As awards-ceremony opening numbers go, the Tonys are a pretty high bar. Since they celebrate stage shows, you would think/hope that they would have the best command of the stage. James Corden hosts again this Sunday, and he previously offered a lovely opening number in 2016 with “This Could Be You,” living out his childhood dream of being on Broadway by diving into popular stage musicals from The Sound Of Music to Fiddler On The Roof (although he was already a Tony award winner in 2012).
Watching Corden’s energetic performance, it’s hard not to wonder whether his set was inspired by the all-time great Tony host: Neil Patrick Harris. In 2013, Harris’ performance of “Bigger” (“Better” is automatically implied) unfolded over eight unstoppable minutes, with Harris dancing with the divas of Kinky Boots, performing acrobatics with Pippin, conversing with the kid casts from Matilda and Annie, and leading a row of Newsies down the aisle. Somehow he also fits in a magic trick, a Mike Tyson cameo, and a Doogie Howser reference. Throughout it all, NPH scarcely stops to take a breath (the repeated cast refrain “Go Neil Go!” appears to be sincerely supportive) as he sets out to prove why Broadway is determined to pull out all the stops to entertain you as much as possible. Even the audience, filled with Broadway vets, is gobsmacked, and they leap to their feet when Harris, panting, finally finishes, hanging for dear life off the edge of a giant Tony award.
The Tonys won the Emmy that year for “Outstanding Special Class Program”; Harris’ jaw-dropping opener made it a shoe-in. If you’re going to watch the awards on Sunday, we recommend viewing the clip above (maybe more than once) to get yourself in the right mood this year. Godspeed, James Corden.