Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review: The Best and the Not Best

All things considered, I am a very, very fortunate guy. I have a job, a roof over my head, food in my stomach and enough money to indulge my passion for theatre. Being American, of course I wish I could see/do more, but in the balance of things, I am very happy.

Another thing I'm happy about is that over the past year of theatre-going, I haven't seen anything that was so atrocious that I walked out. Sure, there were disappointments - shows I'm glad I saw, but won't return to, but there were also some wonderful surprises (and a few sure things) that have forever changed me as a person and as a lover of live performance.

Alas, I did not attend a single show of any kind during the month of December, so for this set of year-end reflection, I am counting shows I saw from December 1, 2008 - November 31, 2009. (On other words, look for A Little Night Music on next year's lists.)


Best Off-Broadway/National Touring Company Shows:
3. A Chorus Line - As much care went into the casting of the tour as the Broadway revival.

2. Happiness - Great cast, great story, great staging, great music. Left feeling high as a kite! (ABOVE)

1. Spring Awakening - Kyle Riabko was even better than when he did the show in NY, and Steffi D. is amazing. (BELOW)

Most Disappointing Off-Broadway/National Touring Company Shows:
2. Legally Blonde - Despite a decent cast, to call this pared-down is an gross understatement.
1. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas - File this under: WHY???

Best Surprises of 2009:
5. Jayne Atkinson in Blithe Spirit -Took a blah part and made it hilarious
4. Alice Ripley out of a performance of next to normal, and seeing Jessica Phillips as Diana
3. Avenue Q not closing afterall!
2. Stephanie J. Block in 9 to 5: The Musical - Take her of my "why do these people get Broadway jobs?" list! (ABOVE)
1. Memphis - The entire show amazed me from start to finish.

Most Disappointing of 2009:
5. Rupert Everett in Blithe Spirit - As stiff as his "enhanced" face.
4. Not seeing Gavin Creel in Hair - See understudy list below.
3. Kerry Butler and Constantine Maroulis in Rock of Ages - She was in over her head, and he is a lousy actor, period. (BELOW)
2. The run of The Story of My Life - Enough said.
1. Bye Bye Birdie - The entire show amazed me from start to finish, but not in a good way.

Best Understudy Performances (Not Replacements):
4. Chris Hoch as Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical - Excellent, considering Christopher Siebert was a big reason I wanted to see it in the first place.
3. Matthew Stocke as Dennis in Rock of Ages - He was so good, he stuck out.
2. Jay Armstrong Johnson as Claude in Hair - If it couldn't be Gavin, I'm glad it was him.
1. Jessica Phillips as Diana in next to normal - Truly a revelation in the role. Brilliant.

10 Best Performances by an Actor in 2009 (in alphabetical order):
Kieran Campion as Nick Lockridge in The American Plan
Matt Cavenaugh as Tony in West Side Story
Adam Chanler-Berat as Henry in next to normal (ABOVE, with Jennifer Damiano)
Will Chase as Thomas Weaver in The Story of My Life
Malcolm Getz as Alvin Kelby in The Story of My Life
Chad Kimball as Huey in Memphis (BELOW)
Trent Kowalik as Billy in Billy Elliot
Kyle Dean Massey/Aaron Tveit as Gabriel in next to normal
Jim Norton as Finian in Finian's Rainbow
Will Swensen as Berger in Hair

10 Best Performances by an Actress in 2009 (in alphabetical order):
Jayne Atkinson as Ruth in Blithe Spirit (BELOW)
Kate Baldwin as Sharon in Finian's Rainbow
Jennifer Damiano as Natalie in next to normal
Christine Ebersole as Elvira in Blithe Spirirt
Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona in Shrek

Haydn Gwynne as Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot
Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcatti in Blithe Spirit
Alice Ripley as Diana in next to normal (BELOW)
Josefina Scaglione as Maria in West Side Story
Alexandra Socha as Wendla in Spring Awakening

Most Disappointing Shows of 2009:
5. 9 to 5: The Musical
4. Rock of Ages
3. Finian's Rainbow
2. Shrek: The Musical
1. Bye Bye Birdie (BELOW)

Best Shows of 2009:
10. The American Plan (BELOW)
9. Spring Awakening - The Final Broadway Company
8. Avenue Q- The Final Broadway Company
7. Blithe Spirit
6. Hair

5. Billy Elliot: The Musical
4. Memphis
3. West Side Story
2. The Story of My Life
1. next to normal (BELOW)

Here's to an even better 2010!

Comments? Leave one here or email me at


  1. Wow! This is a great list. I'm definitely subscribing. Any person who can list the best understudy performances is someone who KNOWS theatre inside and out and prolly sees more theatre than even I do, which is hard to beat.
    Thanks for the shout out for Spring Awakening. We're very proud of the touring cast. I'm the blogmaster for the official blog for Spring Awakening:

    Keep up the great work, and here's to more great theatre in the next decade!

  2. Thanks. I try to see as much as I can, though I don't get to nearly enough plays. But as far as knowing about understudies, it is purely luck (and sometimes bad luck) that I've gotten to see such folks as Jessica Phillips and Jay Armstrong Johnson. Funny enough, I just realized today, I saw him as an understudy in the ACL tour. It is especially nice to see a touring company that has taken as good care of the show as both ACL and Spring Awakening have.

    And thanks for subscribing! Tell your friends, and feel free to send me updates to blog about SA on tour!

  3. Thanks for the list! I can't go see any shows so this is very helpful. And I like Malcolm Gets a lot :-)

  4. It will be great to watch A Chorus Line,i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.


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