The 63rd Annual Tony Awards, which recognized Broadway productions of the 2008-2009 season, were presented on June 7, 2009 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The ceremony was broadcast by CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris as host.
The cut-off date for eligibility for the awards was April 30, 2009. Nominations were announced on May 5, 2009 by Cynthia Nixon and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Of the musicals, Billy Elliot the Musical received 15 nominations that was the most it was eligible for, which at the time tied for the most received by any Broadway production until surpassed by Hamilton, followed by Next to Normal with eleven. Among the nominees for Best Revival of a Musical, Hair had the most nominations, with eight. Of the plays, the revivals Mary Stuart and The Norman Conquests tied for the most nominations, with seven each. All four stars of God of Carnage were nominated, as was the play itself.
The Isabelle Stevenson Award, a non-competitive award named after the late president of the American Theatre Wing, was presented for the first time. Its purpose is to recognize individuals from the theatre community who have volunteered time to one or more humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations. The first recipient of this honor was Phyllis Newman. This was the first non-competitive category to be introduced since the Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre was established in 1990.
The broadcast won the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Programs. The telecast also was nominated in the category of Outstanding Art Direction for Variety, Music or Nonfiction Programming.
The Visa Signature Tony Awards Preview Concert featured performers from the musicals Guys & Dolls, Hair, West Side Story, 9 to 5: The Musical; Billy Elliot, The Musical, Next to Normal, Rock of Ages, and Shrek The Musical. The concert was televised on various CBS stations, and in New York City on May 30. Newscaster Harry Smith from The Early Show hosted the special.
The red-carpet arrivals and pre-Tony telecast awards (Creative Arts Awards) were webcast on TonyAwards.com. A Creative Arts Awards (CAA) ceremony, hosted by Laura Benanti and Brian Stokes Mitchell, was held prior to the main ceremony. The CAA presented the awards for orchestrations and scenery, costume, lighting and sound design.
Presenters included Lucie Arnaz, Kate Burton, Kristin Chenoweth, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Edie Falco, Will Ferrell, Carrie Fisher, Jane Fonda, Hallie Foote, James Gandolfini, Lauren Graham, Colin Hanks, Marcia Gay Harden, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Lange, Frank Langella, Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, David Hyde Pierce, Piper Perabo, Oliver Platt, Susan Sarandon, John Stamos and Chandra Wilson.
Performances included scenes from nine Broadway musicals: Billy Elliot the Musical (with an appearance by Elton John); Guys and Dolls, with Tituss Burgess and company performing "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat"; Hair, with the company performing the title song and "Let the Sunshine In"; Next to Normal, with Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer, and Aaron Tveit performing "You Don't Know/I Am The One"; Pal Joey, represented by Stockard Channing singing a few lines from "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" during the opening segment; Rock of Ages, with Constantine Maroulis and fellow cast members singing "Don't Stop Believin'"; Shrek the Musical, with the company performing "What's Up, Duloc" and "Freak Flag"; West Side Story; and 9 to 5, with Dolly Parton joining the cast to sing the title tune. Cast members from national touring companies of three musicals also appeared: The lead character from four Jersey Boys casts (Joseph Leo Bwarie (Toronto), Rick Faugno (Las Vegas), Courter Simmons (national tour) and Dominic Scaglione, Jr. (Chicago)) sang together with Jarrod Spector from the Broadway cast; Legally Blonde The Musical spotlighted Becky Gulsvig; and Michelle Dawson, Kittra Wynn Commer and Robin Tyler from the Reno, Nevada production of Mamma Mia! sang "Dancing Queen" with fellow cast members.
Performers from the nominated Best Plays category presented brief clips of those plays, which included God of Carnage, 33 Variations, Dividing the Estate and Reasons to be Pretty.
Liza Minnelli performed in the opening sequence, and rock singer Bret Michaels and his band Poison joined the cast of Rock of Ages during their segment in the opening number, performing its song Nothin' but a Good Time. While exiting the stage, Michaels was struck in the head by a descending set and knocked to the floor. He suffered a fractured nose and a split lip that required three stitches. He subsequently sued the event's organizers, claiming that the collision led to his 2010 brain hemorrhage. The suit was settled in May 2012 for an undisclosed amount.
Neil Patrick Harris ended the show with a pastiche of "Tonight" from West Side Story and "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls, with lyrics re-written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman that recapped the awards.
Winners in bold.
Bebe Neuwirth introduced a special number to honor those who died during the past theatre season. The Broadway Inspirational Voices and orchestra performed "What I Did for Love" from A Chorus Line. Broadway theatres dimmed their lights in memoriam, as well. Among those remembered were:Natasha Richardson
Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre – Jerry Herman
Regional Theatre Tony Award – Signature Theatre, Arlington, Virginia
Isabelle Stevenson Award – Phyllis Newman
Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre – Press Agent Shirley Herz