This year’s Tony Awards opened with one of the biggest, fastest, most intricately timed song-and-dance extravaganzas ever—earning it nearly a full minute’s of a thunderous standing ovation and a ton of glowing post-show buzz. Naturally I expected brilliance knowing that Thomas Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were on composition duty with the music and lyrics, and having seen host Neil Patrick Harris’s hosting turns three times before, I knew it would be great. What I did not expect was the phenomenal, nearly flawless execution that permanently cements NPH’s status as a legendary Broadway badass. Here are five pivotal moments that demonstrate why:
5. That costume change from “Once” to full tuxedo
Yes, in a previous opening number, Neil (with the help of his backup dancers) was able to pull off the 7-second costume change. That, however, was a simple flip of the jacket from formal to casual. Changing from a casual, no-collared shirt and slacks into a full tux WITH bow tie in 40 counts of music—even with help—and coming in right on cue is nothing short of astounding. Next to that big box, this was the best magic trick he pulled off.
4. Inside nods to his TV selves
It takes a combination of a talented lyricist and avid fan to pull off noteworthy and performer-specific zingers, and LMM is one of the greatest mixes of both I’ve ever seen. Starting from the top with the promise of a “legendary show” (highlighted by the wink channeled from our host’s outlandish alter ego from How I Met Your Mother, and leading to a reference to his professional debut as America’s favorite medical prodigy amongst a host of Broadway’s child stars, the symbiosis between songwriter and performer puts a personal stamp on the performance that fits NPH to a tee.
3. General physical and vocal stamina
The complicated vocal construction of the “Les Miz” section was definitely a special kind of vocal sprint, no question. And that alone would make me give NPH his props…however, that section came after at least 3 ½ to 4 continuous minutes of singing and dancing that included jumps, lifts, tosses and dashes from one side of the stage to the other. True, he had some seconds to inhale while setting up for that pore-defining close-up shot, but I defy anyone to sing at near-John Moschitta pace TWICE with only thirty seconds of breath in between and hit every single word. Go ahead—I dare you.
2. Where in the hell did they hide his mic?
I mean seriously. Women with long flowing hair to drape over lip and head mics have come out on stage and I’ve picked it out with my one good eye and no glasses. Unless he had it snitch-taped to his chest with a LOT of insulation to keep it from getting hit, or there was a REALLY talented boom operator in the theater, I couldn’t spot one single, potential location for that microphone to reside and his voice STILL carry like that.
1. The Pippin hoop jump
There were a lot of incredible moves and sophisticate lyrics in this 8 minute marathon, with more and more layers added on as it went along. None of it would have mattered past the two-minute mark had NPH not nailed that hoop jump. I mean, LOOK at it—a grown man folded up his body and hurled it through what looked like a ten-inch hula hoop in 1 second, landed on his feet and kept on singing. An inch off in either direction would have caused a Bret Michaels-worthy header toward the floor, and that would’ve been a wrap. Many, many decades from now, generations of Broadway enthusiasts will still look on this Herculean feat with awe and admiration.
So, Neil Patrick Harris, for seamlessly performing incredible feats of vocal strength and physical stamina, I dub thee….Legendary Badass.
No need to wait for it.