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9 Most Memorable Tony Acceptance Speeches

June 11, 2016 by Juliana Panzera
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Whether your favorite part of the Tony Awards is the red carpet, the performances, or the sheer joy you feel in winning your Tony pool, there is no denying that each year it’s the acceptance speeches that move us the most. Here are some of the speeches from recent history that have made an impact on us:

Idina Menzel, Best Actress in a Musical for Wicked (2004)

Beating out her Wicked co- star Kristin Chenoweth, who was nominated in the same category, Menzel’s adorable speech about celebrating our differences reminds us that we all matter, green skin or not.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Best Original Score for In the Heights (2008)

Mr. Miranda has effectively revolutionized American musical theater. While we can be sure his Hamilton acceptance speeches this year will be nothing short of amazing, watching him win his first Tony for a musical he wrote about his home is not to be missed. (The heartfelt freestyle is simply an added bonus.)

Steve Kazee, Best Actor in a Musical for Once (2012)

Kazee’s mother passed just three months before he won this award, and his genuine gratitude is evident in every word of his emotional speech. He’s our original Guy for a reason.

Patti LuPone, Best Actress in a Musical for Gypsy (2008)

Her second Tony win, following her first win for Evita in 1980, has made our list for the sheer fact that in true LuPone fashion, she shouts at the band “shut up it’s been 29 years!” as they begin to try to play her off.  She’s a diva, but she’s our diva, and we wouldn’t want her any other way.

Phylicia Rashad, Best Actress in a Play for A Raisin in the Sun (2004)

Making history as she accepts the first Tony Award to be won by a black woman in a leading dramatic role, Rashad’s speech was composed, graceful, and impactful all at once.

Jonathan Larson (accepted by his sister, Julie) Best Book of a Musical, Best Score, and Best Musical (1996)

Before Hamilton, there was Rent. It changed the face of what musical theater could be, and resonated with thousands of people all over the world. Jonathan Larson, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, passed away in January 1996, on the morning of Rent’s first Off-Broadway preview. “He dreamed of creating a youthful, passionate piece that would be pertinent.” We think he succeeded.

Alice Ripley, Best Actress in a Musical, for Next to Normal (2009)

There was no way Alice Ripley was not going to win the 2009 Tony for her portrayal of mentally- unstable matriarch Diana in Next to Normal. It was a performance that has certainly stuck with anyone who was fortunate enough to see it and will be remembered for decades to come.

Audra McDonald, Best Actress in a Musical for Porgy and Bess (2012)

How could we pick just one? But Audra’s speech about feeling lost before finding her home in the theater is too powerful to pass up and struck a chord for so many watching. See her win her fourth (of a record- breaking six) Tony!

Eddie Redmayne, Best Featured Actor in a Play for Red (2010)

Before he went on to become a big Hollywood star, Redmayne played Ken in John Logan’s Red, a play about the artist Mark Rothko. Audiences were thrilled to watch this young newcomer hold his own in a two- hander opposite Alfred Molina, and his win in 2010 is a testament to his overwhelming talent. The “art matters” portion of his speech is particularly relevant.

Honorable Mentions:

John Gallagher, Jr., Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Spring Awakening (2007)

Spring Awakening took Broadway by storm in 2007. John Gallagher, Jr, masterfully played the tortured and confused teen, Moritz. He ends his speech with one of his lines from the show, “truly, truly, truly, heaven must feel like this.” Bonus: how happy co- star Jonathan Groff looks when they show him in the audience.

Lea Salonga, Best Actress in a Musical for Miss Saigon (1991)

Winning for her performance as Kim in Miss Saigon, a glowing, 20-year-old Lea Salonga pulls on our heartstrings as she recalls watching the Tonys as a little girl in Manila. You will melt when she says, “this can’t be for real.”

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