” comment I made to her after she told me to get out of her room b/c my cat was whining at the door.)
    I didn’t watch all of the Tonys though. Most of what I did watch my mom was madly searching for her childhood friend’s brother among the performances. And a guy from my city who’s mom has a school named after her here won something apparently.
    And while I didn’t like the Spiderman Musical performance, I like the actor playing J. Jonah Jameson in that musical (he’s my second cousin that I’m close to’s husband).

  19. Hurray Sutton Foster! Always have been, always will be a fan of that girl. Watching the Tony’s always reminds me, to be blunt, of how stupid Glee is. Nothing can compare to eight shows a week and that real, live music on stage. Those people are freaking talented (not that I’m excluding Lea Michele from that group).

    Also, I see that [title of show] reference there. :)

  20. I would make some knitpicky corrections about best supporting/leading actor/actress, etc but I won’t, all those people won, that’s what’s important. Slash definitely agreed on some of those best moments/speeches.

    Some others- NPH’s closing rap! amazing. Lin-Manuel Miranda was apparently backstage writing it and then was tweeting out-takes. Excellent stuff.

    other favorite parks: Brooke Shields’ second bad-mouthed blooper. 30 seconds of Spiderman jokes. (And Spiderman actually opened tonight… only because Julie Taymor has been fired haha)

    Now I really want to see Book of Mormon, Normal Heart and Good People and probably won’t be able to get tickets to them (especially to Book of Mormon because the general public (aka NYC tourists) want to see musicals. But maybe they will be too offended to buy all the tickets.) … that’s one bad thing about the Tony’s

    Am I the only theater geek in the house?

    If not… you can vote for the Tony Tony’s here:
    ie: “most outrageous blooper”

    • wow I had this open from a long time ago apparently when there were no comments and I didn’t press refresh. haha.

      Also want to see Anything Goes. Also will be Sold Out.

      • Anything Goes extended through January 2012. I’m sure you can find something. Also, if you are 35 years old or younger, look into Roundabout’s Hiptix program. Cheap advance tickets.

  21. Am I alone in thinking Chicago was the gayest musical about straight people since anything? A musical set in a prison ruled by Queen Latifa and populated by scantly-clad women who like to sing about how they don’t like men, and in which male sexuality is all but absent? I mean, the two female leads start off hating eachother, but eventually decide the other’s just what they need. Which NEVER happens in romantic plays.

  22. Man, I was hoping Scottsboro Boys would get a lot more. That show was my favorite performance of the night and I wish it stayed open longer. And I wish I could have seen that awesome Company production.

    Yeah, very predictable Tonys this year, but I loved all of the cool host things. NPH and Hugh Jackman musical theatre dueling, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s awesome rap were great.

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