Tony Awards 2015's 12 Best and Worst Moments - Rolling Stone
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Tony Awards 2015’s 12 Best and Worst Moments

From heartfelt speeches to cringeworthy musical numbers, the highs and lows of Broadway’s awards extravaganza

kelsey grammar, alan cumming, kritstin chenoweth

Kevin Mazur/Getty; Theo Wargo/Getty

While the 69th Annual Tony Awards didn't exactly break the mold — there were song-and-dance numbers, corny jokes and heartfelt acceptance speeches aplenty — the broadcast didn't fail to deliver some surprises. Namely: Fun Home, the critically acclaimed adaptation of Alison Bechdel's heartrending graphic novel, took home several awards, including Best Musical. Other big winners included perennial Broadway favorite Kelli O'Hara for her role in the revival of The King and I; Helen Mirren, who won her second award for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience; and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, an adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 novel that took home Best Play.

But for all of the good things that happened on the Tonys, there were just as many odd, uncomfortable or downright bad moments (pity the poor cast of Finding Neverland). Read on for our rundown of the show's best and worst moments.

kristin chenoweth and alan cumming

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Best: Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, BFFs

Chenoweth and Cumming are two of Broadway's brightest and most distinctive stars, so it's not a surprise that their chemistry as co-hosts for the Tonys broadcast was crackling. The pint-sized actress is a delightful combination of sass, bubbliness, and edge, while the Scottish actor (resplendent in several kooky outfits, including a few shorts suits) brings the right amount of edge. They're also ideal hosts from a popularity perspective: Both have name recognition outside of the theater world, but are well-regarded within it — the hosting choice was bound to please both newbies and insiders. It was a match made in Great-White-Way heaven.

kristin chenoweth and alan cumming

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Worst: Their Awkward Opening Bit

Even the duo's megawatt charisma, however, couldn't salvage the ceremony's cringe-worthy opening. Cumming looked downright embarrassed when he broke into "Wilkommen" from Cabaret for the trillionth time in his career. "This is the last time I'll ever sing this song," he crooned, followed by Chenoweth's "Till our revival paycheck comes along!" The opening continued in this awkwardly throwback, financially-focused vein, with the pair highlighting Harvey Weinstein–produced Finding Neverland's snub before cutely begging him for a job. By the time Chenoweth was actively barking when Cumming mentioned The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we began to wonder exactly what genius scribe had penned this lazy nonsense on their lunch break.

fun home tony awards

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Best: ‘Fun Home’ Cleaning Up

Alison Bechdel's graphic novel about a suicidal parent and lesbian sexual awakening may seem like unlikely song-and-dance fodder, but Fun Home's richly deserved quintuple win (including Best Musical and Direction) proved that Broadway has come a long way. Eleven-year-old Featured Actress nominee Sydney Lucas brought the house down with her performance of "Ring of Keys," the show's ode to the beauty of female butchness. It was a rare bird of a Tony performance: tons of heart and zero bombast. Best Actor winner Michael Cerveris, who portrays the play's troubled dad, delivered a sweet speech while clutching a necktie owned by the real Bruce Bechdel in his hand. But perhaps most significantly, playwright-lyricist Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori busted through the Tonys glass ceiling when they became the first female writing team to nab double awards for Best Book and Score.

finding neverland tony awards

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07: The cast of "Finding Neverland" perform onstage at the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Kevin Mazur/Getty

Worst: That Lost ‘Finding Neverland’ Number

We should've seen it coming when the distinctly un-Broadway trio of Jennifer Lopez, Nick Jonas and Canadian musician Kiesza — shilling for a tribute album — came out to introduce the J.M. Barrie origin-story musical that didn't net a single nomination. J. Lo awkwardly staring down a silent, grinning Peter Pan gave way to "Stronger," a supremely ridiculous, unwittingly campy number. “YOOOUUU COWARD!" bellowed a Captain Hook-ified Kelsey Grammer, while projected waves crashed in the background and nefarious organ chords played. Glee's Matthew Morrison rose from the stage fog and ripped open his shirt, singing about going "stronger" and "deeper" and "higher" in a way that cracked us up; we're pretty sure that wasn't the writers' intention. If this song was any indication, we'd think that Finding Neverland didn't so much get snubbed by the Tonys as quite rightfully ignored.

curious case of the dog tony awards

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Best: All of ‘Curious Incident”s Not-So-Curious Wins

A show based on a book also came out on top in the drama category: The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time, Simon Stephens' adaptation of Mark Haddon's novel about a mystery-solving teen with Asperger syndrome. The British transplant took Best Play and Direction, plus a few technical awards. But the real surprise was a Lead Actor win for Alex Sharp, a fresh-from-school newcomer who beat out heavyweights Bradley Cooper (The Elephant Man) and Bill Nighy (Skylight). "This time last year, I picked up my diploma from Juilliard, so to be holding this is insane," the young actor enthused breathlessly. Follow your dreams, kids.

john cameron

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Worst: Whither the Actual Awards?

