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Kevin Spacey kicks off Tony Awards with gentle humor

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/12/2017 By MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer
Kevin Spacey arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Kevin Spacey arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Spacey kicked off his first-ever Tony Award hosting gig with grace and self-depreciating wit on Sunday, dancing, singing and joking his way through an opening number that linked all four best new musical nominees and doing his best Glenn Close impersonation.

Scarlett Johansson arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Scarlett Johansson arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Michael Aronov was the first big winner, taking home the trophy for best featured actor in a play. Aronov plays an Israeli diplomat in "Oslo." It is just his second appearance on Broadway. He thanked his parents.

Corey Hawkins arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Corey Hawkins arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Spacey, who was named Tony host after several other celebrities turned down the job, laughed at himself in the 10-minute opening song, in which he gradually grows comfortable with hosting duties despite what he fears will be nasty tweets crashing down.

Ben Platt arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Ben Platt arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The telecast opened on a mournful host dressed like the title character in "Dear Evan Hansen" — complete with arm cast — before soon showing up in a bed to mock "Groundhog Day The Musical" with an assist with Stephen Colbert and then donning a fake beard as if he was in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812."

Josh Groban arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Josh Groban arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Spacey got advice from former Tony host Whoopi Goldberg (live) and Billy Crystal (taped.) The Rockettes arrived to dance with the cast of "Come From Away." Spacey even had fun with rumors about his sexual orientation while singing the Andrew Lloyd Webber song "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from "Sunset Boulevard." Spacey, dressed as Close, sang "I'm coming out..." and then paused, tantalizingly. "Of makeup..."

Mark Hamill arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Mark Hamill arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Then Spacey led a line of high-kicking, tap dancers in a top hat, a white tie, tuxedo and a cane. "I'm Broadway bound," he sang. "Your next host is found." After the hectic number, he requested that his cardiologist be nearby.

Sally Field arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Sally Field arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Upcoming there will be musical numbers from nine new and revival musicals, "Bandstand," ''Come From Away," ''Dear Evan Hansen," ''Falsettos," ''Groundhog Day The Musical," ''Hello, Dolly!" ''Miss Saigon," ''Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and "War Paint." The four playwrights vying for the best play Tony will each take the stage.

But one thing viewers won't get to hear is Bette Midler sing after talks failed to land the diva, who's starring in a hit revival of "Hello, Dolly!" In other sour notes, the thriving and popular show "Anastasia" didn't get a slot, despite its draw with young people, particularly women. Nor will the musicals "A Bronx Tale" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," despite their box office popularity and the inclusion of some other shows that are struggling.

The leading musical Tony nominees are "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812," with 12 nominations, "Hello, Dolly!" with 10 and "Dear Evan Hansen," with nine. The top play nominees are "A Doll's House, Part 2," with eight, and "Oslo," with seven. Last year, all eyes were on how many statuettes "Hamilton" would capture. This year, the awards are expected to be scattered around.

Broadway producers will be thankful this year that the telecast won't have to compete with any NBA Finals games, but there will be a Stanley Cup playoff contest and a soccer game pitting the U.S. and Mexico.

They'll also be keeping their fingers crossed that they avoid any technical or human snafus that have marred previous awards shows this year, including the wrong winner announced at the Oscars and sound issues at the Grammys.

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Online: http://www.tonyawards.com

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Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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