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Timeline: Backstage at the Tonys

10 a.m.: Rehearsals for the 8 p.m. show begin, with Puerto Rican Day Parade revelers on Fifth Avenue blending with arriving performers. At times it is hard to tell which group is more theatrical.

10:30 a.m.: A scruffy David Hyde Pierce mills around the backstage gifting lounge. What will he do before the awards? “I like to put on my tux. I feel like it’s a mistake not to do that.” He’s rooting for Kelsey Grammer to win for La Cage aux Folles. When asked if he could imagine the possibility of Frasier: The Musical, he says, “No, I think we already did Frasier: The Musical.”

Noon: Glee’s Lea Michele hugs Paula Abdul in the gifting lounge, tells her she looks like a “brunette Kristin Chenoweth,” and asks how high her heels are.

12:30 p.m.: Bernadette Peters walks around with dozens of butterfly clips all over her hair, collecting free Altoids. She says the hottest party she will attend this evening will be at “my house” and that it will ultimately take six hours for her hair to dry and set.
 
12:45 p.m.
: Glee’s Matthew Morrison gives Laura Bell Bundy a big hug and holds the moment.
 
1 p.m.: Paula Abdul reluctantly walks over to the press corps, carrying her new free Vera Bradley bag in a slow-motion robot dance. When asked about possible replacements for Simon Cowell, she says, “Honestly, the word replacement does not apply. As we all know, they broke the mold after Simon.” Abdul’s responses are odd enough that one reporter whispers to the press corps that she must be on “vicogrigio,” a mixture of Vicodin and Pinot Grigio, and suggests she might clean up her act before she presents the award for best choreography that night. Abdul, busy talking about how she’s going to “have to somehow pour myself into my dress,” doesn’t hear this.
 
1:30 p.m.: Constantine Maroulis, who is hosting the Tonys simulcast in Times Square that night, says he “kind of teared up a little bit” when he spoke to Paula Abdul. Rehearsal space and the gifting lounge clear out for tech.
 
5:31 p.m.: If ever Broadway needed Lea Michele belting out “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” it is now. The press line is a sea of umbrellas and sopping wet reporters in formalwear. Event planners: No one thought to look at a weather forecast and rent a canopy?
 
5:45 p.m.: Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child and, recently, Chicago on Broadway, has, bless her, been working the red carpet and answering inane questions about her six nieces and nephews the entire time. 
 
5:48 p.m.: Adorable Bobby Steggert, nominated as a featured actor in Ragtime, says he’s just come from a matinee performance of The Grand Manner at Lincoln Center. “Boyd Gaines, four-time Tony winner, gave me his flask as a good luck charm,” he says. Did Gaines fill it? “He sure did! There’s some really good aged whiskey in it. I tried it already. I approve.” Steggert says he’s just going to sip here and there to calm the nerves, since he’s too nervous to eat, and if he downs the whole thing he’ll be drunk by the time his category is announced. He is, however, planning on going to several parties, which has him a little stressed about his performance the next day at Town Hall, which was obviously arranged “by someone who wasn’t as worried about my hangover as I am.”
 
6:09 p.m.: In Touch reporter: “What’s the secret to a good relationship?” David Alan Grier: “A lot of fucking.” He then explains that they probably don’t want to ask him about relationships since he’s getting a divorce. What’s Grier’s favorite TV show? Snapped on Oxygen, “because it’s about women who kill their spouses. It always starts off nice: ‘Mary Brown was married for ten years to her high school sweetheart. Then one day he came up missing.’ That’s what I watched to learn how to act like a lawyer [in Race].”

6:12 p.m.: A massive swell of screams on the street announces Daniel Radcliffe’s arrival. He signs autographs in the drizzle.
 
6:15 p.m.: Jon Michael Hill, nominated for featured actor in Superior Donuts, says his whole family will be shouting from the mezzanine. He’s the show’s sole representative tonight. “There were nine of us and none of them are here. I’m very sad and lonely about that. All they’re doing is texting me and saying, ‘Don’t blow it.’”
 
6:24 p.m.: Memphis’s Chad Kimball is among the many performers coming straight from a Sunday matinee performance, and he admits that today he started crying at curtain call. “I looked over at Montego [Glover, Tony nominee], who I’ve done this show with for six years — and you’re going to make me do it again — and something in me just broke. It’s so gratifying.”

6:54 p.m.: Huge screams from the fans across the street for Green Day, Ryan Reynolds, Ricky Martin — and Liev Schreiber, which is nice. About time he got some mass-market recognition.
 
7:01 p.m.: Danielle Radcliffe hugs Cate Blanchett in her amazing silver Armani suit and new angular haircut. He is half her size.
 
7:04 p.m.: Besties Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele are holding hands and practically skipping down the red carpet. She spots a man standing alone, screams, “Bill T. Jones!” and practically bear-hugs him to the ground.
 
