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Host Neil Patrick Harris sings a song to end the American Theatre Wing's 66th annual Tony Awards in New York June 10, 2012. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
Host Neil Patrick Harris sings a song to end the American Theatre Wing's 66th annual Tony Awards in New York June 10, 2012. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

Tony Awards

What’s in a name? That which the Tony Awards call ‘Stanford’ Festival Add to ...

For most Canadians, Stratford, Ont, is a town synonymous with live theatre. But for Tony Awards presenter Ben Vereen, it's apparently just a tricky name to read off a teleprompter.

Introducing a musical number from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's production of Jesus Christ Superstar on Sunday night, Vereen - who originated the role of Judas when the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical premiered on Broadway in 1971 - flubbed the name of Justin Bieber's hometown.

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Some viewers heard him say "Stanford Shakespeare Festival", while others thought it sounded more like "Stamford Shakespeare Festival".

Either way, cue the cringes across Canada - followed by reactions on social media that ranged from amused to outraged.

"The horror, the horror," tweeted (no doubt, tongue in cheek) Antoni Cimolino, current general director and incoming artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

"I have never been more proud to work at the Stanford Shakespeare Festival...wait a minute!" wrote actor Kyle Golemba, currently on stage in Stratford in 42nd Street.

Mangled introduction aside, Stratford artistic director Des McAnuff's production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which premiered at the festival last summer before travelling to California and then Broadway, didn't find much luck in the two categories it was nominated in Sunday night, either.

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess snatched away the Tony for best musical revival, while Josh Young, who plays Judas, lost out on best featured actor in a musical to Michael McGrath from Nice Work If You Can Get It, a new show written around old Gershwin songs.

Still, Young and the rest of the Stratford company got the change to perform in front of millions of Broadway fans on live television - which could help sell a few tickets to the show, which has been struggling at the box office since it opened in New York to less rapturous reviews than it received in Canada.

Instant reaction to the televised version of the title number - which featured Young singing with back-up dancers in front of a giant projection of Paul Nolan's Jesus - was mixed, but at least one powerful online voice was blown away. "Is Josh Young a powerhouse or WHAT?!" wrote popular blogger Perez Hilton. "Seriously, this performance is OUT. OF. CONTROL!"

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