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Blog: Standout Tony Acceptance Speeches by Women

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Had the 2020 Tony Awards gone ahead as planned, they would have been the 74th annual ceremony of the greatest night for the Broadway community. Unfortunately, with Broadway closed and the pandemic still forcing gathering restrictions, the ceremony was postponed (or more likely, pushed back to next year now that the Broadway closure has extended...just a guess on that one).

However, if you follow us on instagram, you would have noticed that this week we were celebrating Strong Female Leads and the importance of seeing them represented in the theatre that we watch, that we read and that we make.

So we thought that for this week's blog we would go on a hunt through YouTube for Tony Awards speeches that really standout from Women who have won the theatre award of all theatre awards.

These speeches stand out for a range of reasons - some are impactful, a call to action you could say! Some are by women whose wins made history. Some made us laugh, some made us tear up, and some just remind us that this industry is hard hard work and so it's just so lovely to see someone recognised for truly making it.

Of course, these are only a handful of the great speeches made by women - there are so many more available to watch on YouTube if you're interested but here are some of our top picks...

A Call To Action

Rachel Chavkin - Best Direction of a Musical - Hadestown - 2019


Everyone needs to listen to this speech so we can call on more racial and gender diversity in our directors

History Makers

Phyllis Frelich - Leading Actress in a Play - Children of a Lesser God - 1980

First Person of the Deaf Community to win a Tony

Lea Salonga - Leading Actress in a Musical - Miss Saigon - 1991

First Asian Woman to Win a Tony Award

Phylicia Rashad - Leading Actress in a Play - A Raisin in the Sun - 2004

First African American Actress to win Best Actress in a Play

Audra McDonald - Leading Actress in a Play - Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill - 2014

Performer with the most Tony Award Wins in History AND the only performer to have won in all 4 performance categories - Leading Actress in a Play and Musical and Featured Actress in a Play and Musical (6 Tony Wins So Far)

Ali Stroker - Featured Actress in a Musical - Oklahoma! - 2019

First Person who uses a Wheelchair to Win a Tony

Hard Work and a Whole Lot of Patience

Kelli O'Hara - Leading Actress in a Musical - The King and I - 2015

6 (now 7) nominations and finally a win - watch till the's worth it!

Jane Greenwood - Costume Design of a Play - The Little Foxes - 2017

21 - yep, 21 nominations! Talk about earning it!!

I also saw this play and the costumes were stunning - was so glad to watch this speech again!

Elaine May - Leading Actress in a Play - The Waverly Gallery - 2019

The first time she has ever won an award for acting

Making a Difference

Judith Light - Isabelle Stevenson Award for Humanitarian Work

This speech is beautiful and her work is so impressive. Listen to this one!

The FIRST Woman

Julie Taymor - Best Direction of a Musical - The Lion King - 1998

The FIRST woman to win the award for Best Direction!

On the same night, Garry Hynes won for Best Direction of a Play for the Beauty Queen of Leanne. It was a MASSIVE WIN for Women who went from never having won in the category to winning in BOTH directorial categories that night. Unfortunately I couldn't find Garry's acceptance speech but if you find it, PLEASE share it with me so I can update this blog!

Cyndi Lauper - Best Score - Kinky Boots - 2013

The FIRST woman to win as a solo composer without a male creative partner

Can we appreciate the way Jesse Tyler Ferguson announces her win - I love it!

Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron - Best Score - Fun Home - 2015

The FIRST all-female musical writing team to win a Tony

There are so many more speeches that I absolutely loved whilst putting this together but let's get you all watching these beautiful speeches first and then I'll do a second round of these because I truly loved listening to these speeches and compiling this list. Throughout these and the other 50+ I listened to in choosing these the same things always stood out - hard work, determination, representation, support and gratitude are the things that have gotten these people to the point that they are at. Great lessons to live by!

Stay tuned for more of these blogs to justify my hours on YouTube.

Until then, please watch these and let us know in the comments which ones stood out to you, resonated to you, made you laugh or (like me many times) made you cry.



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