Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 in Review: Best Musical Production Numbers

The truth is that this year's best production number isn't a production number in the traditional sense.  Really, it is the technical marvel that is all of the flight/fight sequences that occur all over the Foxwoods Theatre during Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  But, in the interest of tradition (and because technically those should be on a 2010 list), here are my 10 favorite production numbers - big full company songs, with dance breaks and big applause.  And, yes, I considered all of the shows that opened in calendar year 2011.  But dancing nuns who do the same number each time, only changing their costumes, and pretend Shirelles doing girl group stuff isn't high on my list.  Call me picky.

  1. "Who's That Woman?" from Follies  (Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, sung by Terri White and Ladies)  Directed by Eric Schaeffer, choreography by Warren Carlyle.  Probably the most profoundly sad production number in Broadway history.  Also the most simple and elegant.  Ovation-worthy.

2.  "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" from The Book of Mormon (Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, sung by Andrew Rannells and the Company)   Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.  Outrageous and over-the-top.  Not mention clever, well-staged and well-danced.  And pee-your-pants funny.

3.  "We Were Here" from The People in the Picture (Music by Artie Butler, lyrics Iris Rainer Dart, sung by the Company) Directed by Leonard Foglia, staging by Andy Blankenbuehler.  I love when musical staging and deft dancing meld together seamlessly.  And the message of the imagery goes beyond the story.

4.  "Right Now Operetta" from Lysistrata Jones (Music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn, sung by the Company) Directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges.  Slick, athletic and interesting dancing, all going on while each character is reaching his or her climax of conflict.

5.  "Joseph Smith American Moses" from The Book of Mormon (Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, sung by Nikki M. James, Michael Potts and The Ugandans)  Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.  Very funny, very clever, and ensemble put through its paces while maintaining character.  Not since "The Small House of Uncle Thomas"...

6.  "The Finale"  from Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Sung by the Company) Directed by Simon Phillips, choreography by Ross Coleman.  Exciting disco music and moves, a cavalcade of inventive, sexy costumes and a final tableau that has you leaving the Palace Theatre humming and feeling 5 feet off the ground.

7.  "Coffee Break" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying  (Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, sung by Christopher J. Hanke, Mary Faber and the Company)  Directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford.  In a show full of excellent dancing, this number sticks out for its character driven choreography and amusing, astounding acrobatics.  And Christopher J. Hanke never gets the credit he deserves. (And I'm tired of seeing "The Brotherhood of Man" all over the place.)

8.  "We Beseech Thee" from Godspell  (Music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, sung by Nick Blaemire and Company)  Directed by Daniel Goldstein, choreography by Christopher Gattelli.  Almost as good as a Susan Stroman prop-filled dance number, this athletic number is pretty cool, what with the trampolines and all.  But the expert use of the in the round space makes it even more spectacular.

9.  "Anything Goes" from Anything Goes  (Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, sung by Sutton Foster and Company)  Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.  Precision tap dancing is admirable, but never one of my favorites.  But after waiting nearly an hour and half for some action on the stage, this is pretty dazzling.  And that Sutton Foster can belt and hold a note after a 3-4 minute dance routine is truly a marvel.

10.  "A Freak Like Me Needs Company"  from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark  (Music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge, sung by Patrick Page and Company)  Original direction by Julie Taymor, direction by Philip Wm. McKinley, choreography by Daniel Ezralow, additional choreography by Chase Brock. The only noticeable musical addition to Spidey 2.0, this Gaga-esque techno-nightmare deserves mention simply for being there.  Then there's Patrick Page who proves nightly that he could sell water to a drowning man.  The zombie scientists and the cool Sinister Six costumes really make this number stick out.  And in this show, it sticks out in all the right ways.

What was your favorite big, splashy Broadway number?  Write in and tell us!

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1 comment:

  1. I loved "Material Girl" from Priscilla, with Nick Adams. It was one of the sexiest Broadway production numbers I've ever seen. All those scantily clad chorus boys - I felt flushed!

    I also love "Beautiful Girls" from Follies. Nothing fancy but simply watching those women parade onstage, just like the old days, was so moving.

    And of course I love both "Grand Old Ivy" and "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed. They're both so imaginative, so much fun to watch.


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