The Fauxnys: With the 2020 Tonys delayed, watch the show's all-time most memorable performances

The Fauxnys: With the 2020 Tonys delayed, watch the show's all-time most memorable performances

Clockwise from Top Left: Pal Joey; Mame; Guys and Dolls; Dreamgirls; Chicago; The Boy From Oz; West Side Story; Once Upon A Mattress (Screenshots: YouTube)
Clockwise from Top Left: Pal Joey; Mame; Guys and Dolls; Dreamgirls; Chicago; The Boy From Oz; West Side Story; Once Upon A Mattress (Screenshots: YouTube)

With Broadway currently shut down along with much of the country, the 2020 Tony Awards, which were to air June 7, have been delayed. It’s unfortunate on multiple levels, not in the least because the Tonys have been such a beacon of hope and positivity during dark times in the past. With that in mind, it seems particularly odd that—rather than putting together a fundraising special like ABC has done twice now with Disney songs or that was streamed on YouTube to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday in late April—CBS has chosen to replace the 2020 Tonys with an airing of the sing-a-long version of Grease. The John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John musical is fine and all, but who wouldn’t rather Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, and Christine Baranksi reprise their rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch?” for a good cause? So instead of—or at least in addition to—watching Grease, here are a few of the best Tony performances available online.

Update 6/1: A Broadway-themed fundraising special scheduled to air on the streaming service Broadway on Demand on June 7 has also been postponed: “We are collectively saddened and angered by the senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and disheartened by the ongoing racism and injustices that continue to permeate our society,” an executive producer said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.”

Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.

A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban’s opening number, “This One’s For You” (2018)

Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban’s opening number, “This One’s For You” (2018)

Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban’s opening number, “This One’s For You” (2018)

There are plenty of fantastic ways to open the Tonys (and we’ll share a few), but none are as charming ode to Tony losers written by the 2018 hosts (and losers themselves) Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban.

Bonus: When you’re done with “This One’s For You,” move to the 8:06 mark for their parody of Sia’s “Chandelier”

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Hugh Jackman’s opening number, “One Night Only” (2004)

Hugh Jackman’s opening number, “One Night Only” (2004)

Hugh Jackman’s opening number, “One Night Only” (2004)

We mainly knew Hugh Jackman as grizzly Wolverine before he came out as a musical theater superfan, hosting the 2003 Tonys. He returned the next year as host (as well as a first-time nominee and eventual winner for lead actor in The Boy From Oz). He opened the show with a rendition of Dreamgirls’ “One Night Only,” accompanied by a trio of trios from nominated shows: the Dynamites from Hairspray, the Urchins from Little Shop of Horrors, and the Radio from Caroline, or Change. Man, that was a good year for Broadway.

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Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number, “Bigger” (2013)

Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number, “Bigger” (2013)

Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number, “Bigger” (2013)

The award for best tounge-twister of an opening goes to Neil Patrick Harris. On his fourth time hosting, he started with an eight-minute ditty of mile-a-minute lyrics sending up beloved that year’s biggest shows: Pippin, Kinky Boots, Motown: The Musical, Matilda!, Annie, A Christmas Story, and Newsies— not to mention Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, Orphans, Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth, and a slew of classics. The song certainly lived up to its name.

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Patti LuPone, Jennifer Holliday, Betty Buckley, and Rosie O’Donnell’s opening number (1999)

Patti LuPone, Jennifer Holliday, Betty Buckley, and Rosie O’Donnell’s opening number (1999)

Patti LuPone, Jennifer Holliday, Betty Buckley, and Rosie O’Donnell’s opening number (1999)

What starts with Rosie O’Donnell’s self-described “Rhoda Morgenstern” vocal on a parody of Chicago’s “Roxy” evolves into a medley of Broadway diva performances: Patti LuPone singing Evita’s “Don’t Cry for me Argentina,” Jennifer Holliday singing Dreamgirls’ “And I Am Telling You,” and Betty Buckley singing Cats’ “Memory.”

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Elton John, Dolly Parton, Poison, and Liza Minnelli’s opening number (2009)

Elton John, Dolly Parton, Poison, and Liza Minnelli’s opening number (2009)

Elton John, Dolly Parton, Poison, and Liza Minnelli’s opening number (2009)

This opener featured the star-studded casts of Billy Elliot, West Side Story, Guys & Dolls, Rock Of Ages, Pal Joey, Next To Normal, Shrek The Musical, 9 To 5, and Hair, as well as guest performers Elton John, Dolly Parton and Liza Minnelli. But it’s most remembered for the backstage vocals catching performers warming up while others are performing and Poison’s Bret Michaels hitting his head on a set piece as he was walking off stage, the latter resulting in a hemorrhage for Michaels and a lawsuit for The Tonys and CBS.

