"That's sort of the way I feel. I think that's true of all of us. It's a Cinderella story for John, his parents. I mean, look at this: Did they ever think their son would have anything to do with a big Broadway hit?"

  • Now makeup artist Seven Chaperon enters the scene. She covers Lion's dressing table with powders, brushes, blushes, sponges, eyeliners, lipstick pencils, eyelash curlers and waterproof mascara - "in case there are any 'moments' along the way."

    "This is the part I really like - makeup," Lion says in the early going. An hour into the procedure, she admits, "I don't know how stars can stand going through all this. Vanity is so boring."

    All in all, the producer's holding up well - much better than yesterday. Her throat was sore, and she thought she was coming down with the flu. She suffered similar symptoms during the final run-through of Jelly's Last Jam. In that case, the flu turned to be last-minute jitters. Still, to be on the safe side, she stayed in yesterday, and that seems to have done the trick. "I woke up this morning, I felt great," she says.

    The doorbell rings; the diamonds are here. Lion selected them on Friday at the House of Harry Winston, the Fifth Avenue shop that lends jewelry to stars for high-profile events. With her dress in tow, she chose a wreath necklace and a pair of pear-shaped drop earrings - total weight: 57 carats; total value: $1 million. The bearer of the jewels is a guard named Steve Conlon, a retired New York police officer who works full-time for Winston's, escorting diamonds - and their wearers - anywhere in the world.

    Tonight Conlon will remain by Lion's side, or close behind (or, during the award ceremony at Radio City, on one of the aisles) until she takes off the gems at evening's end.

    This will be Conlon's fourth Tony ceremony and his second awards show with a Hairspray connection. In February, he guarded lead actor Harvey Fierstein at the Grammys. Fierstein, who plays the cross-dressing role of Tracy's mother, appeared in full costume topped off by a resplendent 86-carat yellow diamond pendant.

    At 6 o'clock, a gaggle of Lion's closest friends drop in for a quick champagne toast, joining the divorced producer's 28-year-old son, Matthew Nemeth, who made a quiet entrance earlier. Lion hurriedly dons her dress, slips into matching sling-backs and tucks a good-luck charm - her late father's 1929 Park School yearbook entry, complete with a Shakespeare quotation - into her evening bag. She raises a glass with her well-wishers then heads to the black stretch limo parked outside.

  • Lion is stuck in traffic. She had hoped to be in her seat by 7:15, when the first six awards will be presented before the 8 o'clock broadcast. But at 7:10, the limo is still trapped in a bumper-to-bumper logjam. One block from Radio City, Lion asks to be dropped off. With her hemline brushing the New York pavement, she sprints up the street - accompanied by her bodyguard and son - to the red carpet, where reporters, photographers and fans are packed tightly behind police barricades.

    Ahead of her is the evening's host, Australian actor Hugh Jackman; two Tony-nominated Hairspray cast members, Corey Reynolds and Winokur; and Elizabeth McCann, herself a Tony Award-winning producer as well as the managing producer of tonight's ceremony. "I couldn't be happier for you - well, I'd be happier if it were me," she says to Lion.

    "I wish it were you," Lion replies. "You could give the speech."

    By the time Lion and her son reach their row, filmmaker Waters and his longtime friend and casting director, Pat Moran, are waiting in their seats. Some of the special, or honorary, Tonys have already been presented, but Lion has made it in time for the competitive categories.

    The first two Tonys go to other shows. When it's time for the winner of the costume award to be announced, Lion anxiously grips Nemeth's knee, then leaps in her seat when Hairspray designer William Ivey Long's name is called.

    Halfway into the show, she slips into the ladies' room to touch up her makeup. She returns clutching a little plastic bag containing her powder, blush and lipstick. Moments later, she realizes she has lost her eyeglasses. She and Nemeth peer under and around their seats.

    At a commercial break, Conlon, the Harry Winston guard, shows up. "I'm just checking," he says. "Earrings?" Lion displays the pear-shaped diamonds, and he disappears back into the shadows.

    As the evening progresses, Lion's enthusiasm grows exponentially. When songwriters Shaiman and Wittman win best score, she springs to her feet. When Winokur is named best actress (in a tight race that pitted her against Broadway veteran Bernadette Peters), she jumps up and down in the aisle.

    "Fairy tales do come true," Winokur says in her acceptance speech. "Oh my God, if a 4-foot-11 chubby New York girl can be a leading lady in a Broadway show and win a Tony, then anything can happen!"

    At last, it is time for the best musical Tony - the big award of the night. Musicals are what Broadway is known for and what it does best. The show that is chosen will join the ranks of South Pacific, My Fair Lady, A Chorus Line, Cats, Les Miserables and, more recently, The Producers. But there are no guarantees.

    Of Hairspray's three competitors, two - Amour, which closed in November, and A Year with Frog and Toad, which is about to close - pose no threat, but the Twyla Tharp-Billy Joel collaboration, Movin' Out, cannot be dismissed.

    Though Hairspray already has won seven Tonys tonight, including best book and best score, this is not a surefire indication of victory. Just last year, Urinetown won best book and score, then lost to Thoroughly Modern Millie. The same thing happened in 1998 when Ragtime lost to The Lion King.