updated 06/08/2014 AT 11:10 PM ET
•originally published 06/08/2014 AT 9:50 PM ET
With the Broadway box office enjoying a banner season – with $1.27 billion in ticket sales, despite the harshest winter in years – Sunday night brought the theater’s biggest night: the 68th annual Tony Awards.
And it was an especially good night for Broadway record setter Audra McDonald, winner of best dramatic actress for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill – her sixth Tony.
McDonald’s historic win – at age 43 – topped Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris’s previous records of five acting Tonys each, and the Radio City Music Hall audience acknowledged the significance of the achievement with a prolonged standing ovation.
As the cheers continued, McDonald cried openly, and acknowledged Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Maya Angelou and Billie Holiday, whom she plays in the drama.
She also told her children and husband they are the most important thing in life to her, and thanked her late parents, up in heaven, for ignoring their doctor’s advice and not medicating their overactive daughter.
Bryan Cranston also brought down the formidable, 6,000-seat house with his win as best dramatic actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s Tony-winning best play All the Way, about the passage of the historic 1964 Civil Rights Bill.
Cranston admitted he was introduced to the theater when in 1967 he sneaked into Hair, for the nudity.
Immediately afterward, nominee Neil Patrick Harris stopped the show by performing a number in full regalia from his nominated role in the best-revival-winning gender-bending musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He milked his number by engaging the audience, getting particularly intimate with Sting.
A bit later, Harris was named best actor in a musical. Leaping to the stage after first kissing fiancé David Burtka, Harris, clutching his award, said, “A year ago I was hosting the Tonys. This is crazy pants.”
He also promised to go back to spending time with his kids once the show is over.
Winner of the best musical Tony went to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which also took home the award for best musical director Darko Tresnjak.