Chicago Theatre Addict’s TOP TEN Tony Awards Performances of All Time*

*Well, mostly since 1995, when I started watching the Tony Awards religiously. Every year. Without fail. In fact, the year I lived in Germany (2001, the season The Producers swept the awards), I even had my sister videotape the broadcast and send it to me — express. However, I’m peppering in a few performances before this time, thanks to YouTube.

With that out of the way … are you totally pumped for the 2013 Tony Awards, which air tomorrow evening? Of course you are. Even though I’m a lover of Chicago theatre, the Tony Awards, which celebrate the very best of the Broadway season, are my gay Superbowl. I’m rooting for Kinky Boots, Pippin, Patina Miller and Cyndi Lauper.

In prep for the 2013 Tony Awards, may I present Chicago Theatre Addict’s Top Ten Tony Award Performances of All Time:

10: “I’m Way Ahead”/”Seesaw” from Seesaw (1974)

Here we have the megatalented Michelle Lee pouring her heart out in the show’s searing finale number. It’s a pretty bold move to use the final big moments of a musical to market a show, especially from a show like Seesaw that featured some fun, TV-friendly production numbers. Yet there’s no denying that Ms. Lee does just that. It’s a thrilling, and I think vastly underrated, performance of the old-school variety.

9: “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises (1968)

This is all about Donna McKechnie’s head pops and Michael Bennett’s retro-fab choreography. No Tony performance number has come close to touching the energy here:

8: “Anything Goes” from Anything Goes (1988)

Ok. This is the performance that made me fall in love with LuPone. So what if her makeup is ghostly white, her dance break is the tap equivalent of a square step, and her ghastly wig slaps her in the face when she does her final turns? Listen to that voice and the ease in which she owns the stage. She doesn’t need an 8 minute tap routine to make us pay attention — she simply radiates star power.

7: Nathan Lane and Gregory Hines being amazing (1995)

1995 proved a drought of a year for new musicals — Sunset Boulevard and Smokey Joe’s Cafe were the only contenders. So, to fill up air time, the great Nathan Lane and the late, great Gregory Hines gift us a diva medley. It may be a bit under-rehearsed, but this is what showbusiness is all about. Watch these two pros sell it:

6: “My New Philosophy” from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (1999)

Say what you want about Kristin Chenoweth, but she’s a huge talent. And watching her, a relative unknown at this time, performing this number and winning the Tony directly after was like seeing a star being born before our very eyes. What I love about this number is you can sense that Cheno *knows* this is her moment, and she better not fuck it up. And, thank goodness for us all, she doesn’t.

5: “Take a Glass Together” from Grand Hotel (1990)

The brilliant Tommy Tune knows how to pace a production number. Watch how the number subtly builds into a frenzy. And can someone please tell me how Michael Jetter does that with his legs? Simply mesmerizing. A talent gone too soon.

4: “Ragtime” from Ragtime (1998)

One of the best, if not the best, opening numbers of a musical, and this performance makes me even more enraged that that African puppet show got the award over this epic masterpiece.

3: Diva medley from 1999 Tony Awards

God love Rosie O’Donnell. She might not have a musical bone in her body, but she’s a fierce advocate for the Broadway community, and I applaud her for that. And this performance, which is essentially a diorama of belting divas, was like a musical theatre queen’s wet dream come to life. Also, I’m in love with how Betty Buckley werqs that feather boa.

2: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy (2008)

Just shut up and watch this. Even Liza, with her bad knees, gives La LuPone a much-deserved standing O. Fun fact: LuPone had broken her toe a few weeks prior to this performance, which required her to perform in slippers. So, I was expecting her to appear on the Tonys in some sort of flat. But, nope. A trouper, LuPone is back in heels, and when she stands up, you can see her strain a bit. But that doesn’t stop this Mama Rose. Oh, no.

1: “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)” from Dreamgirls (1982)

Bow down. JoHol is taking, and owning, center stage.

3 thoughts on “Chicago Theatre Addict’s TOP TEN Tony Awards Performances of All Time*

  1. Great choices, Bob! I’m especially happy to see “Promises, Promises” and “Seesaw” (with the lovely Ms. Lee) on your list.

  2. This is one of the most fantastic blog posts ever! I miss Gregory Hines… This is just a great collection of Tony moments! Great job!

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