Every so often a megahit storms Broadway, and from the opening number until the audience cheers, people cannot get enough.
"The Book of Mormon," a hilarious and profane musical about Mormon missionaries in Africa, leads with 14 nominations at the 65th Annual Tony Awards, airing on CBS Sunday, June 12.
"The Scottsboro Boys," a minstrel show about the 1931 travesty of justice when two white women falsely accused nine black men of rape, is next with 12 nominations. And "Anything Goes," the Cole Porter musical revived with Sutton Foster, takes nine.
"He is a guy who has been on Broadway, knows Broadway and is also on a hit sitcom on CBS, so the television audience knows him as well," says Glenn Weiss, Tony Awards director and an executive producer. "He is certainly not a sitcom star coming to Broadway. He knows it and feels it and is so intellectually smart about theater."
At this writing, precisely what would be on the three-hour show was still being planned, but expect production numbers from nominated musicals -- "The Book of Mormon," "Catch Me if You Can," "Sister Act" and "The Scottsboro Boys" -- with the cast of the last production reassembled for this. Two revivals, "Anything Goes" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," will be featured.
Look for TV favorite Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?"), up for her first Tony Award for her terrific turn as the wisecracking, alcohol-swilling wife in "Lombardi," about the Packers coach.
"I was dreaming (about Tony nominees)," Light says, and awakened to discover she was among them. "This is wonderful and marvelous and silly and ridiculous."
The day after nominations were announced, some actors were stunned to have been nominated. They met in midtown Manhattan before a two-show day, and many looked as if mornings were not their preferred time.
Then there's Patina Miller, who could not stop beaming after being nominated for her Broadway debut as Deloris Cartier. She's an aspiring lounge singer with a fantastic voice, hot pants and thigh-high platform boots, who witnesses a murder and seeks asylum in a convent in "Sister Act."
"My face is still hurting from smiling from yesterday," she says.
Though many actors say they will improvise an acceptance speech, Miller says, "I've always had a speech for something."
"I feel I should wing it," says Andrew Rannells, the apple-cheeked and ambitious Elder Price of "The Book of Mormon." "I've been writing versions of this speech since fourth grade. There are pieces I can pull from memory if need be."
His co-star, Josh Gad, who plays the very funny and incredibly annoying Elder Cunningham, says, "I feel like it's kind of important. I don't want to be that schmuck that goes up and doesn't know what to say."
An avowed "awards show fanatic," Gad says, "You always dream as a kid. Maybe one day I will be there. This is so surreal."
Actors should beware: The Tonys, unlike the Oscars, run on time. Including hugging people in the aisle, winners have 90 seconds from when names are announced until acceptance speech time expires.
Some actors are thrilled that their plays, shuttered months ago, were remembered. Laura Benanti, who stole "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," the musical version of Pedro Almodovar's film, says, "I felt it was unfairly demonized. Some people were just mean. One in particular made me angry on behalf of my fellow actors. I feel like the Tony committee washed some of that clean."
Joshua Henry, a "Scottsboro" star, hopes the Tony notice will revive the show.
"Audiences were blown away; I have never seen those reactions," says Henry, no stranger to hits after "In the Heights."
As talented as the nominees are in all categories, the race for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play is stunning because each is a masterpiece.
Bobby Cannavale in "The Motherf... With the Hat," a play about betrayal, defines intensity.Joe Mantello, as the anguished agitator in "The Normal Heart," chronicling the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, leaves the audience crying.
"I know it is a cliche, but I am nominated in a category with Al Pacino," Mantello stops and shakes his head. "Al Pacino! I am done!"
As Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice," Pacino all but left a pound of flesh onstage.
Mark Rylance, as the fascinating drug dealer and epic party animal in "Jerusalem," transports audiences to a forest in modern England.
The fifth in this category, Brian Bedford, takes 80 minutes to transform himself into Lady Bracknell for "The Importance of Being Earnest," which he also directs. Bedford wasn't always an Oscar Wilde fan.
"I had never seen a really good performance of 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' " he says. "It was always people showing off. I always found it predictable. And when I started to see that it didn't have to be that, I became interested."