By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cynthia Nixon, Kevin Kline and Laurie Metcalf were among early winners on Sunday at the annual Tony Awards honoring the best of Broadway.
Host Kevin Spacey kicked things off with a medley of songs referencing his self-doubt about successfully hosting the annual awards show compared to Neil Patrick Harris, James Corden or Hugh Jackman, riffing on numbers from "Dear Evan Hansen," "Groundhog Day," and other top musicals.
Kline, who was seen as a shoo-in for his lead actor turn as the egocentric actor in Noel Cowards' play "Present Laughter," said "I want to thank everybody," adding "we don't do this alone."
Nixon was named best featured actress in a play for a revival of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes," about a greedy southern family's underhanded business practices.
The actress lauded Hellman for her "eerily prescient play."
Noting one of its lines about people who "eat the Earth" and others who "watch them do it," Nixon praised present-day activists as "the people who in 2017 are refusing to just stand around and watch them do it."
Former "Roseanne" star Metcalf won best lead actress in a play for her role in "A Doll's House, Part 2."
Michael Aronov was a surprise winner for his lively featured actor performance as an Israeli negotiator in "Oslo," J.T. Rogers' behind-the-scenes look at the 1993 Middle East peace accords. Experts had predicted a win by Danny DeVito for "The Price."
"This is the biggest honor of my life," Aronov told the A-list audience at Radio City Music Hall as he paid tribute to his parents, who were with him.
"My victories mean nothing unless I'm sharing them with you," the actor said.
Gavin Creel won best featured actor in a musical for "Hello, Dolly!", the revival that scored 10 nominations.
"Dear Evan Hansen," the teen-angst driven musical with no stars which is set in motion by a suicide, won two early Tonys for best score and best book. The hit show is also favorite for the top prize, best musical, which will be announced at the end of the evening.
Broadway enjoyed a record-breaking season this year thanks to last year's Tony winner and pop culture juggernauts "Hamilton," and musicals like "Sunset Boulevard," starring Glenn Close, and "Hello Dolly," with Bette Milder.
Midler, 71, is all-but-assured of winning her first competitive Tony later on Sunday for her star turn in "Hello, Dolly!."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Mary Milliken)