7:13 p.m.: Daniel Radcliffe is just jazzed to be here. “I can’t believe they asked,” he says. “It really is amazing. I’ve only done one show. It’s so nice they still think of me as part of the community.” He just finished filming sixteen months of the final Harry Potter yesterday. Next spring, he’s coming back to Broadway for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
 
7:22 p.m.: The show doesn’t start till 8 p.m., but people like David Hyde Pierce, Marian Seldes, and David Bryan are filing out holding Tonys. These are, apparently, the non-televised awards. It’s still too early for anyone to have figured out how to tell the winners where to go, so they just mill awkwardly in the narrow hallway backstage.
 
7:45 p.m.: Mark Sanchez leads Jamie Lynn Sigler by the hand through the backstage lounge.
 
8:01 p.m.: Lucy Liu is looking a little sad backstage, sitting on a couch in her filmy peach gown as the show begins. She’s the second presenter, so she can’t go to her seat, and she’s frantically reminding herself how to pronounce everyone’s names. We tell her Green Day is supposed to perform in the opening number. “Okay, now I’m really disappointed!” she says. It will later take her a full minute and a half to gather up enough of her dress so she can walk.
 
8:10 p.m.: Fela! cast comes offstage head-banging to Green Day’s “The Best Days of Our Lives.”
 
8:11 p.m.: Karen Olivo, who presented the non-televised awards, hobbles by on crutches. “Just a broken foot,” she says.
 
8:14 p.m.: In the media room across the street from the awards, Red’s Adam Cork, who won for Best Sound Design of a Play, speaks just as Sean Hayes opens the Tonys with a ten-second long sloppy wet smooch with Kristin Chenoweth. Cork doesn’t know why the press is laughing as he describes his theater inspirations and, oblivious, continues talking to the one reporter not fixated on the television screen.

8:26 p.m.: The folks from LG are desperately trying to interview Kristin Chenoweth backstage, but she’s too entranced by watching her Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes tell jokes on TV. Later, taking the backstage elevator, she talks about their kiss. “Oh yeah, there was tongue. I take my opportunities.”
 
8:28 p.m.: Scarlett Johansson comes to the backstage lounge with her Tony Award. She’s in a great mood but weirdly isolated, standing by herself and watching the TV screen, looking beautiful yet stunned. “I’m still freaking out,” she says. “What do I do now? I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I guess you just wait till you have to go back out and present? This is so surreal.” She picks up her Tony, then puts it down, then grabs some potato chips, then gets up, then asks someone to watch her Tony for her, then looks worried and goes back to get it and walks around the lounge clutching it. Can’t she just give it to someone to hold onto it for her? “No!” she says, laughing. “I am not letting go.”
 
8:33 p.m.: ScarJo is still backstage, hanging by herself and watching the awards. When Eddie Redmayne wins for Red, she squeals and claps her hands in front of her mouth. “Oh! He’s wonderful!”
 
8:34 p.m.: For some reason, Antonio Banderas has decided we are a person who needs to keep track of his whereabouts. He passes us once, stares in our eyes, and says, “Agua!” then gets water. He passes us again and tells us, “I was going to go to the bathroom, but it is too far away. I cannot go! I have no time!”
 
8:36 p.m.: American Idiot’s Christine Jones, winner for Best Set Design, tells the media room that she doesn’t even know what’s on the set anymore. “I’ve put up pictures of my kids and drawings that my kids did, and I’ve asked other people to bring in personal items, and I never get tired of going back and looking at what people have written on the walls. Maybe we’ll all go spend the night there.”
 
8:41 p.m.: Chris Noth, who has spent most of the night backstage, is getting a little irritated that the gifting lounge is dry. “This is maddening!” he says. “You can bet when this is over, people are going to go for some stiff drinks.”
 
8:57 p.m.: 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit goes out to entertain the crowd during commercial break by reenacting his show, Celebrity Autobiography, in which performers read from the actual autobiographies of celebrities. His choice: Don’t Hassle the Hoff.
 
9:03 p.m.: Liev Schrieber comes backstage to give Scarlett Johansson a hug before they present A View From the Bridge. He appears to be the only friend she’s seen since she won her Tony half an hour earlier.

9:09 p.m.: Viola Davis comes backstage for some food. “I’m okay so far. Trying not to get too tense. My husband is calming me down. Rubbing my arms, whispering in my ears.” She says Denzel Washington “has been looking at his program a lot.”
 
9:10 p.m.: In the media room, Terry Johnson, director of La Cage aux Folles, rejects a reporter’s question about whether the musical is “dated,” telling the press room that he never saw La Cage as “a gay musical for straight people. A lot of my previous work is about … sex and comedy. All of my work so far has been about hetero sex and comedy, so for me it was kind of joyous to have to investigate a show where the sex simply wasn’t hetero.”
 
9:27 p.m.: A woman working backstage freaks out when Will and Jada Pinkett Smith pass by. Will grabs her hand to keep her calm. “Don’t touch me!” she says, and buries her head in embarrassment. “Don’t touch me?” he says, laughing, and gives her a hug. As soon as he leaves, she runs off, saying she needs to find some place to go and die now.
 
