Bette Midler wins Best Actress Tony Award – and best speech of the show

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene

Bette Midler already has hit the trifecta at the Grammys and the Emmys, having won three of each, and now she has a gilded performance Tony to add to her awards shelf.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the multi-talented Midler scored a Best Leading Actress in a Musical Tony for playing the titular role in the rapturously received revival of “Hello, Dolly!”

Bette Midler accepts her Tony Award for
“Hello, Dolly!” (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

“I hope I don’t cry,” Midler said, before proceeding to give a sharp-witted speech toward the end of the 71st Annual Tony Awards in New York Sunday night. “This has been one of the greatest professional experiences of my entire life… I’m so grateful for the outpouring of love, it has been absolutely extraordinary. That said, I can’t remember the last time I had more smoke blown up my ass, but there’s no more room. This is the cherry on the cake…This has given me the ride of my life.”

As the music swelled to play her off the stage, Midler steamrolled right over it, humorously snapping at one point, “Shut that crap off!”

“Revival is an interesting word,” she continued about the show, which also won for Best Revival of a Musical.  “It means something was near death and has been brought back to life. ‘Hello Dolly!’ never really went away…this thing has the ability to lift your spirits in these terrible, terrible times.”

In 1974, Midler won a special Tony for her “Clams on the Half Shell” revue.

Producer Scott Rudin, upon accepting the Best Revival award, said, “I saw (‘Hello, Dolly!’) 50 years ago when I was 8 and sat in the last row of the balcony at the St. James and it was a remarkable, life-changing evening…This is the prime example of what a golden age musical is.”

“Hello, Dolly!” previously won 10 Tonys in 1964, including Best Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Carol Channing, whom Midler called “brilliant, brilliant” and “inimitable.”

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