Brow Beat

Stephen Colbert, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg Crashed Kevin Spacey’s Opening Number at the Tony Awards

The 71st annual Tony Awards took place Sunday night in New York, with Kevin Spacey handling hosting duties for the first time. He was a little nervous about it, so for the opening number, he sought advice from veteran awards show hosts Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal. This being the Tonys, he asked them in song, beginning with a parody of “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen, before dropping in on some of the year’s other stage successes, including Groundhog Day; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812Groundhog DaySunset Boulevard; and Groundhog Day.

What Spacey didn’t do, at least in his opening number, was comment on the mess we’re all in right now, except for those of us who were also chosen late in the game to host a nationally televised awards show. Still, when your surprise guest stars are Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and the Rockettes, it’s gotta be hard to find room for much else. On the other hand, Spacey did have time to make the same joke twice: When Whoopi Goldberg emerged from one of the set’s closets, he asked her “How long have you been in that closet?” (“Well, Kevin, it depends on who you ask,” Goldberg replied.) A few minutes later, he donned a dress and turban for the Sunset Boulevard number, which he opened by belting, “I’m coming out! No. Wait.” So if fat had to be trimmed, that might have been a good place to start.

Of course, not only is there no rule that says that awards show hosts have to spend a lot of time talking about Donald Trump, on the whole it would be better if fewer of them did. Still, Spacey’s performance does suggest a useful rule for awards show hosts going forward: If your opening number is only going to be about the art you’re there to honor—a fine and honorable choice, to be clear!—you’d better close with a little of the ol’ soft-shoe. Spacey delivered on this front, using the Rockettes’ number to cover a costume change into Astaire-style top hat, white tie, and tails (plus spats!), before tap-dancing his way through the finale. So how did his moves stack up to the most legendary dancer Broadway ever saw? Well, let’s just say that only one of them has a Tony award.