6 Unforgettable Moments From the 2017 Tony Awards

Tony Awards   6 Unforgettable Moments From the 2017 Tony Awards
From first-time winners to show-stopping numbers and impassioned speeches, here’s what we loved at this year’s Tony Awards ceremony.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, 2017
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, 2017 Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The 71st Annual Tony Awards were full of unforgettable moments. Our favorites follow:

Kevin Spacey’s marathon sprint through the Broadway season in an 11-minute opening number.

It was no secret that Kevin Spacey had not been the first choice to host this year’s Tony Awards. Instead of glossing over the fact, the ceremony’s entire opening number was built around it. In a series of quick changes of costume and set that referenced nearly all the nominated musicals, Spacey pretended to agonize over what he could do to be a great Tony host. Previous host Whoopi Goldberg and talk-show host Stephen Colbert appeared in the number to give him pep talks, and Billy Crystal appeared via tape, telling him, “The right host has to be charming and funny. The right host has to be in charge of the show, ready to ad lib and save any moment…[and] if all else fails, put on a dress!” Spacey responded by appearing in Norma Desmond’s jeweled gown from Sunset Boulevard. Spacey eventually concluded that he was indeed ready to be host, and led a dancing chorus in a high-kicking tap number dressed Astaire-like in top hat, tails, cane, and spats, singing, “Even if mean tweets come crashing through/ Michael Riedel says that I just blew/ My career’s shattered on the ground/ I’m Broadway bound!” He ended with the proclamation, “I am Kevin Spacey! Your host is found!”

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Tony win felt like a win for theatre kids everywhere.

Watching Dear Evan Hansen songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul rush to the stage in a moment of pure elation felt like a win for theatre kids everywhere. Having recently won the Oscar for La La Land, the songwriting team (previously nominated for A Christmas Story The Musical) picked up their first Tony Award for writing the pop-driven score to Dear Evan Hansen. “When we were kids, we dreamed of having a home and a place for where we could belong, and theatre and cast albums were that thing for us,” Pasek said. “We hoped to write a show where people who were looking for a home would find one. And, we are so grateful for everybody who gave us this opportunity to try and do that.” Click here to watch all of the acceptance speeches of the night.

Kevin Kline’s shout-out to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kevin Kline, who won the Tony as Best Actor in a Play for Present Laughter, gave a generally restrained acceptance speech, noting, “I want to thank everybody; we don’t do this alone, it’s a group effort.” But he ended with a dig at the planned budget cuts coming out of Washington, D.C., stating, “And, I would like to thank a couple of organizations, without whom, probably half of the people in this room would not be here. That would be the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thank you.”

Ben Platt pulls through to deliver the musical highlight of the night.

Moments after winning Best Score of a Musical, eventual Best Actor in a Musical winner Ben Platt led the cast of Dear Evan Hansen in the stand-out number “Waving Through a Window.” Platt, who had been on vocal rest and missed several performances of the show in recent days, seemed to push to hit the song’s high notes at first. But when the rest of the cast joined him for the song’s choral section, his voice continued to gain power until the number’s triumphant finale, giving the show one of the strongest showcases of the evening. Platt earned a standing ovation from the audience at Radio City. Click here to watch all of the musical performances from the Tony Awards.

Rebecca Taichman joins Tony Awards history and gives stage management a much-deserved shout out.

Indecent director and co-creator Rebecca Taichman—who makes her Broadway debut with the new play—became the sixth woman to win Best Direction of a Play in Tony Awards history following Garry Hynes (Beauty Queen of Leenane), Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses), Anna Shapiro (August: Osage County), Pam MacKinnon (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), and two-time winner Marianne Elliott (a co-winner for War Horse and as sole director of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). “This is a story about love in perilous times and about speaking out and making art when one is in great danger,” Taichman said. “And I want to thank from the bottom of my tattered heart the genius Paula Vogel for giving me the play of my dreams.” Taichman also took a moment to recognize the dedicated work of the often unsung members of the show’s creative team, thanking “James Latus [Indecent stage manager] and all the stage managers out there, Amanda Spooner. I love you all!”

Not even the Tony Awards orchestra could play off Bette Midler’s epic five-minute acceptance speech.

Only Bette Midler could manage to continue with her unforgettable acceptance speech and silence the Tony Awards orchestra, who are directed to begin “play-off” music if speeches run longer than the allotted 90 seconds. The Divine Miss M would have none of it. “Shut that crap off,” she joked over the play-off music. “I just want to say, that revival is an interesting word,” she continued to applause from the audience. “It means that something is near death, and it was brought back to life. Hello, Dolly! never really went away—it has been here all along, it is in our DNA.” Midler finished her speech by paying tribute to the women who came before her, including Broadway’s original Dolly, Carol Channing. “I want to salute the people who actually came before me,” she said. “The brilliant, inimitable Carol Channing, who made my life, who was a gift to me, [and] the extraordinary Pearl Bailey.” Watch even more of her emotional, teary-eyed speech from the Tony Awards press room.


Watch Playbill’s exclusive live interviews from the 2017 Tony Awards red carpet below, including talks with Ben Platt, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Andy Blankenbuehler, and more:


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