Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review: The Best and Not the Best

Links to all of my 2010 in Review blogs are at the bottom of this page.

It has been a much more interesting and exciting year of theatre going in 2010 than last year, I think.  I have has some experiences this year that I NEVER thought I'd have - good and bad.  And I've seen a few shows that have set new benchmarks for quality and creativity - good and bad.

Over the course of the last 12 months, I've had the good fortune to have seen some 27 Broadway, off-Broadway, Touring and Regional productions.  Yes, "good fortune," as again this year, I didn't see a single show that was so bad I wanted to leave, and I saw several that I wanted to see immediately after the curtain call.  Even the most disappointing shows had some good things to offer.

Anyway, here's a look back at...

2010: The Best and the Not Best

Best Off-Broadway/National Touring Company/Regional Theatre Shows:


2.  The National Tour of Rock of Ages:  OK, so it'll never be my favorite show, but it travels well and is an excellent representation of the New York production.

1.  Yank!:  Don't know if this one is still Broadway bound, but off-Broadway, it was a sweet, thought provoking little show with a giant heart and giant performances.

Most Disappointing Off-Broadway/National Touring Company/Regional Theatre Shows:


1.  Chess at Signature Theatre in Virginia: Maybe the show will never work.  But one thing is for sure, this cobbled together, futuristic version certainly doesn't work.

Best Surprises of 2010:

5.  Matthew Settle in Chicago - I had never heard of this Gossip Girl guy, but when his name was above the title and the legendary Ruthie Henshall wasn't, he had a lot to prove to me.  And he did.  Suave, sophisticated and low key.  A Billy Flynn that makes you pursue him.  Hard.

4.  Decent kids in shows:  Both Adam Riegler (The Addams Family) and Matthew Gumley (Elf: The Musical) play it straight and professional.  Not cute and cloying.  What a nice change of pace.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

3.  The Act One flying sequences in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - They are breathtaking and it is hard to believe you are seeing what you are seeing.  In fact, the whole of Act One was a surprise at the 6th preview.  It was actually pretty together and ready.

2.  Last year, it was Stephanie J. Block.  This year it is Mark Jacoby, whose performance in Elf: The Musical surprised the hell out of me.  He is off my "why does this actor keep getting jobs" list!

1.  Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - I went because I intend to see every new musical this season.  The song "Populism, Yea! Yea!" was everywhere and it grated my nerves.  I went in thinking I probably won't like it, and left with a sore-from-laughing stomach and an adrenaline rush!  Sexy Pants ROCKS!

Most Disappointing of 2010:

5.  Andy Karl as Fiyero in Wicked: I am a big Andy fan, but man, was he calling it in the day I saw it.

Andy Karl

4.  Jeremy Kushnier and Euan Morton in Chess:  I am also a big fan of both of these actors.  But Jeremy defined "one-note performance", and Euan, so good in Sondheim on Sondheim, was in way over his head here.

3.  Act Two of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - As truly amazing as Act One is, Act Two is truly messy.  As of the 6th preview, anyway.  Boring, confusing and, well, stupid.  Act Two must be what everyone in the chat rooms was talking about...

2.  Tom Kitt getting a Tony snub for his amazing work on American Idiot.  It figures, though.  More than one review mentioned a lack of orchestration.  Tell that to those strings players, perched on tiny balconies two stories up, or under forever moving stair cases.  That they played and didn't get killed is a miracle; that no one noticed they were there is reprehensible.

1.  Short runs of amazing shows: The Scottsboro Boys, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Sondheim on Sondheim... and Rock of Ages keeps on going, and going...

Best Understudy Performance:

1.  Annie Edgerton as Rosie in Mamma Mia! You'd think she had played the role hundreds of times... I think she has...

Most Disappointing Understudy Performance:

1.  America Olivo as Arachne in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Maybe it is unfair to kick a girl when she is down, but I was willing to forgive missed cues, missed lyrics, rushed late entrances.  After all, she had minimal rehearsal time.  But she is a professional, right?  Sing it like you know what you are doing, sweetie.  We don't know any of the songs, yet, so you have a ton of leeway.  Use it.

