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Tony Awards 2012: Follow Along For Live Updates (LIVEBLOG)

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NEW YORK -- The Tony Awards air tonight live from the Beacon Theatre in the capable hands of Neil Patrick Harris, back hosting for a third time. The three-hourlong award show will feature a record 16 performances including Ricky Martin, Matthew Broderick, and the cast of last year's big winner, "Book of Mormon."

The fields for Best Play and Best Musical have their clear frontrunners. "Once" -- leading the pack with 11 nominations -- and "Newsies" stand strong in the musical category, while "Clybourne Park" and "Other Desert Cities" duke it out on the play end. However, there's no "Book of Mormon" equivalent this year, and we're always game for a good upset.

Join us here tonight at 8 p.m. EST for every win, joke, upset and tearjerker of the evening. In the meantime, check out this year's nominees' favorite plays of the year (aside from their own), predictions on who will and should win, and our series of Q&As with nominees over on the HuffPost Culture page.

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With the final word from NPH in song, "We are completely out of... "

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"Once."

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The duo introduces the award for Best Musical thusly:

"Winning the Tony award.. changes ones life forever. You're transformed from an artist to an artiste... tonight, we who are the Broadway establishment, are pleased and honor-ed to win the award for best musical. You young whippersnappers who so desperately wish to join our ranks."

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Plummer's back to award the Tony to Audra McDonald for her role in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess." This is her fifth Tony award, and first for a leading role.

"I was a little girl with a pot belly and afro puffs.. and I found the theater, and I found my home, and found a place to express myself," McDonald said tearfully. "And that the theater would [welcome] me is mind-blowing."

Watch McDonald in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess":

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Recent Academy Award-winner Christopher Plummer presents the award for leading actress in a play to Nina Arianda for her star-making role in "Venus in Fur."

"I have a week left with Vanda, and I'm going to cherish every minute of it," Arianda said with a squeal as she ended her speech.

Watch Arianda in "Venus in Fur":

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In one of the bigger, but not entirely unexpected, upsets of the night, James Corden beat out Philip Seymour Hoffman for his role in "One Man, Two Guvnors."

"James Earl Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman -- to be on a list with you is enough," Corden said, choking up throughout his speech. "Holding this reminds me that there's no such thing as best."

He went on to thank his "baby mama," who he "can't wait to marry":

"She made me say 'us' instead of 'I' and 'we' instead of 'me' and I love her," Corden ended. "Thank you very much."

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Steve Kazee beats other young heartthrob Jeremy Jordan in a win for "Once," and gives the most emotional speech of the night:

Most of all, I want to say thank you to my cast, and to my beautiful leading lady, who has held me up for the past two months. My mother passed on Easter Sunday, and I came back to the show and this cast has carried me around and made me feel alive and I will never be able to fully repay them... this ensemble and this woman are some of the most talented people I have ever worked with in my life. My mother always told me before shows to stand up and show them whose little boy you are. And I am here to tell you I am the son of Kathy Withrow Kazee who lost the fight with cancer on Easter Sunday this year. And I feel you here today, and I love you all so much.

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A cruiseline cast of "Hairspray" performed from their boat, NPH started to cut to commercial, and then, a very strange happened, even stranger than a broadcast from a boat. A woman in the background crowdsurfed from the aisle to her seat -- she was so stiff she didn't look alive, and then she sat down at the very end of it all and crossed her legs. Please discuss.

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Hugh Jackman is getting a special Tony Award. And his wife is presenting it.

Jackman raised about million for Broadway Cares for his one-man show, "Hugh Jackman: Back On Broadway." Yep, that about does it.

Jackman was visibly stunned to hear he was getting an award, no less from the hands of his wife.

She's never kept a secret her entire life," Jackman said. "Just after the loo, I was like alright, see you in a bit."

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"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess." The group thanks "Ira and George Gershwin... and the Gershwin estate... for giving us the permission to bring the Gershwins into the 21st century."

Next up, Gershwin in 3D?

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Ricky Martin takes the stage to showcase his alternately loved and dismissed performance in "Evita." Best part: he does somersaults on stage.

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Yes, it's famous face number 5 (or 6? We're losing count). Jim Parsons, who plays neurotic physicist Sheldon Cooper on CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," (and currently, Elwood P. Dowd in the Broadway revival of "Harvey") just announced this year's Best Play. The winner is not "Venus In Fur," as you might have expected, but "Clybourne Park," Bruce Norris' response to "A Raisin In The Sun." Check out highlights from the race-and-real-estate drama below.

