Jennifer Grey took center stage at the 79th annual Tony Awards on June 11 to give her father, Joel Grey, the Tony Lifetime Achievement Award during the live pre-show, which was shown exclusively on Pluto TV.
Jennifer, known best for her role as Baby Houseman in “Dirty Dancing,” decided on a humorous and humble approach leading to her father’s introduction.
“Ohh, hi, friends of my dad,” she said, greeting the audience. “I’m Joel Grey’s daughter. My name is Jennifer.”
The joke got laughter and applause from the theater community in the audience and helped the 63-year-old actress steady herself before the rest of the tribute moved forward.
Here’s an edited segment, as posted to Twitter by @AngelaBishop, the entertainment editor at Australia’s Network 10. It shows part of her intro as well as her father’s opening words, which are part of a song from “Cabaret”:
— Angela Bishop OAM (@AngelaBishop) June 12, 2023
Immediately following a video tribute, Jennifer invited her father to the stage by calling him “your hero, my hero, Joel Grey,” according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail.
Joel, 91, has been an entertainer since the late 1940s when he was a teenager, appearing in theatrical productions, nightclubs and on TV. However, it was his portrayal of the Master of Ceremonies in the 1966 production of “Cabaret” that launched his acting career to a new level.
From there, he became a regular presence on Broadway as an actor and director. Other standout roles include Amos Hart in the 1996 revival production of “Chicago,” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 2003’s “Wicked,” and “Moonface” Martin in 2011’s “Anything Goes.”
When Joel joined his daughter on the stage, his emotions equaled his daughter’s.
“My daughter, my beauty, my sweetness. Seven pounds, 11 ounces, no more. No more! Thank you, darling!” he said, the Daily Mail reported.
During his acceptance speech, he spoke of the beauty and power of the great theater community in his career while his daughter held back tears.
“I love the work. I love the applause. Oh my God, I love the applause,” Joel said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “But it’s ultimately people who have made this whole ride even more magnificent than I could have imagined.”
Composer John Kander, 96, who is responsible for writing the score of “Cabaret,” also received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Some fans were disappointed, though, to only see a dancing tribute from host Ariana DeBose and Julianne Hough to the two during the main Tony Awards broadcast on CBS and Paramount+. Joel Grey and Kander made just a brief appearance at the end and didn’t speak at all.