Tonys: Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Fantasia Open Show With 'After Midnight' Number

Gladys Knight, Fantasia Barrino and Patti Labelle perform onstage during the 68th Annual Tony Awards
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Gladys Knight, Fantasia Barrino and Patti Labelle perform onstage during the 68th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 8, 2014 in New York City. 

The Tony Awards kicked off with a high-energy song-and-dance spectacle on the Radio City Music Hall stage, featuring Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Fantasia Barrino and the cast of “After Midnight.”

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The special number -- staged by Warren Carlyle just for the broadcast -- featured the musical's hit numbers "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "It Don't Mean a Thing," plus a ton of tap, jazz and freestyle, as moderated by the the production's host, Dule Hill. Barrino hit the stage after performing her last show earlier that afternoon. Tonys host Hugh Jackman stepped in to join in on the tap dance, after ringing in the broadcast with a bounce-filled sequence highlighting the season's new productions, including “A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Cabaret,” among others.

Watch a clip of the “After Midnight” performance at

"I've tried to do something special with them," Carlyle told The Hollywood Reporter during the run-up to the awards show. "The show has 27 individual pieces, and I didn't want to choose. There's a whole new surprise coming." Barrino, currently appearing as special-guest vocalist in the jazz revue inspired by the music of Duke Ellington's reign at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, will be succeeded this summer by LaBelle and Knight, as well as Natalie Cole. Other guests who have performed stints in the musical since it opened last fall are k.d. lang, Toni Braxton, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Vanessa Williams, while the show is hosted by Dule Hill, using evocative excerpts from the poetry of Langston Hughes.

After Midnight nabbed seven Tony nominations, including best musical, featured actress (Adriane Lenox), costume design (Isabel Toledo), lighting design (Howell Binkley), sound design (Peter Hylenski), direction and choreography (Carlyle). The production opened in November at the Brooks Atkinson Theater to some of the best reviews of the Broadway season and has grossed $19 million to date.

The Tonys broadcast also includes a tenth-anniversary celebration of “Wicked” and previews of upcoming productions “Finding Neverland” and “The Last Ship,” as well as performances from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Violet,” “If/Then,” “Aladdin,” “Les Miserables,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Rocky,” among others.

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