Presenting the award for best actress in a musical -- Helen Mirren!
No, this wasn't a Tony Awards introduction. Mirren -- along with Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck -- were surprise video guests, announcing winners of Teeny Awards to East End high school students at the 13th annual ceremony Sunday afternoon at Center Moriches High School.
But almost until the last moment, no one knew -- no one except Anita Boyer, coordinator for the event.
The video was shot by Broadway producer and two-time Teeny nominee Rob Hinderliter. In April, Boyer invited him to present the awards at Sunday's show, scheduled as usual just hours before the Tony Awards, for which the Teenys are playfully named. Hinderliter, however, had a scheduling conflict. Three of his shows -- "An American in Paris," "On the Town" and "You Can't Take It With You" -- were nominated for Tonys. "Rather than decline, he suggested doing it by video," Boyer said. " 'Let's see what I can do,' he said when I told him we could project a video in the auditorium. I thought maybe he'd just shoot a selfie of him announcing the Teeny winners."
But late on Saturday, as Hinderliter pushed record and straightened his bow tie, he was interrupted by Yazbeck, nominated for a best actor Tony for his role in "On the Town." Next, Yazbeck announced the Teeny winner for lead actor in a play: Randy Pack of Longwood High School in "Bad Auditions by Bad Actors." The audience screamed in delight, both for the winner and the presenter.
Boyer said she thought to herself, "Oh my gosh, guys, just you wait!"
Hinderliter was next seen entering the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater beneath the marquee for "The Audience," which stars Dame Helen. " 'No, there's no way,' I heard someone in the audience say," Boyer recalls. Hinderliter knocks on a dressing room door. "You couldn't hear anything they said for all the shrieks," Boyer says. Mirren, who shortly after this video moment won the best actress Tony for a play, announced the winners for best lead actress in a musical. It was a tie: Mackenzie Engeldrum of Hampton Bays in "Young Frankenstein" and Isabella Le Boeuf of Longwood in "Hairspray."
Sixteen Long Island schools were represented in the Teeny Awards before a crowd of 600. "It was a wonderful time as usual," Boyer says. "But the celebrity video -- that was certainly a first for us."