Best Ensemble Cast - Play

3.  Lend Me a Tenor - in a farce, timing is everything, and this company was perfection.

2.  Next Fall - the very definition of ensemble drama.

1.  Brief Encounter - this group had to do it all... comedy, drama, sing, dance, be in a movie...

Best Ensemble Cast - Musical

5.  Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Even at preview 2, with most of the show yet to be tinkered with and never a having a rehearsal without having to stop, this cast was as one, from top to bottom.  Brava!

4.  A Little Night Music - The original revival cast was like a well-oiled machine, minus the stiffness.  Not a diva in the place.

3.  American Idiot - So much could have gone wrong here, and there are plenty of dangerous moments.  But this cast is a unified as you can get.  The very definition of musical ensemble.

2.  The Scottsboro Boys - Nothing like a heavy subject matter and controversial story-telling to bond a group.  These men were an unstoppable force.

1.  Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - With such a fast-paced, crammed full of everything show, a cast that isn't together would have ruined the piece.  Instead, this group of skilled comedians was flawless.

(There were so many awesome performances this year, I couldn't narrow it down to 10 of each...)

The 20 Best Performances by an Actor in 2010 (in alphabetical order):

Sebastian Arcelus in Elf: The Musical
Justin Bartha in Lend Me a Tenor
Reeve Carney in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Jeremy Cox in Come Fly Away
Jason Danieley in next to normal

Reeve Carney (right) with Patrick Page

John Gallagher, Jr. in American Idiot
Kelsey Grammer in La Cage aux Folles
Cody Green in Come Fly Away
John Arthur Greene in West Side Story
Justin Guarini in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Kelsey Grammer

Jeremy Gumbs in The Scottsboro Boys
Alexander Hansen in A Little Night Music
Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises
Joshua Henry in The Scottsboro Boys
Patrick Heusinger in Next Fall

Levi Kreis (with Hunter Foster)

Levi Kreis in Million Dollar Quartet
Bryce Pinkham in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Stark Sands in American Idiot
Bobby Steggert in Yank!
Benjamin Walker in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bobby Steggert

The 20 Best Performances by an Actress in 2010 (in alphabetical order):

Laura Benanti and Justin Guarini

Nancy Anderson in Yank!
Laura Benanti in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises
Katie Rose Clarke/Mandy Gonzalez in Wicked (can't imagine one without the other)
Veanne Cox in La Cage aux Folles

Katie Rose Clarke and Mandy Gonzalez

Jennifer Damiano in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Katie Finneran in Promises, Promises
Ruthie Henshall in Chicago
Rebecca Naomi Jones in American Idiot
Angela Lansbury in A Little Night Music

Sean Hayes and Katie Finneran

Leigh Ann Larkin in A Little Night Music
Beth Leavel in Elf: The Musical
Patti LuPone in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Marin Mazzie in next to normal
Jill Paice in Chess

Jill Paice

Krysta Rodriguez in The Addams Family
Christina Sajous in American Idiot
Elizabeth Stanley in Million Dollar Quartet
Vanessa Williams in Sondheim on Sondheim
Catherine Zeta-Jones in A Little Night Music

Christina Sajous and Stark Sands

The Most Disappointing Shows of 2010:

Everyday Rapture

5. A Little Night Music with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch
4. Million Dollar Quartet
3. Act One of La Cage aux Folles
2. Act Two of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
1. Everyday Rapture

The Best Shows of 2010:

10.  Next Fall
9.  Elf: The Musical
8.  West Side Story (replacement cast)
7.  Lend Me a Tenor
6.  A Little Night Music (original revival cast)

A Little Night Music with
Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones

5.  Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
4.  Promises, Promises
3.  Brief Encounter
2.  The Scottsboro Boys
1.  next to normal (replacement cast)

Brief Encounter
Here's to longer runs and smash hits in 2011!

2010 in Review Blog Links: Click on each to get to that blog.  Happy New Year!

2010 JK's TheatreScene Awards - The Non-Performance Awards
2010 JK's TheatreScene Awards - The Performance Awards

News Makers #10 - The Passing of Michael Kuchwara
News Makers #9 - next to normal Wins the Pulitzer Prize
News Makers #8 - The "It Gets Better" Campaign
News Makers #7 - Lion King's Shannon Tavarez, National Heroine
News Makers #6 and #5 - New Broadway Writers Welcomed and Legends Protested
News Makers #4 - Shows That Made It and Dind't, Too
News Makers #3 - Too Gay to Play?
News Makers #2 - 80 Becomes Him
News Makers #1 - Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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