Wednesday, May 5, 2021

At This Theater: The Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center

Tucked away in the back corner of the Lincoln Center campus, the Vivian Beaumont Theater is easily recognizable with its large plate glass windows and trademark neon logo-signs. Opened in 1965 and named for philanthropist Vivian Beaumont Allen, the theater has been home to a wide variety of plays and musicals. Revivals of Shakespeare, Moliere, Williams and Ibsen were the main attractions until 1972, when The Threepenny Opera became its first musical occupant. Since then, modern plays, major musical revivals, and original new musicals have taken their place alongside the classics.

At This Theater:
The Vivian Beaumont
Provided the director and designers truly understand how to take full advantage of the enormous thrust stage, there really isn't a bad seat in the house. Between the view and the relatively spacious seating with decent leg room, we really love going uptown to the Viv.

The Shows We've Seen There:  Anything Goes, Contact, South Pacific, War Horse, The King and I, My Fair Lady

How They Rate:

6. Contact  (2000) Although it really pushed the limits of what could be considered a "musical," and it raised more than a few eyebrows when it won the Tony Award for Best Musical, I really enjoyed this performance. I love watching great dancers, and the show was full of them. Add Boyd Gaines  and  Karen Ziemba, and it couldn't be that bad. What ever happened to the Girl in the Yellow Dress?



5. My Fair Lady  (2018) 
 I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this show, ever since 11th grade, when I played Pickering. This production was lavish, beautiful to look at, and made relevant once again with Bartlett Sher's smart direction. Not that it was perfect - I found Norbert Leo Butz to be as tedious as the constant moving in and out of that huge library set. Both were interesting the first time they came into view. After that, not so much.



4.  The King and I (2015)
I've seen so many professional productions of this show, you'd think it was my favorite by Rodgers an Hammerstein. It isn't - though "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" may be  the all-time great production number of any show I've seen. This production was a beautiful, sweeping epic, made all the more so because the design and direction took up every inch of the cavernous space (even when the stage was virtually empty). Kelli O'Hara was endearing, a brooding Ken Watanabe was charming, and both Ruthie Ann Miles and Ashley Park were captivating. And yet, the show didn't leave me on a high like the 1996 revival.

3. War Horse (2011)
The sheer magnitude of this production puts this show near the top of my all-time favorite plays. I mean, a sweeping, epic story performed live before my eyes?! But what makes this show so wonderful is the artistry of those amazing puppets, not only in their execution, but the way that the actors interacted with them, and how, as an audience member, they all elicited such emotion from me. It was a privilege to see this.


2. South Pacific (2008)
From the overture (the orchestra reveal...WOW!) to the finale, this gorgeous revival of my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical did not disappoint. Some how, this production managed to be as big as the Pacific and as intimate as a quiet pond.  Paulo Szot, Loretta Ables-Sayre, Danny Burstein and Matthew Morrison were all amazing, each bringing a depth and vibrancy to their roles. This is the role Kelli O'Hara should have won the Tony for. She's never been better, and neither has this show.


1. Anything Goes (1987)
Let's face it. This title is old, somewhat problematic, and eye-rollingly cliche. Sure, it has a great Cole Porter score with some super opportunities for big dance numbers. (On paper, it is exactly the show that people who hate musicals would point to for proof of their hatred.) And yet, this revival was magnificent.  Patti LuPone was the definitive Reno Sweeney (sorry, Sutton), and Howard McGillin had the audience in full swoon with every impish grin, plot twist, and song. Brilliantly sung and danced, this revival knew what it was working with and made the most of it at every turn.


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