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“We Are What We Are” and “I Am What I Am,” La Cage aux Folles (1984)

“We Are What We Are” and “I Am What I Am,” La Cage aux Folles (1984)

“We Are What We Are” and “I Am What I Am,” La Cage aux Folles (1984)

Before Priscilla queened out or boots got Kinky, drag got its time in the spotlight with La Cage aux Folles. This performance starts upbeat with a bedazzled kickline before star George Hern rips the audience’s heart out with the show’s self-acceptance anthem.

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“My New Philosophy,” You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1999)

“My New Philosophy,” You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1999)

“My New Philosophy,” You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1999)

The 1999 Tonys really was Kristen Chenoweth’s debut on the world stage. Now synonymous with musical theater, the Pushing Daises actress had only made her Broadway debut two years earlier in a small supporting role in Steel Peer. But the reprisal of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown was looking to add a role and a few songs, and Chenoweth was cast as Charlie’s little sister, Sally. After belting out new tune “My New Philosophy” with costar Stanley Wayne Mathis, Chenoweth didn’t even have time to get back to her seat before being called out on stage to accept the Tony for best supporting actress in a musical: “I’ve never changed my clothes so fast in my life.”

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“Bosom Buddies,” Mame (1987)

“Bosom Buddies,” Mame (1987)

“Bosom Buddies,” Mame (1987)

When seven-time nominee (and five-time winner) Angela Lansbury returned to host the Tonys for the third time, she asked Bea Arthur to join her on stage. The actresses sang “Bosom Buddies,” a song they first performed as costars in 1966's Mame—a production that garnered them both Tonys.

(Clip note: The YouTube video title says “1988,” but this was definitely performed during the 41st annual Tony Awards in 1987) 

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“The Circle of Life,” The Lion King (1998)

“The Circle of Life,” The Lion King (1998)

“The Circle of Life,” The Lion King (1998)

When The Lion King premiered on Broadway, there had never been anything like it before. Julie Taymor’s reimagining of Disney’s animated movie implemented costumes and technology never before seen on the stage—complete with elephants coming down the aisles. This performance was so memorable, the Tonys had the show back to recreate the number for the opening of the 2008 awards.

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“Dance At The Gym” and “Tonight,” West Side Story (2009)

“Dance At The Gym” and “Tonight,” West Side Story (2009)

“Dance At The Gym” and “Tonight,” West Side Story (2009)

The big sell of the 2009 revival of West Side Story was that much of the Sharks’ lyrics had been translated (by Lin-Manuel Miranda) into Spanish. But that new angle wasn’t necessary to make the cast’s performance at the Tonys special: They opted for almost three minutes of dancing before letting stars Matt Cavenaugh and Josefina Scaglione close it out with “Tonight.”

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“At the End of the Day” and “One Day More,” Les Misérables (1987)

“At the End of the Day” and “One Day More,” Les Misérables (1987)

“At the End of the Day” and “One Day More,” Les Misérables (1987)

After becoming a breakout hit in Europe, Les Miz became a force on the Broadway scene in 1987. It’s story of revolution and redemption distilled into these two songs. The numbers were performed without the show’s revolutionary turntable set, but the production still went on to win eight Tonys that evening, including best musical.

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“Turkey Lurkey Time,” Promises, Promises (1969)

“Turkey Lurkey Time,” Promises, Promises (1969)

“Turkey Lurkey Time,” Promises, Promises (1969)

The quintessential 1960s silly musical number, this Neil Simon number is so iconic it got sent up in the 2003 movie Camp.

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“History Has Its Eyes on You” and “Yorktown,” Hamilton (2016)

“History Has Its Eyes on You” and “Yorktown,” Hamilton (2016)

“History Has Its Eyes on You” and “Yorktown,” Hamilton (2016)

We don’t think any other Tony performance has been introduced by a sitting president and first lady. By June 2016, Hamilton was a full-on phenomenon, highlighting the storytelling power of rap and hip-hop just as it was clear Donald Trump and his hateful, racist rhetoric was gaining a following. The crowd cheered when Lin-Manuel Miranda and Daveed Diggs exclaimed, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” And immigrants or not, they did get the job done. Hamilton won 11 Tonys that night, just shy of the record-setting dozen won by The Producers in 2001.

