Tony Awards: Bette Midler's Hilarious Speech and 9 More Memorable Moments

10:09 PM 6/11/2017

by Kara Haar

The 71st Annual Tony Awards aired live from Radio City Music Hall in New York.

This year's elite class of Broadway talent gathered to celebrate the best in theater on Sunday night in New York. The 2017 Tony Awards featured musical performances aplenty and an array of stars, both presenting and accepting awards.

Among the evening's most memorable moments were host Kevin Spacey's impersonations and a star-studded opening number, making Broadway's biggest night one to remember. 

Read on for the 10 most memorable moments of the 2017 Tony Awards.

  • Kevin Spacey's Star-Studded Opening Number

    This year's host, Kevin Spacey, opened the ceremony with an array of special guests hoping to offer their insight on how to be the perfect host.

    "It will be like they never asked the other guys," Spacey joked.

    After singing onstage — impersonating Ben Platt in the nominated musical Dear Evan HansenSpacey was joined by Stephen Colbert, wearing a groundhog mask in homage to one of the night's nominated musicals, Groundhog Day. Whoopi Goldberg surprised the audience, encouraging Spacey to embrace being at Rockefeller Center, the location for the ceremony. The cast of Come From Away graced the stage, joined by the Radio City Rockettes, to perform "Welcome to the Rock." Former Oscars host Billy Crystal then appeared onstage to banter with Spacey over not being the night's first choice of emcee.

    In his opening number, Spacey also spoofed Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard and Josh Groban in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. After dancing and kicking off the show, Spacey joked, "Can someone find my cardiologist?"

  • The 'Come From Away' Cast's 9/11 Musical Performance

    The Tony Awards also featured a performance  of "Welcome to the Rock" from the cast of Come From Away

    The musical tells the story of the 38 planes and 6,579 passengers that suddenly landed in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon, when U.S. flights were diverted to Canada after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Christopher Ashley won a Tony for directing Come From Away, whose book, music and lyrics are by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The musical was nominated for seven Tonys.

  • 'Dear Evan Hansen' Star Ben Platt Sings

    Ben Platt performed "Waving Through a Window" from the musical he stars in, Dear Evan Hansen. Later that evening, the actor won the Tony for best lead actor in a musical. Hansen received the most awards of the evening, taking home six Tonys, including best musical.

    Prior to the performance, Anna Kendrick introduced her Pitch Perfect co-star and friend.

    Hansen focuses on a lonely 17 year-old boy who is caught up in an unintended lie that reverses his position in the high-school popularity stakes. Directed by Michael Greif, the hit show was written by Steven Levenson, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Levenson, Pasek and Paul all won Tonys on Sunday night.

  • Rachel Bay Jones Thanks Her Daughter

    Rachel Bay Jones accepted the award for best performance by an actress in a featured role for Dear Evan Hansen. During her heartfelt speech, she thanked her daughter, who was smiling in the audience, for sacrificing many bedtime stories so that her mother could star in the musical. Jones also thanked her grandmother for selling her engagement ring so Jones could start her career as an actress. This was Jones’ first Tony Award.

  • Stephen Colbert Takes Jabs at Trump

    On hand to present the award for best revival of a musical, Late Show host Stephen Colbert referred to another "revival" occurring in Washington, an off-Broadway show from the '80s that had massive production values.

    Colbert mentioned issues with the productionm saying, "The main character is totally unbelievable and hair and makeup: Yeesh."

    He added: "It's supposed to have a four-year run, but reviews have not been kind. It could close early. Best of luck to everyone involved."

    Spacey also joined in on taking jabs at Trump's infamous "fake news" rants. While noting that James Earl Jones had received the Lifetime Achievement Award earlier in the night, Spacey joked about Jones' role as the longtime voice of CNN: "This is CNN, the most trusted name in fake news."

  • Theater Stars Give Out Treats to Audience Members

    During one of Spacey's monologues, the House of Cards star was interrupted by stars from some of this year's hit theater productions. Singer-actress Sara Bareilles gave out slices of pie to the audience as a way to honor her role in Waitress. To Spacey's "dismay" — he argued that the tradition of giving out food at awards shows (see: the Oscars and Emmys) had gone on long enough — the food giveaway did not stop. Immediately afterward, a star from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory began treating the audience to fresh chocolate, followed by Chazz Palminteri giving out cannolis on behalf of his production A Bronx Tale.
  • Kevin Spacey Impersonates Famous Figures

    During the ceremony, Spacey appeared onstage as talk-show host Johnny Carson, joking about Bette MidlerSpacey also surprised the audience by impersonating former President Bill Clinton. "We've already had some surprising winners haven't we? I'm not even talking about the Tony Awards," Spacey-as-Clinton joked of the recent presidential election, in which Bill's wife, Hillary, lost to Donald Trump.

  • 'Bandstand' Pays Tribute to Veterans With "Nobody"

    The cast of Bandstand took the stage to perform "Nobody." Jill Biden, who received a standing ovation from the audience, introduced the musical performance.

    The 1940s-set musical tells the story of professional band members participating in a competition to find America's next swing sensation. Laura Osnes and Corey Cott star.

    Directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, a Tony winner for Hamilton and In the Heights, the musical features a swing-inspired score by Richard Oberacker, with book and lyrics by Oberacker and Robert Taylor. It earned a Tony for best choreography on Sunday night; it also was nominated for best orchestrations.

  • 'Hello, Dolly!' Wins Best Revival of a Musical

    After making a return to the Broadway stage some 50 years after her turn in Fiddler on the Roof, Bette Midler saw her Hello, Dolly! take home the award for best revival of a musical. 
    “It was a huge honor to do this. I remember watching this show when I was 8 years old,” producer Scott Rudin said of their win. 
    “We would not be standing here without her,” he added of Midler
  • Bette Midler Yells at Orchestra During Acceptance Speech

    After Midler won best lead actress in a musical for her performance in Hello, Dolly!, the actress gave a hilarious speech that went overtime. As the orchestra began to play, she told them to "shut that crap off." The audience laughed as she talked over the music. Eventually, the orchestra stopped playing.

    "Thank you to the Tony voters, many of whom I've actually dated," Midler joked. "I'm so grateful for the outpouring of love and affection — I can't remember the last time I had so much smoke blown up my ass, but there's no more room."

    This is Midler's first Tony Award in a competitive category. She received a special Tony in 1974.