Tony Highlights: Hugh Kisses Lucy! Rod Kisses Hugh! Channing and LL Cool J a Couple!

Tony Awards   Tony Highlights: Hugh Kisses Lucy! Rod Kisses Hugh! Channing and LL Cool J a Couple! It was the Tony Awards ceremony some are calling the most memorable in years.
Carol Channing
Carol Channing Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Not only did Avenue Q unexpectedly win the Tony for Best Musical over the favorite, Wicked, but the June 6 ceremony at Radio City Music Hall gave us the unlikely sight of rapper LL Cool J — not known for his work in Ibsen and Shakespeare — as a presenter.

The writers of the 2004 Tonys were smart enough to allow LL Cool J to admit that his presence was unexpected, and he was given a surprise co-presenter: Carol Channing, complete with platinum blonde wig, spangled dress and her now-signature thick-framed eyeglasses. He summoned her from the wings, and the crowd went wild.

The rapper offered a hip-hopped-up version of "Hello, Dolly!," as Channing — who said she was updating her act — got jiggy with him. No engagement announcement is expected.

This was the night that Hugh Jackman kicked up his heels with the Radio City Rockettes in the opening number of the ceremony, to the theme of "One Night Only," a Henry Krieger-Tom Eyen number pulled from the musical, Dreamgirls.

(One of the more bizarre images might have been the Chassidim of Fiddler on the Roof rockin' to the sound of the disco-friendly opening, dressed in their shtetl best. Nachum in the aisles!) In that same sequence, Jackman danced with the three Motown-style girl-groups that are on Broadway at the moment. By coincidence, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors and Caroline, or Change all use a Supremes-like trios in their plots (something noted by Playbill On-Line in an April 23 article). Bringing them together seemed to underline the Tonys annual metaphor: Theatre people are part of a community.

Did Sarah Jessica Parker nearly fall out of her naked shoulders dress when she was pulled on stage during Hugh Jackman's turn singing from The Boy From Oz? He invited her to shimmy and thrust, but she only wiggled a bit for fear of exposure. Her husband, Matthew Broderick, was on the West Coast, she said, prompting Jackman (in character as Peter Allen) to exclaim, "He's bicoastal!"

Jackman would later win the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for playing Allen. He thanked his wife, but never apologized for his transgression in the opening number: Kissing Avenue Q's Lucy T. Slut full on the mouth.

Later, the investment banker-puppet, Rod, from Avenue Q flirted with Jackman, asking him to refer to him as "mate" in an Aussie accent. Then Rod kissed Jackman full on the mouth and giddily fled the stage.

Winners thanked their wives (actor Jefferson Mays, songwriter Robert Lopez), their boyfriends (librettist Jeff Whitty, songwriter Jeff Marx), parents (actress Idina Menzel), family (Phylicia Rashad) and God (actress Anika Noni Rose of Caroline, or Change said her middle name meant "gift from God").

Actor Michael Cerveris, himself a pop-rock performer when not on Broadway, pointed out how odd it was to be handed a Tony Award by hip-hopper Sean "Puffy" Combs (A Raisin in the Sun). "Me and Puff!" remarked Cerveris from the stage, then joked, "It's great for both of us, I'm sure."