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“You Can’t Stop The Beat,” Hairspray (2003)

“You Can’t Stop The Beat,” Hairspray (2003)

“You Can’t Stop The Beat,” Hairspray (2003)

Even if you’re not a fan of Hairspray, you have to admire the cast’s stamina. For a full four minutes (longer in the actual Broadway production), Marissa Jaret Winokur, Matthew Morrison, Harvey Firestein, and the rest of the Hairspray shaked and shimmied the best that they could. If you’re looking for a good at-home workout while gyms are closed, just try to keep moving through the entirety of the song...

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“Not The Boy Next Door,” Boy From Oz (2004)

“Not The Boy Next Door,” Boy From Oz (2004)

“Not The Boy Next Door,” Boy From Oz (2004)

Speaking of stamina. 2004 host Hugh Jackman switched on his Peter Alan persona to perform a number from Boy From Oz, a show he’d win the Tony for later in the night. Bonus points for bringing up a clearly shy Sarah Jessica Parker. Speaking of which...

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“Shy,” Once Upon A Mattress (1997)

“Shy,” Once Upon A Mattress (1997)

“Shy,” Once Upon A Mattress (1997)

Just a few years before Sarah Jessica Parker becoming known as Carrie Bradshaw, the actress starred in the reprisal of Once Upon A Mattress. The reimagining of the Princess And The Pea first came to Broadway in 1959, garnering a Tony nom for Carol Burnett. Parker didn’t get a nom in ’97, but showed off her comedic chops and impressively loud belt at the ceremony.

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“Mama Who Bore Me,” “The Bitch Of Living,” and “Totally Fucked,” Spring Awakening (2007 and 2016)

“Mama Who Bore Me,” “The Bitch Of Living,” and “Totally Fucked,” Spring Awakening (2007 and 2016)

“Mama Who Bore Me,” “The Bitch Of Living,” and “Totally Fucked,” Spring Awakening (2007 and 2016)

Led by Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening exploded onto Broadway as something exciting and new at the Tony Awards in 2007—which made it all the more impressive that the revival’s signed 2016 performance of two of the same numbers still brought something fresh to the stage.

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“Will-a-Mania” and “Favorite Son,” The Will Rogers Follies (1991)

“Will-a-Mania” and “Favorite Son,” The Will Rogers Follies (1991)

“Will-a-Mania” and “Favorite Son,” The Will Rogers Follies (1991)

Even this blurry digitized VHS footage of this performance is captivating. Led by the ridiculously charismatic and talented Keith Carradine in the title role, the Will Rogers Follies cast is classic Broadway at its finest. There cowboy boots are tap shoes and their hats are fucking tambourines, people!

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“Ring Of Keys,” Fun Home (2015)

“Ring Of Keys,” Fun Home (2015)

“Ring Of Keys,” Fun Home (2015)

It doesn’t always take a big dance number to captivate the audience at home. Rather than playing to the theater, young Sydney Lucas plays to the cameras in this performance of the most popular song from this relatively quiet musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The result is an intimate and impactful.

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“All That Jazz” and ”Hot Honey Rag,” Chicago (1997)

“All That Jazz” and ”Hot Honey Rag,” Chicago (1997)

“All That Jazz” and ”Hot Honey Rag,” Chicago (1997)

When Chicago was revived in 1996, it was supposed to be a bare-bones, limited engagement celebrating Kander and Ebb’s music. But the sparse production was so well-recieved, it got a Broadway run that is still going. In 2014, it became the second longest-running musical on Broadway (making it second only to Phantom Of The Opera). Here, Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking show just why the show is so beloved. Just look at Neuwirth’s arms during “Hot Honey Rag”—its like she has no joints!

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“You Don’t Know” and “I Am The One,” Next To Normal (2009)

“You Don’t Know” and “I Am The One,” Next To Normal (2009)

“You Don’t Know” and “I Am The One,” Next To Normal (2009)

The Tonys are usually for big splashy routines or powerful ballads. But raw and emotional Alice Ripley was a shocking change of pace for the Tonys: As a psychotic woman going through mental distress, Ripley’s performance is still riveting and heartbreaking over a decade later.

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“Forget About The Boy,” Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

“Forget About The Boy,” Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

“Forget About The Boy,” Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

Sutton Foster wasn’t supposed to be here. Kristen Chenoweth was originally supposed to play Millie in this new musical. And when she dropped out, the producers asked Erin Dilly. When she dropped out, Foster was upgraded to the lead role, winning a Tony after her performance of “Forget About The Boy” at the 2002 show.

