Friday, December 21, 2018

The Friday 5: 5 Top Broadway Debuts of 2018

Every year, the Broadway season is full of stars, fan favorites and hard-working "regulars." It's always great to see what our favorite performers, writers, directors, choreographers and designers have been working on for our pleasure. But I have to admit that one of the greatest joys of each season is discovering new talent. There were many, many debuts worthy of recognition in 2018, and it was difficult to narrow it down to just 5. So here are 10 (alphabetically): 5 actors and 5 actresses who made their debuts this season that we think were the best!

The Friday 5:
The 5 Top Broadway Debuts by an Actor in 2018

Jelani Alladin as Kristoff in Disney's Frozen

One of the things I loved about his performance was his chemistry with the entire cast. Whether he became part of a tribal dance, was heroic in the face of danger with a gregarious princess in tow, or he showed warm friendship with a reindeer, he was so present. This guy's got an amazing future, and I'm thankful to have been there from the beginning.

Lucas Hedges as Daniel Reed in The Waverly Gallery

His contemplative, sensitive and deceptively strong presence so easily seen on the big screen translates beautifully to the largeness of a Broadway theater. That he holds his own against the performance of the year just proves that he isn't just another movie star dropping in for a visit. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I hope he returns again. Frequently.

Isaac Powell as Daniel in Once On This Island

Okay, so he actually debuted last year, but 2018 was his show's year. A tough assignment, his character is both a good guy and a dream killer. But he has incredible energy and presence. Everyone I know with an interest in Broadway is excited to see his next show.

Ari'el Stachel as Haled in The Band's Visit

What a way to make your Broadway debut - with a Tony Award! Sure, he has a swagger, finesse and sex appeal as Haled (when he whispers "Ccchhet Baaker" I get goose bumps), but it is the little nuances in his portrayal - the looks, the way he pays attention to everyone and everything on that stage - that sets him apart. And who can forget his tearful, triumphant acceptance speech on Tony night?

Charlie Stemp as Barnaby in Hello, Dolly!

His is one performance I am really sad I missed. By all accounts, he was charming, funny and a hell of a dancer. Even photos of him ooze charisma. With that kind of talent, he better come back.  How about in a revival of Me and My Girl?

The Friday 5:
The 5 Top Broadway Debuts by an Actress in 2018

Samantha Barks as Vivian in Pretty Woman: The Musical

I am awestruck by this amazing woman.  Faced with the unenviable task of playing a role so identified with its originator, she honors the original and puts her own, confident spin on it. And she sings like an angel on steroids. Amazing. And to think I wasn't that fond of her in the Les Miz film.

Courtenay Collins as Mrs. Greene in The Prom

Playing the lesbian protagonist's unaccepting mother is no easy task any time, but in these ugly times it must be a challenge every night. Even playing a conservative voice in a decidedly liberal atmosphere must be like navigating a mine field. But she rises to the challenge, and makes us hate her and appreciate her by the end. What a way to start!

Denise Gough as Harper Pitt in Angels in America

I loved every minute of this amazing, crazy performance. "Tour-de-force" is a term I don't dole out frequently, but in this case it is earned. Can't wait to share a theater space with her again. Broadway is a better place with her kind of talent on it.

Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune in Once On This Island

It is hard to believe she is so young. She tackled this emotional, vibrant role with a strength you don't see from some performers with a dozen shows under their belt. What a voice and what a presence. How about we find her a juicy role to originate in a brand new musical?

Bonnie Milligan as Pamela in Head Over Heels

There was no way she wasn't making this list. We've written of our admiration for her many times over the past several months, so there's not much to add at this point. But I will finish with this: if I had to select ONE Broadway Debut of the Year, it would be her. Brava!


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