The Tony Awards celebrated the best of Broadway on Sunday night, in a ceremony that kicked off with a star-filled musical number from host James Corden and ended with big wins for Hadestown and The Ferryman. But TV cameras and red carpet photographers didn’t capture all of the night’s memorable moments before, during, and after the big show.
EW and PEOPLE were at the 73rd annual Tonys, seated in the Radio City Music Hall audience and backstage in the press room as the show went on. Here’s some of what you didn’t get to see if you were watching at home.
Hot mic moment! Corden’s microphone was streaming loud and clear into the press room minutes before the show actually started. Patient journalists could hear him warming up for the big opening number, singing through the lyrics and melodies.
There was another historic Tonys win. Before Ali Stroker made history Sunday as the first actor who uses a wheelchair to be nominated for and win a Tony Award, there was another first for the history books. When Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz picked up their prize for Best Sound Design of a Musical for Hadestown as awards were being handed out ahead of the official telecast, Steinberg called out that his collaborator was the first woman to be nominated, and then win, in that category. (Watch the full speech online now.)
A touching speech from Best Choreography winner Sergio Trujillo. Trujillo also picked up his Tony for his work on the show Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations early in the night and got a standing ovation for his acceptance speech, in which he said he came to New York 30 years ago as an “illegal immigrant” and told “all those Dreamers out there” that “the American dream is still alive — you just have to keep on fighting, because change will come.”
“Commercial Break Karaoke” happened. There were no carpools in sight, but Corden still got a few stars to buckle up and sing for the Radio City crowd, just as he did when he first hosted the Tonys in 2016. Ben Platt stood up for the first round and sang “Tomorrow” from Annie. During a later break, In the Heights alums Anthony Ramos and Christopher Jackson teamed up for “96,000” from that Tony-winning musical. But the best one came last, when Billy Porter earned a standing ovation for singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy. (Hey, CBS, put these online in full so everyone else can see!)
And while it all went well during the actual telecast, at rehearsals the bit was a disaster — with the piano player not being able to hear Corden’s cues. After a messy first try — in which a brave attendee sang “Alexander Hamilton” from Hamilton — Corden kept things light. “Let’s go backstage and figure out what the f— that was,” he joked to producers.
Audra vs. Laura, Round 1. One of the funniest bits of the night came when Audra McDonald and Laura Linney hilariously fought, in a bit that Corden and company crafted to push back against the “too nice” image associated with the Broadway community. The camera cut away when the two actresses got up in one another’s face on TV, but in rehearsal, their feud ended in a hug. It also got a little more violent, with McDonald taking off her shoe and holding it as a prop weapon.
Winning a Tony is…tiring! Tony winner Bertie Carvel (Featured Actor in a Play, Ink) started fading in the press room. “It’s exhausting,” he said of the awards rush. “My adrenaline ended about 20 minutes ago, so if I look tired, it’s ’cause I am.”
Bryan Cranston might need a Broadway break. Both times Cranston made it to Broadway (playing Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way and Howard Beale in Network), he picked up Tonys. But it might be a while before he returns again. “It drains the hell out of me, it really does,” he told reporters in the press room. “I seem to be attracted to really damaged characters. I keep thinking of a comedy where I’m sipping tea and I’m like, ‘That’ll be nice.’ But unless something really catches me, I’m attracted to that damage. I have to go recuperate and then come back!”
You could buy your own Tonys swag…or just grab a free keepsake. Yes, there was Tony Awards merch on sale at Radio City. Attendees could pick up a shirt that said “Future Tony Winner,” a blanket with the Tonys logo, or small souvenirs like magnets and pins. But if those didn’t strike you, everyone got a Playbill — just like any other Broadway show! — they could take home as a memento.
On to the after-parties! The official Tonys gala is held at the nearby Plaza Hotel, where well-wishers could be seen surrounding James Corden — perhaps congratulating him on his hosting stint? — and other Tony nominees and winners like Stephanie J. Block, Jeremy Pope, and Heidi Schreck were seen mingling, eating, and celebrating.
And while The Prom may have gone home empty-handed at Sunday’s show, the energy at Haswell Green’s — where the musical had its official after-party — was still strong. “We’ve all been around enough to know it’s not about awards,” star Christopher Sieber told PEOPLE. “The show is about love, acceptance, tolerance. We win eight times a week when audiences come to see it.” Sieber also noted the impact of the show’s same-sex kiss, which was televised as part of the show’s Tony performance. “I am that kid,” the out actor said, when asked what it might be like seeing that as a child. “I was just as moved today by it as I would have been if I saw it then.”
Further uptown, Broadway PR firm O&M’s annual bash at the Carlyle Hotel was packed with stars and still going in the early hours of the morning. We spotted Laurie Metcalf, Ben Platt, Judith Light, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Beanie Feldstein, and Zachary Quinto, among others — plus Darren Criss, who took a seat behind a piano to sing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” as partygoers looked on.