Aaron Tveit Tearfully Accepts Tony Award for 'Moulin Rouge!' : 'What We Do Changes People's Lives'

Aaron Tveit stars as hopeless romantic Christian in the Broadway musical Moulin Rouge!

aaron tveit
Photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty

Aaron Tveit made history at the 74th Tony Awards.

The 37-year-old Broadway and film actor, who stars as hopeless romantic Christian in the stage adaptation of the 2001 musical film Moulin Rouge!, took home the Tony Award for best actor in a musical on Sunday.

Tveit was the only nominee in the best actor category, a first in Tony Awards history. Though he was the only performer eligible for the 2021 award, Tveit still needed 60 percent of the total ballots cast to take home the trophy.

After accepting the award, Tveit thanked those involved in the 2019 production as well as the casting directors and artists who gave him his start in the theater.

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"We are so privileged," Tveit said through tears at the conclusion of his speech. "We are so privileged to get to do this, to be on Broadway, to have a life in the theater, to distract, to tell the stories that represent the many and not the few, by the many and not the few, for the many and not the few. Because what we do changes people's lives. It changes people's minds. It changes people's hearts. We can change the world with this, let's not forget that. This means more to me than I can ever say. Thank you very much."

This is the first time that only one person has been nominated in an acting category — as well as a first for Tveit, who had never been nominated for a Tony Award prior to his turn as Christian, the penniless writer who falls for the Moulin Rouge's star performer Satine.

In 1995, Sunset Boulevard was the only show up for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score Written for the Theater in 1995.

Tveit previously told PEOPLE that it was "exciting" to take the show to Broadway following its 2018 premiere at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston.

Moulin Rouge
Matthew Murphy

"The Hirschfeld in New York is so intimate. But I like that because even though the show is very presentational, you feel like you can kind of be a little more naturalistic as you would kind of on-camera a little bit," he said.

"It's just wonderful to feel the audience so close — you can tell that they're right with us and they get everything, hear everything. It's really great."

Tveit also revealed that Baz Luhrmann, who directed the 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as its star-crossed lovers, as well as his Luhrmann's wife, Moulin Rouge! costume designer Catherine Martin, gave the show their blessing.

"They've been very, very actively involved kind of handing it, protecting it," the Gossip Girl actor said. "And they've also given a lot of thoughts and ideas, but the biggest thing is they've given this production their blessing and it's been so incredible to have their support."

Due to the lack of Broadway openings amid the coronavirus pandemic — which shut down live theatre in March 2020 — the only one other performer who would've been eligible for the nomination in Tveit's category was Chris McCarrell, who starred in The Lightning Thief.

The 74th annual Tony Awards, hosted by Audra McDonald, aired live Sept. 26 from Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre on Paramount+.

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