There were plenty of musical numbers to satisfy theater geeks this year, both from Tony-nominated tuners and musicals that, uh, didn't get props. And while we're happy to see more performances in a show devoted to the craft of live theater, they came at the expense of seeing actual awards being distributed. Sure, maybe we don't need to see every technical statuette get handed out, but some huge moments got left on the cutting-room floor: consummate showman Tommy Tune receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award; composer Stephen Schwartz winning the Isabelle Stevenson award; and Hedwig honcho John Cameron Mitchell getting a special Tony for his work on that gender-bending musical. Seeing any of those would've been better suffering through the Finding Neverland spectacle, that's for sure.

lisa howard

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Best: Lisa Howard Singing the Blues

This year's awards shone a spotlight on the also-rans, including performances from musicals from the past year that weren't nominated. It was a nice, inclusive gesture for Broadway — and drew attention to a few faces to watch. The MVP: Lisa Howard, who belted the pants off of a song from wedding comedy It Shoulda Been You. Howard may have been sharing the stage with powerhouse Tyne Daly, but she commanded the room with "Jenny's Blues," the evening's only real 11 o’clock number. Keep an eye on this actress' star; after last night, it'll definitely be rising.

jason alexander and larry david

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Worst: What’s the Deal With Jason Alexander and Larry David?

David has been racking up plenty of cash (if not rave reviews) for his first Broadway outing, the family-oriented drama Fish in the Dark; Alexander, who will soon be stepping into David's shoes as the lead in that play, joined the Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator to present the award for Best Musical. What followed was a rant about the show's Tony snub (David: "The true measure of a man is not to be nominated and still show up to read a list of names of those who are nominated") that felt a little stilted and like, well, a whole lot of nothing. We love you guys, but come on. Plus, it led to the Fun Home crew getting played off barely 30 seconds after taking the stage for their Best Musical win — not cool.

chita rivera

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07: Actress Chita Rivera and the cast of 'The Visit' perform onstage at the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Theo Wargo/Getty

Best: Viva Chita Rivera!

Murderous musical The Visit is the last show from composing duo John Kander and Fred Ebb that we'll ever get (Ebb died in 2004) — so any old-school Broadway lover worth their jazz shoes should savor Chita Rivera's 2015 Tony performance like the fine vintage that it is. The 82-year-old legend donned a white gown to perform "Love and Love Alone" and "I Would Never Leave You" from the show, about a fabulously wealthy woman bent on revenge. Her rich rendition was backed up by male dancers in whiteface and lime-green platform shoes, proving that the team behind Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman have still got the weird we love.

josh groban

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Worst: In Memoriam Is Back — and Weird

Last year, the Tonys came under fire for leaving the In Memoriam segment out of the televised broadcast; though it was back this year, we're not sure that the show was any better for it. Josh Groban sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel (a performance that was a little too enthusiastically teased at nearly every commercial break) while photos of those who passed last year — titans like Elaine Stritch, Marian Seldes, and James Garner — played behind him. But the whole thing was oddly paced and poorly executed; worse, at times it was hard to figure out who was on screen, aside from Groban himself. Thanks for restoring the segment for the broadcast, Tonys. Now, let's work on rehauling it and give our dearly departed the goodbye they deserve.

annaleigh ashford

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07: Annaleigh Ashford accepts the award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for "You Can't Take It With You" onstage during the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Theo Wargo/Getty

Best: Annaleigh Ashford’s Charming Speech

It was a night of wonderful acceptance speeches, particularly from the British winners. (Our favorite of that bunch: The Audience's Richard McCabe, who, after winning Best Featured Actor in a Play, exclaimed, "Oh my giddy aunt, well this is nice!") But for our money, the most charming speech of the night went to You Can’t Take It With You's Annaleigh Ashford. "I can't believe I'm standing here right now on Radio City Music Hall's stage for the worst dancing that ever appeared on Broadway," she exclaimed, giving shout-outs to her fellow nominees before tearfully thanking "every friend I've ever had, every teacher I've ever had and everyone I've ever met!" She ended her giddy speech with an especially sweet, "have a good night!"

sutton foster and corey stoll

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Worst: CBS’ Over-Commitment to Advertising

From the obnoxious #TonyAwards hashtag that showed up on the screen at the oddest times to the constant product placement — including for CBS’s own shows (why else was Marg Helgenberger presenting an award?) — the broadcast felt like one long, terrible exercise in cross-platform promotion. Kudos to Sutton Foster, pictured above, for not biting on a bit calling out Carnegie Mellon's teachers — normally an admirable exercise, but truly weird when an ad for the prestigious school aired at the next commercial break.

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