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The 'Once' cast gets their jig on while Cristin Milioti stares intensely (creepily) at Steve Kazee. Original "Once" stars, Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, watch approvingly from the front row.

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Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." Duh.

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just proved she truly is the best singer you may not know of but should. Along with the rest of the cast of the slimmed-down revival, "The Gershwin's Porgy And Bess," McDonald, Norm Lewis, and David Alan Grier, all of whom are nominees tonight, just made suspenders look cool on the Tonys stage with a rousing montage.

Lewis, who plays Porgy to McDonald's Bess, recently chatted with us about what it's like to work with such a talent:

We’ve been friends for years, so we’ve known each other for a long time. I’ve always had a crush on her, you know like a little secret crush, and with permission from her now-fiance I get to kiss her 8 times a week! (laughs) But yeah, we trust each other so much. I learn every day from her. And we just we get to play.

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Eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken takes home his first Tony for his score for "Newsies." Menken addressed "Newsies"s long journey to the stage, from a film that bombed at the box office and won a Razzie for music, to one of the most successful musicals on Broadway this year.

Speaking to us earlier, Menken explained his process for writing music for the stage version:

It was just a matter of figuring out, what did we do right on that movie, and let's make sure we continue that. I was drawn to this R&B/rock, very contemporary style. We had one misstep where we did sort of more turn-of-the-century music a la "My Lovey-Dovey Baby," and those things we had in the movie, and those things were not helping.

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She's presenting an award, that's all.

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We could really just watch this man riff all night.

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The Tonys are doing their best job representing the best plays of the evening, which are less easy to perform out of context than the musicals. "Peter and the Starcatcher" kicks it off with a live (rather musical) performance, followed by best actor contender James Corden's schizophrenic (and hilarious) monologue from "One Man, Two Guvnors."

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James Marsden hands the award to Judy Kaye for "Nice Work If You Can Get It." The play has so far swept the featured actors in a musical category -- Michael McGrath won earlier in the evening.

In her speech, Kaye made special note of her father, who passed away last week:

"Like me he was a lifelong fan of the brilliance of George and Ira Gershwin. Thank you, daddy, and thank you all."

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Jessica Chastain, in a nude-colored number, hands the award for Best Featured Actor in a Play to Christian Borle for "Peter and the Starcatcher," a favorite among the Tony nominees. He notably beats out Andrew Garfield in "Death of a Salesman."

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Neil Patrick Harris introduces Angela Lansbury upside down, Spider-Man style, and hangs behind her awkwardly throughout her plug for the American Theater Wing.

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Josh Young (nominated for best featured actor in a musical for his role as Judas) belted out a song from the show just upped the ante for every performer to follow.

Watch a montage of his performance in the show if you know what's good for your ears:

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Mike Nichols, the Oscar-winning director of "The Graduate," wins Best Direction of a Play, for "Death Of A Salesman." Nichols teared up while thanking the all-star cast of his revival, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. Nichols' wife, newscaster Diane Sawyer, looked on lovingly from her seat.

The wrap-it-up music rushed him through his thoughts on Arthur Miller's classic play:

There's not a person in this theater that doesn't know what it is to be a salesman. to be way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And as we know, a salesman has got to dream. It goes with the territory.

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Here's one we all expected. John Tiffany takes it for "Once," the frontrunner this evening.

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The tech-savvy "Ghost" musical takes the stage for a performance, just cuz.

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Unexpectedly, Michael McGrath for "Nice Work If You Can Get It." Most had their money on Michael Cerveris' Juan Peron in "Evita." First upset of the evening, people!

Watch highlights from "Nice Work" here:

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Neil Patrick Harris laughs at his own jokes, and it's somehow charming when he does it. Also, it's pronounced "Sigh-fred." These facts brought to you by a three-time Tony host.

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Combine popular movies with popular musicals -- like a mash-up! i.e. The Exo-Sister Act

Field of Dream Girls, The Bridge on the River Kwai Baby, and our favorite, My Left Footloose.

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The Tonys breezed over the award for best choreography during the commercial break, which Christopher Gattelli took for "Newsies."

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Around the Web

TonyAwards.com - The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards ...

66th Tony Awards - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Tony awards 2012: live blog