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Tony Awards broadcast scores best ratings since 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sunday's broadcast of the annual Tony Awards honoring Broadway's best productions and performers scored its best ratings since 2009, with viewership up 20 percent over last year's show, CBS said on Monday.

The three-hour show hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and boasting appearances by big name stars such as Tom Hanks, Jake Gyllenhaal, Scarlett Johansson and Sally Field, came in second to game two of the NBA finals on ABC, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings for the night.

The awards ceremony drew 7.2 million viewers. American musical "Kinky Boots," dominated the event, winning for best musical and a best score Tony for pop star Cyndi Lauper, in addition to four other awards,

Harris, making his fourth appearance hosting the awards, again drew plaudits for a deft, lively, energetic and witty performance.

"He set the bar so high with his introductory flourish that fears of another familiar Tony malady haunted the rest of the CBS broadcast: the dreaded How Do We Top the Opening Number Disease," the New York Times said.

The Los Angeles Times went even further, nominating Harris, star of television's "How I Met Your Mother" who has won two Emmy awards for previous Tony hosting duties, as permanent host, while also praising the show itself.

"If anything could restore faith in the American theater it was Sunday's exuberant Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall," the newspaper said. "The telecast found ways of selling Broadway's wares to America while honoring the Great White Way's stubbornly eccentric soul."

Entertainment web site TheWrap.com also raved.

"On Sunday night, Neil Patrick Harris continued to prove that there's nothing he can't do - including ripping through an incredible opening number and dropping a solid Shia Labeouf joke."

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney and Jackie Frank)

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