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Top 10 Tony Awards Acceptance Speeches

Beau Salant ‘18/Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The 69th Annual Tony Awards are coming up this Sunday June 7th at 8/9c on CBS, so to prepare, Emertainment Monthly is looking back at the top 10 best acceptance speeches by Tony Award winners!

10. Nathan Lane (Best Actor in a Musical for The Producers)

The Producers was a huge hit on Broadway, and one of the reasons for its success was the incredibly dynamic and now iconic pairing of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the lead roles. The two ended up competing against each other for the big award, and when Lane’s name was called on Tony night, he literally forced Broderick onto the stage with him, and paid beautiful tribute to his friend and co-star. This lovely act of kindness earns Lane a spot on this list. Bonus points for Dame Edna’s wonderfully hilarious presentation.

9. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Best Original Score for In the Heights)

Lin-Manuel Miranda became one of the youngest composers to take home the Tony Award for Best Original Score when he won for his passion project In the Heights in 2008 at the age of 28. He showed off his incredible rhyming ability in his acceptance speech, thanking his family, friends, colleagues and even his inspiration Stephen Sondheim all in near-perfect rhyming iambic pentameter. Here’s hoping he makes more rhyming speeches when he sweeps the awards next year for Hamilton.

8. Joanna Gleason (Best Actress in a Musical for Into the Woods)

The little-known (at the time) Joanna Gleason surprised everybody when she took home the Tony for her touching performance as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, beating out formidable competition from Patti LuPone in Anything Goes. After accepting the award from her co-star Bernadette Peters, Gleason gave a heartwarming and grateful acceptance speech, paying tribute to her family and friends. She ends with a wonderful line stating that although she plays the Baker’s Wife, winning the Tony has made her feel like Cinderella.

7. Ellen Barkin (Best Featured Actress in a Play for The Normal Heart)

When Ellen Barkin’s name was called, she immediately shot up to the stage and took no prisoners with her acceptance speech. Barkin expertly acknowledged everybody involved with the production and worded the speech perfectly, brilliantly giving credit where credit was due. Though the speech was obviously rehearsed, it still maintained the feeling of freshness due to Barkin’s expert delivery. This year’s nominees should take note: this is how you do it.

6. Michael Jeter (Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Grand Hotel)

Michael Jeter’s speech is the perfect example of short-but-sweet. After years of drug addiction and alcoholism that caused him to briefly abandon acting, Jeter cleaned himself up and came back guns-blazing with a critically acclaimed performance in Grand Hotel. His speech provides tender words of encouragement to other people out there fighting drug and alcohol problems. While clutching his newly-won Tony, he reminds them that it is possible to win the fight, and that dreams can come true.

5. Audra McDonald (Best Actress in a Musical for Porgy and Bess)

Broadway’s reigning queen Audra McDonald won her fourth Tony Award, and her first as a leading actress, for Porgy and Bess, and when she took to the stage to accept the trophy, emotionally told us all how theater helped her understand who she was, and how lucky she felt to be awarded for something she was born to do. She ends the speech by dedicating the award to her daughter, and reminding her that no matter how many Tony’s she has at home (a record five!), she is still the most important thing in her life.

4. Martin Short (Best Actor in a Musical for Little Me)

It’s hard to give a humorous acceptance speech without seeming pompous, but Martin Short did it perfectly. After “accidentally” reading the acceptance speech he wrote for his previous failed bid at a Tony, he happily thanked everybody involved with the show and humorously paid wonderful tribute to his wife, avoiding all of the “awards show cheesiness” that he mentions. We often look to comedians to give memorable speeches, and Short certainly does so.

3. Steve Kazee (Best Actor in a Musical for Once)

After winning a fierce battle against Jeremy Jordan in Newsies and Norm Lewis in Porgy and Bess to take the Best Actor in a Musical trophy, Steve Kazee (Once) got up to the podium and proudly championed his co-stars, namely leading lady Cristin Milioti, before solemnly dedicating the award to his mother who had unfortunately lost the battle with cancer three months earlier. It was a grand moment, and Kazee seemed genuinely moved by the award.

2. Nikki M. James (Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The Book of Mormon)

A star was born when Nikki M. James won the Tony Award for The Book of Mormon, narrowly defeating Laura Benanti who was the frontrunner that year for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. James, obviously overjoyed, was gleaming on stage as she accepted the award. The icing on the cake was when James shared a theory about bumblebees: how they physically should not be able to fly, but still do out of sheer will and determination. She professes that she comes from a long line of bumblebees, and dedicates the award to all of the other bumblebees in the world. Despite the fact that science has long proven James’ bumblebee theory incorrect, it still provided for a wonderful moment.

1. Patti LuPone (Best Actress in a Musical for Gypsy)

Of course Broadway’s #1 diva would be responsible for the #1 Tony speech. It had been nearly 30 years since Patti LuPone won her first Tony for Evita, and it was all but certain leading up to the ceremony that LuPone would take home the award a long-overdue second time for her manically brilliant portrayal of Mama Rose Hovick. LuPone, in her typical diva fashion, melodramatically thanked her family, friends, co-stars and even thanked the real Rose Hovick, something no actress who has played the role had ever done before. The speech’s highlight was when the orchestra attempted to play LuPone off, but Patti, never one to leave the spotlight, angrily demanded that they stop, reminding them that she had waited almost 30 years to get up on that stage again. It was theatric, explosive, earnest and brilliant. Four things that only Patti LuPone could pull off in one speech.

Be sure to tune into the 69th Annual Tony Awards this Sunday June 7th at 8/9c to see the amazing acceptance speeches this year

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