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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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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