In addition to the "awww" factor (just see how happy and moved the honorees are when they watch the presentation and try not to tear up a little), the show's producers have been very good at getting some excellent talent for the ceremonies. This is particularly true when it comes to honoring theatre composers, lyricists, and performers. Not only do these presentations usually include the de rigueur biographical video and speeches, but they typically have a selection of numbers associated with the honoree. Furthermore, these numbers are often performed by some of the original cast members. Where else will you get to see Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Joel Grey, and Alan Cumming dancing to "New York, New York"?
Here are a few of my favorite theatre moments:
Kander & Ebb (1998)
This is one of the most amazing performances ever. Even though Liza is a little shaky, it is still an awesome movement. As an added bonus, you can also see how excited Bill Cosby and the Clintons are during the performance. Even though I don't typically like audience reaction shots, the Kennedy Center Honors are the exception to this.
Julie Andrew (2001)
Not my favorite set of performances, but Julie Andrews's palpable graciousness is incredible to watch.
Mel Brooks (2009)
There is so much to enjoy. Even if you (like me) get a little weirded out during "Springtime for Hitler," this clip just cracks me up. An added bonus, you can play "Hey, look who that is!" during the audience reaction shots.