Monday, August 28, 2023

40 Years of Broadway: 1983-1993: The Standout Performances

40 Years of Broadway: 1983-1993:
The Standout Performances

Over the years, I've had the great privilege of seeing some of the greatest performers in Broadway history. Some I've caught at the end of their career, while others I've seen at the peak of their careers. Probably my favorite scenario, though, is seeing a fresh new talent and recognizing early on that they are going to be big. And so, in mulling over the past 40 years of performances, I had a great deal of trouble narrowing down the list of "standouts."

Below are the 20 performers who gave truly remarkable performances from August 20, 1983 - August 19, 1993. I'm sure there are many other worthy star turns, but of course, I can only share those I saw! Let me know if I missed any of your favorites!

Standout Actors

Scott Bakula as Alfred/SamRomance Romance
one star, two roles in two musicals; sophisticated, suave with star power that pretty much blasted off the stage
Keith Carradine as Will RogersThe Will Rogers Follies
the very definition of a triple-threat performance, he was utterly charming; Will would have been pleased
George Hearn as Albin/Zsa ZsaLa Cage aux Folles
one of the greatest performances - historic, really, his transformation from Albin to Zsa Zsa was like witnessing a miracle, his "I Am What I Am" was a galvanizing tour de force battle-cry
Michael Jeter as Otto KringeleinGrand Hotel
another one of the truly great performances I have ever witnessed, his sweet charm and bravery in the face of death caused a lump in my throat from his first entrance to the curtain call
Robert Lindsay as Bill SnibsonMe and My Girl
I'd have sworn the man was made of rubber, so fluid was his movement; a voice to make you swoon, a master of comic timing, and enough charm to woo the entire theater

Terrence Mann as Inspector JavertLes Miserables
everyone was gaga for Colm, but I couldn't take my eyes off of him, rigid and principled with an aching vulnerability. Are villains supposed to make you cry?
Howard McGillin as John JasperThe Mystery of Edwin Drood
a Dickensian villain with charm, wit, and sinister sexuality, and one of the great Broadway voices
Con O'Neill as Mickey JohnstoneBlood Brothers
fierce and heartbreaking; believable as a sweet young boy, and as an angry, troubled young man
Martin Short as Elliot GarfieldThe Goodbye Girl
comic timing, brilliant physical comedy and a booming singing voice; a winning match with a delightful Bernadette Peters
BD Wong as Song LilingM. Butterfly
a mesmerizing mix of sensuality, mystery and exotic strength. Beautifully shocking.

Standout Actresses

Betty Buckley as Edwin DroodThe Mystery of Edwin Drood
missed her in Cats, but this more than made up for it; funny, arrogant and that voice! I remember that very last note she belted in "The Writing on the Wall" like it was yesterday
Joanna Gleason as
The Baker's Wife
Into the Woods
absolutely brilliant in every regard, no one has played the role better for nearly 35 years
Randy Graff as Oolie/DonnaCity of Angels
she may have won the Tony for Les Miz, but she was incredible in this witty, sassy turn - she was gold in musical comedy and film noir
Jane Krakowski as FlaemmchenGrand Hotel
she was so utterly captivating I am pretty sure I missed a lot the first time I saw the show; a heartbreaking but ultimately charming performance that definitely foreshadowed the great things to come
Angela Lansbury as Mame DennisMame
I've said it before, I'll say it again: this performance changed my life; there are no words...

Linda Lavin as Kate JeromeBroadway Bound
at the time, I only knew her from TV's Alice, so I wasn't prepared for this meticulously detailed, fierce performance
Patti LuPone as Reno SweeneyAnything Goes
everything about her performance screamed "Diva!" No one has ever sung this role better, period.
Bebe Neuwirth as NickiSweet Charity
if you've ever been immediately smitten with a performer, then you know how I felt seeing her in this show - and man, can she do those Fosse moves....
Chita Rivera as
Aurora/Spider Woman
Kiss of the Spider Woman
she was the embodiment of "star quality" in a role that demanded it, but she was so much more; no one smoulders and tempts like she does
Mercedes Ruehl as Bella KurnitzLost in Yonkers
this may actually be the best Broadway performance I saw in the first ten years; her beautiful performance has stuck with me all these years, and I think of it often when I feel as misunderstood and frustrated as her Bella did

Contest Question #1:
Of the 20 Standout Performances above, how many happened in shows written by Neil Simon?

Keep reading our 40 years of Broadway articles, and keep track of the contest questions and answers, and when it's all over, you can win prizes! Details coming soon, but keep track starting NOW!

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