Neil Patrick Harris Kicks Off Tony Awards Welcoming Crowd to '50 Shades of Gay’

Harris was joined by Patti LuPone, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the cast of "Book of Mormon" in an opening that mixed singing and wise-cracks

Referencing E.L. James' steamy best-seller, Neil Patrick Harris kicked off the 2012 Tony Awards on Sunday by welcoming the crowd of theater actors and lovers to a night he dubbed "fifty shades of gay." 

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It is the "How I Met Your Mother" star's third time hosting Broadway's biggest night. He previously hosted the show in 2009 and 2011 and has appeared in productions of "Proof," "Assassins," and "Cabaret" on the Great White Way. 

Also read: Tony Awards: The Complete List of Nominees and Winners

If the beginning of the show had an air of deja vu, the effect was intentional. 

Also read: Tony Awards: Broadway's Brightest Stars Hit the Red Carpet

This year’s Tonys are noticeably lacking a smash hit on the leval of last year’s big winner “Book of Mormon,” so the show’s producers just brought back the cast of satiric musical for an opening number that included the likes of Ricky Martin, Matthew Broderick, Cynthia Nixon and James Earl Jones.

Harris himself appeared as one of the Mormon missionaries. 

He then launched into a number that pondered what would happen if life was a musical.

"What if all your questions had rhyming answers and you never left home without your backup dancers," Harris sang. 

"And your next door neighbor was the legendary Patti LuPone," he added later, as the "Evita" star joined him onstage while pretending to mow the lawn.

The song and dance number had all-star help from the cast of "Mary Poppins," Amanda Seyfried and Jesse Tyler Ferguson pretending to be an over-eager understudy to the Tony host. 

The razzle dazzler concluded the act by stating that if life were more like musical theater, "life wouldn't suck so much."