Tuesday, May 26, 2020

BEST OF THE DECADE: 10 Favorite Broadway Musical Revivals

Last week, we began our series that takes a look back at the theater we enjoyed over the last 10 seasons. One of those posts revealed our 10 Favorite Broadway Play Revivals (HERE), and today, we again look back at Broadway revivals, this time at the musicals. I will say that Mike and I pretty much agreed about our top 5 choices (#1 was unanimous!), but the rest we diverged on quite a bit. In any case, all of these shows are deserving of their spot on the list, and it was so close overall, that any one of our honorable mentions could easily have been in the top 10.  Did your favorite musical revival make the list?

Best of the Decade:
Jeff and Mike's 10 Favorite
Broadway Musical Revivals


10. Violet (2014): Here was a show that was new to both of us (and new to Broadway, too, really) and it was really wonderful. Between Jeanine Tesori's beautiful melodies and Brian Crawley's gut-wrenching words and script, it was a very emotional experience. Colin Donnell and Joshua Henry both gave terrific performances, but Sutton Foster really resonated with both of us. We've never seen her better.

9. Once On This Island (2017): It is a testimony to how great this field of shows is that this one is all the way down at number 9, because both of us were thrilled by this amazing production. Michael Arden's vibrant direction brought this fairy tale to life with a meaningful resonance. We saw some definite favorites of ours (Norm Lewis and Lea Salonga) and discovered some new performers that we will follow for years to come (Hailey Kilgore, Tamyra Gray and Isaac Powell).

8. Sunset Boulevard (2017): Both of us had seen the original Broadway production of this Andrew Lloyd Webber epic, and agree that it is one of our favorites of his. Hearing this score with a huge orchestra was music to our ears, and seeing it without a ton of scenery, but with creative staging and a top-notch cast, we discovered that the story is terrific without all of that! Glenn Close was even better this time around, and being introduced to Michael Xavier (who made one of the great entrances of all-time in act two) was icing on this glamorous cake!

7. Oklahoma! (2019): Though I can understand why this radical reinterpretation of this beloved classic wasn't everyone's cup of tea (and we weren't thrilled with the "Dream Ballet" either), Mike and I agree that Daniel Fish's harsh environmental production brought this relic into the 21st century in a tense, relevant and inclusive way. My heart palpates just thinking about the smokehouse scene, the boxed lunch auction and the finale. It was grim and absolutely mesmerizing. So glad that we got to see the Tony-winning performance of Ali Stroker, newcomers (to us) Patrick Vaill and Damon Daunno, and two of our favorites, Rebecca Naomi Jones and Mary Testa. Oklahoma, OK! 

6. The Color Purple (2015): Frankly, I hated the original production of this show, and it was really a surprise that we even saw this. (That's a story for another time.) Talk about a turn around of opinion! John Doyle's spare, intense staging brought the story and the struggle to the front, and assembled a brilliant cast. By the time we got to it, Heather Headley had replaced Jennifer Hudson, and we were thrilled by her take on Shug. But let's be honest, Cynthia Erivo gave one of those once-in-a-lifetime performances as Celie. It was a privilege to be in the room with her.

5. Cabaret (2014): Loved it in the 90's, loved it just as much, if not more this time around. Just as devastating as ever. And how could it not be? Alan Cumming was brilliant, of course, and Michele Williams was a revelation.

4. Pippin (2013):  I was starting to think this show, long a favorite of mine, would never be revived. It was worth the wait. Can't think of a single thing I didn't love about it - the concept, the staging (brava! Diane Paulus), and the dancing in the style of Bob Fosse (bravo! Chet Walker). And the sexy, uber-talented company, wow! Kudos and thank yous to them all, especially Patina Miller, Matthew James Thomas, Rachel Bay Jones, Andrea Martin, Charlotte d'Amboise, Terrence Mann, and Erik Altemus.

3. Spring Awakening (2015): Here is an example of an already great show that was actually better (IMHO) in revival. Michael Arden's directorial debut was a stunner - a beautiful re-interpretation, whose storytelling was not only inclusive of a much under served community, but taught everyone who saw it a lesson in true communication.

2. Follies (2011): As Mike will tell you, I was not a fan of this show, mainly because of the horrid original Broadway cast recording. Shame on me, because this show is the classic everyone has always said it is. Mike will also tell you that I wept silently (mostly) throughout the entire performance. Bernadette Peters broke my heart, Danny Burstein was in top form, and the late, great Jan Maxwell was exhilarating. With a supporting cast that included Terri White, Jayne Houdyshell, Florence Lacey, Mary Beth Peil and Elaine Paige, there certainly was not lack of star power, and they all delivered. I'm so glad I got to see it more than once - I am definitely now a Follies fan!

1. West Side Story (2020): Look, I know that some of you reading this are thinking we are crazy - this radical staging is divisive. Other of you are probably thinking that this is our number one choice because it is the most recent show we saw. I can guarantee that has nothing to do with it. Actually, this show faced an uphill battle for our praise. Both Mike and I consider West Side Story to be one of the greatest musicals of all time, if not the greatest. Frankly, it was like discovering a new show. It is brutal, sadly timely, and often uncomfortable, just as a tragic story about violence and the death of young people should be. We loved the streamlining; we loved the staging, the orchestrations, and even the overwhelming video. The show is alive as has never been before. Truly great shows can withstand, and even be improved upon, with a fresh take. And we didn't miss "I Feel Pretty" at all.

Honorable Mention: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2014), Sunday in the Park with George (2017)


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