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The 10 Best and Worst Moments From the 2014 Tonys

From a glam Neil Patrick Harris to rap stars tackling ‘The Music Man,’ here’s a breakdown of the show’s highlights and missteps

68th Annual Tony Awards 2014

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

One night a year, Broadway takes its best and brightest talents uptown for a tip of the top hat to the old-school hoofers and New-Hollwyood celebrities that have tripped the lights along the Great White Way. The 68th Annual Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall does double duty, however — namely, by giving TV viewers a chance to see what New York's theatrical crème de la crème have been doing for the past 12 months.  

Watch Sting Perform 'The Last Ship' at 2014 Tonys

For many of us, watching the Tonys on TV are the closest we'll get to experiencing a smapler platter of Broadway, and last night's broadcast certainly gave us a taste of what we've been missing. But the show also delivered a number of, shall we say, questionable moments as well — some of which may or may not have involved copious tap-dancing, gleeful glam-rock and the gratuitous exploitation of rap stars. Here's a quick look at the highs and lows of the Tonys.

68th Annual Tony Awards 2014

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

WORST: Big Musical Productions, Small Screens

It's truly thrilling to see a gigantic musical production, complete with dozens of singers and dancers turning a song into a spectacle. But on a small screen — which, let's face it, is how most of us experience the Tonys — these types of bring-out-the-big-guns numbers tend to seem bombastic to a fault. Watching the "One Day More" performance from Les Miserables and "Friend Like Me" from Aladdin, you could imagine the rush you'd get if you were witnessing them unfold on a stage. On TV, the performances pitched to the back seats (yet captured by cameras twenty feet or so away) and sheer exueberance made you feel like you'd eaten too many bon-bons stuffed with cotton candy. Musicals were better off when they….

68th Annual Tony Awards 2014

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

BEST: Less-Is-More Musical Interludes

…went the less-is-more route. Idina Menzel stood by herself on a stage and belted out "Always Starting Over" from If/Then — and it killed. Ditto Alan Cummings' rendition of "Willkommen" from Cabaret, which still included dancers and a band yet managed to keep things lean and spare, the better to sell Cummings' Weimar-meets-punk take on the song. (We wished the medley from the Carole King biomusical Beautiful had simply stuck to award-winner Jessie Mueller and her piano, even if that meant she wouldn't have got to duet with Ms. King herself.) Minimalism triumphed over maximalism during the Tonys broadcast, with one notable exception.

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BEST: ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’

Even if you've seen Neil Patrick Harris play the transgender rocker in what has been a truly stellar run on Broadway, the sheer adrenaline rush of watching Harris and company tear into "Sugar Daddy" on TV — while writhing around a junkyard set in impeccable drag — did not feel diluted. Then Harris went into the crowd, gave Sting a lapdance, licked Samuel L. Jackson's glasses and brought the house down. He singlehandedly moved the show six inches forward (and not five inches back). Just…wow.

68th Annual Tony Awards 2014

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

BEST: Jefferson Mays’ Quick-Change Act

He may not have gone through all eight of the characters he plays in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, but in a little less than a minute, Mays completely transforms himself from an old biddy to a grotesque vicar to a posh aristocrat before introducing a number from the musical. It's an astonishing testament to his deftness as a performer and the stagehands changing him in and out of costume. That 60 or seconds may be the best advertisement the play (which would take home Best Musical later that night) could have asked for. Bravo.

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BEST: Bryan Cranston Goes ‘All the Way’

He is the one who knocks…and wins Best Leading Actor in a Play! Bryan Cranston adds another wonderful moment to what has been a monumental past eight months (yes, we are conveniently forgetting Godzilla) by taking home a Tony for his performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way. The political drama would also win the Best Play award, but as it's Cranston who carries the show, you could argue that this was the bigger prize. Way to go, Mr. White!

68th Annual Tony Awards 2014

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

WORST: Clint Eastwood Presenting Awards

We love Clint Eastwood. Really. We didn't even mind when he ranted at an empty chair at the Republican National Convention. But having to witness the 84-year-old actor struggle through pitching his upcoming Jersey Boys movie and trying to remember the titles of plays and pronounce the nominees (just because you played the Man With No Name doesn't mean you shouldn't learn other people's names for an award ceremony)…well, that was painful. Doddering doesn't quite cover it. He should have politely declined. Or at least brought an empty chair out as a sidekick.

68th Annual Tony Awards 2014

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

BEST: Sting Performs ‘The Last Ship’

The former Police-man played the title track of his upcoming Broadway show, a Celtic-influenced ditty about a Northern English sailor that could have been a Chieftains cover — and thanks to his accented voice, his acoustic-guitar strumming and the crack band (and choir) behind him, sold the number beautifully. The idea to start off in near-blackness and quiet singing before gradually building to a visual and aural crescendo was a nice touch. It was graceful, unlike….

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