9:30 p.m.: Helen Mirren runs into Alfred Molina as he’s exiting the backstage restroom and she’s trying to enter it. “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” he warns. He then proceeds to tell the whole queue, including Cate Blanchett, “I can’t believe I just ran into Helen Mirren coming out of the toilet!“ “Did you leave it clean?” Blanchett asks. “I put the seat down and everything,” says Molina, then gasps. “Or was I supposed to leave it up?”
 
9:33 p.m.: Jackie Hoffman grabs Blanchett and turns her to take in her amazing silver Armani suit. “You look like a Slinky!” says Hoffman. “I feel like I should be riding a bike,” says Blanchett. “Apparently I reflect light.”
 
9:41 p.m.: Katie Finneran starts making owl sounds in reference to the owl coat she wears in Promises, Promises to the rapturous applause of the bored press room.
 
9:48 p.m.: David Hyde Pierce enters the room carrying his honorary Isabelle Stevenson Award. A London radio reporter tells him she’s looking forward to La Bete premiering in the U.K. and asks how things are going. “It’s terrible. It’s going to be a huge disaster.” “Well, it costs a fortune,” the reporter replies.
 
9:49 p.m.: Stanley Tucci and Chris Noth both throw down napkins in mock anger when Viola Davis talks about Fences ending at the gates of heaven. A stagehand asks Stanley if he’s ready to go on next. “Well, she just ruined the ending of Fences for me, but okay.”

10:30 p.m.: Lea Michele preps for her performance by standing in the backstage hallway and complimenting people’s hair and clothes in a very exaggerated theatrical tone. “Dahling, love the shoes.”
 
10:45 p.m.: Bill T. Jones, Fela! choreographer, tells the media room he hasn’t let Broadway success or support from Jay-Z and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith get to his head. “I’m a cantankerous, self-involved artist. I know the world doesn’t revolve around me. Finally, at 58, I know that. But this is pretty good, isn’t it?”
 
11:18 p.m.: Reporters in the media room are awkwardly silent when the producers of La Cage come in. Producer Sonia Friedman quickly fills the lull: “Sorry we’re not more famous. Can you just pretend to be more interested in us? … I think we’re done. You can move on to more famous people now.”
 
11:22 p.m.: Sean Hayes is making a dramatic sweep through the Tonys gala on the skating rink in Rock Center, grabbing women he knows and twirling them on the dance floor, dispensing hugs like they’re candy.
 
11:37 p.m.: Kelsey Grammer and wife Camille are sitting at a table surrounded by television cameras, apparently because Camille is going to be on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. “This is the year of the transvestite!” Grammer says loudly and with great ceremony. We ask him what that means, and immediately have to sign a release to appear on the show.
 
11:43 p.m.: Matthew Morrison enters the gala and the women start rushing at him. He’d gone to get drinks at the bar, and after ten minutes of picture-taking had to run away empty-handed. Does he wish he had his anonymity back? “Yes!” he says. “Glee came back for the second half of the season and our numbers had doubled and you could just feel it on the street.”
 
12:16 a.m.: Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts refuse questions at the gala, saying they’re going home, but we see them an hour later at the La Cage party.
 
12:35 a.m.: Katie Finneran, still reeling from her win for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, says she’s going to lend both this statuette and the one she got in 2001 to a sketch to raise money for Broadway Bares. She says she’s off to a joint party for Promises, Promises and Red, and that, like Kristin Chenoweth, she always makes a point to kiss Sean Hayes with tongue.

12:40 a.m.: Paula Abdul is like the mayor of the Tonys Gala; there’s a line ten fans deep to talk to her. Her big plans for the night? “Eventually getting out of this dress. It’s more comfortable standing in it than sitting in it.”
 
1:25 a.m.: On an outdoor balcony at the La Cage party at Hurley’s, Scarlett Johansson is tucked away in a corner, surrounded by a circle of men, including Brian Lordes, president of CAA. She looks gorgeous and relaxed, taking long drags off cigarettes, and laughing, her Tony safely by her side.
 
1:38 a.m.: One flight up, Douglas Hodge, winner for Best Actor in a Musical, is having a grand time, his Tony very casually sitting on a table filled with half-finished drinks. We point out to him that some busboy might try to clear it away if he’s not careful, and he picks up the statuette and pretends to drink it. “I don’t know what to do with it,” he admits, ignoring the passersby who keep picking it up, playing with it, and making faux-acceptance speeches to each other.

2:00 a.m.: Fela! may not have won for Best Musical, but the party at Hudson Terrace is in full swing with Questlove D.J.-ing and the show’s amazing dancers standing on a center platform, doing their thing. Will Smtih and Jada Pinkett Smith had come by earlier and refused the VIP treatment, preferring to hang and dance with the little people.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage