IN THE HEIGHTS‘ COMPOSER/STAR LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA RAPS HIS WAY THROUGH ACCEPTANCE SPEECH (2008)
While on stage accepting his award for Best Original Score, In the Heights‘ composer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda turned his speech into an extraordinary off-the-cuff rap: ”I used to dream about this moment, now I’m in it,” he started. ”Tell the conductor to hold the baton a minute.” Miranda went on to thank all those who helped him out — and, as evidenced by Radio City-wide laughter, the audience thanked Miranda for keeping the awards show poppin’. —Tanner Stransky
AVENUE Q BEATS WICKED FOR BEST MUSICAL (2004)
In one of the biggest upsets in Tony history, the little-show-that-could, which started in a 120-seat Off Broadway house, bested the 1,000-pound, movie-studio-backed gorilla (even video screens flashed Wicked after Avenue Q‘s victory). It seems their campaign mantra (”Vote with your heart”) worked.
HUGH JACKMAN PERFORMS FROM THE BOY FROM OZ (2004)
Jackman was not allowed to transfer to New York with the West End production of Oklahoma! due to union quibbles in 2002. But his Broadway debut was worth the wait. His exuberant take on pop singer/songwriter Peter Allen, which he reprised while hosting the ’04 ceremony, set hearts everywhere aflutter.
ELAINE STRITCH FINALLY WINS, ONLY TO BE CUT OFF MID-SPEECH (2002)
This self-proclaimed ”existential problem in tights” finally captured Tony glory (after nearly 60 years in the biz) for her searing one-woman show. But, of course, her triumph was cut waaaay short, with trigger-happy producers axing her speech early on.
JERRY HERMAN WINS FOR LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, MAKES BACKHANDED REMARK ABOUT THE HUMMABLE SHOW TUNE (1984)
Winning a Tony for the score of La Cage aux Folles, the legendary maestro remarked on the appeal of the ”simple, hummable show tune,” which many interpreted as a big ol’ slap in the face to Stephen Sondheim, whose more experimental scores were pointing to Broadway’s evolution. (Herman has denied that was his intent.)
JENNIFER HOLLIDAY BRINGS DOWN THE HOUSE PERFORMING FROM DREAMGIRLS (1982)
Forget Jennifer Hudson. ”And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the ’82 Tonys settles once for all any debate about who is the definitive Effie White.
MARC SHAIMAN AND SCOTT WHITMAN SHARE A BIG KISS (2003)
In a Tony ceremony that even Bravo might have thought was too gay, the pinnacle moment was a giant, same-sex smoocheroo from the composers of Hairspray, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman.
DAISY EAGAN HAS A WEEPY MOMENT AT AGE 11, BECOMES YOUNGEST WINNER EVER (1991)
At 11 years old, Eagan became the youngest winner in history for the musical adaptation of The Secret Garden (which featured a pre—Hedwig and the Angry Inch John Cameron Mitchell), and her waterworks-laden speech tugged at hearts all over the nation.
MARY MARTIN WINS FOR PETER PAN, BECOMING THE FIRST OF ONLY TWO HONOREES EVER TO RECEIVE A TONY FOR PLAYING THE OPPOSITE SEX (1955)
Like olden Shakespearean times in reverse, Mary Martin became a boy and waltzed off with a Best Actress in a Musical Tony, which marked the first reverse-gender win. (Hairspray‘s Harvey Fierstein became the second in 2003.)
DISNEY BECOMES A PLAYER: THE LION KING WINS BEST MUSICAL (AND MARKS FIRST YEAR WOMEN WIN BOTH DIRECTING CATEGORIES) (1998)
Despite The Lion King‘s critical plaudits, sell-out crowds, and visual dazzle, people still expected the more traditional Ragtime to prevail in 1998. But the Mouse House walked off with six Tonys, including one for director Julie Taymor, who, along with Best Director of a Play winner Garry Hynes, became the first female to be honored for directing a production.
JUANITA HALL BECOMES FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN TONY WINNER FOR SOUTH PACIFIC (1950)
For her portrayal of the shady, money-minded Bloody Mary (who is actually a Pacific Islander), Juanita Hall became the first African-American to win a Tony. (She would later reprise the role in the 1958 film version.)