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“Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme,” Rent (1996)

“Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme,” Rent (1996)

“Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme,” Rent (1996)

Rent would have been a force regardless, but mastermind Jonathan Larson’s death just before the show’s premiere had brought a weight to an already heavy and important story. The young cast celebrated his work with two of the show’s most memorable songs.

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“Rose’s Turn,” Gyspy (2008)

“Rose’s Turn,” Gyspy (2008)

“Rose’s Turn,” Gyspy (2008)

There are a few of Patti LuPone’s Tony performances we could have included here, but they all kind of led to this one: LuPone as Mama Rose. Combining a bit of everything that made past personifications of Broadway’s most infamous momager and infusing it with her own magic, LuPone brought the house down with this 11 ’o clock number. We’re just glad no one’s cell phone went off during it.

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“In The Heights” and “69,000,” In The Heights (2008)

“In The Heights” and “69,000,” In The Heights (2008)

“In The Heights” and “69,000,” In The Heights (2008)

Before he reimagined history with Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda found Broadway success telling a more contemporary story in In The Heights, about lives in a New York barrio that get turned upside down when news breaks that the local bodega sold a lotto ticket worth $69,000. The cast’s 2008 performance infused the Tonys with a unique energy that wouldn’t be seen again until, well, you can imagine when.

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“Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” Guys and Dolls (2009)

“Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” Guys and Dolls (2009)

“Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” Guys and Dolls (2009)

There have been three official Broadway revivals of 1950's Guys and Dolls, so this one gets points for finding an element of surprise in the form of Tituss Burgess. The future Kimmy Schmidt star had been in a couple of Broadway productions before (do yourself a favor and check out him as Sebastian in The Little Mermaid), but this was his first starring moment at the Tonys—and he made quite an impression by infusing the almost-60-year-old “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat” with a completely new feeling. It’s extra memorable for his seamless transition from faulty hairline lav to hand-held wireless mic.

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“And I Am Telling You,” Dreamgirls (1982)

“And I Am Telling You,” Dreamgirls (1982)

“And I Am Telling You,” Dreamgirls (1982)

There’s a reason Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar basically just for singing this song: In anyone remotely capable singer’s hands, “And I Am Telling You” is going to be a showstopper. But no one can compare to the original, Jennifer Holliday.

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A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

All slides

  1. The Fauxnys: With the 2020 Tonys delayed, watch the show's all-time most memorable performances
  2. Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban’s opening number, “This One’s For You” (2018)
  3. Hugh Jackman’s opening number, “One Night Only” (2004)
  4. Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number, “Bigger” (2013)
  5. Patti LuPone, Jennifer Holliday, Betty Buckley, and Rosie O’Donnell’s opening number (1999)
  6. Elton John, Dolly Parton, Poison, and Liza Minnelli’s opening number (2009)
  7. “We Are What We Are” and “I Am What I Am,” La Cage aux Folles (1984)
  8. “My New Philosophy,” You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1999)
  9. “Bosom Buddies,” Mame (1987)
  10. “The Circle of Life,” The Lion King (1998)
  11. “Dance At The Gym” and “Tonight,” West Side Story (2009)
  12. “At the End of the Day” and “One Day More,” Les Misérables (1987)
  13. “Turkey Lurkey Time,” Promises, Promises (1969)
  14. “History Has Its Eyes on You” and “Yorktown,” Hamilton (2016)
  15. “You Can’t Stop The Beat,” Hairspray (2003)
  16. “Not The Boy Next Door,” Boy From Oz (2004)
  17. “Shy,” Once Upon A Mattress (1997)
  18. “Mama Who Bore Me,” “The Bitch Of Living,” and “Totally Fucked,” Spring Awakening (2007 and 2016)
  19. “Will-a-Mania” and “Favorite Son,” The Will Rogers Follies (1991)
  20. “Ring Of Keys,” Fun Home (2015)
  21. “All That Jazz” and ”Hot Honey Rag,” Chicago (1997)
  22. “You Don’t Know” and “I Am The One,” Next To Normal (2009)
  23. “Forget About The Boy,” Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)
  24. “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme,” Rent (1996)
  25. “Rose’s Turn,” Gyspy (2008)
  26. “In The Heights” and “69,000,” In The Heights (2008)
  27. “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” Guys and Dolls (2009)
  28. “And I Am Telling You,” Dreamgirls (1982)