Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The 2023 - 2024 Season Stand Outs

Last week was the official end of the 2023-2024 Broadway season, and it was remarkable, if for nothing else than the sheer quantity of offerings! We envy all of you that got the chance to see all 39 shows. Our final tally of Main Stem performances was 1 re-visit (Sweeney Todd), 1 new play, 2 play revivals, 11 new musicals and 2 musical revivals. Among them, we saw some really great stuff!

Stand-out Leading Performances:

  • Eden Espinosa as Tamara de Lempicka - Lempicka
  • Brody Grant as Ponyboy Curtis - The Outsiders
  • Kelli O'Hara as Kirsten Arnesen - Days of Wine and Roses
  • Sarah Paulson as Toni - Appropriate
  • Maryann Plunkett as Older Allie- The Notebook
These 5 are really stand-outs among stand-outs - I could name twice as many at least. What's nice about these performances is the range of experience between them. All are also notable for the sustained intensity each requires, not to mention that each is on stage for nearly the entirety of their respective productions.

Stand-out Supporting Performances:

  • Brent Comer as Darryl Curtis - The Outsiders
  • Michael Esper as Franz - Appropriate
  • Amber Iman as Rafaela - Lempicka
  • Byron Jennings as Arnesen - Days of Wine and Roses
  • Danny Kornfeld as Rabbi - Harmony
  • Joe Locke as Tobias Ragg - Sweeney Todd
  • Sky-Lakota Lynch as Johnny Cade - The Outsiders
  • Paul Alexander Nolan as August - Water For Elephants
  • Sarah Pidgeon as Diana - Stereophonic
  • Daniel Radcliffe as Charley Kringas - Merrily We Roll Along
  • Ricky Ubeda as Henry - Illinoise
  • Kara Young as Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins - Purlie Victorious
Narrowing this down to 12 was very difficult - I originally had 25! But these dozen are really the cream of the crop. Talk about range and variety! Debut and experienced performances, each caught my eye and my heart. 

Stand-out Writing:

  • David Adjmi (Playwright) - Stereophonic
  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Playwright) - Appropriate
  • Jamestown Revival and Justin Levine (Music & Lyrics) - The Outsiders
  • Ingrid Michaelson (Music & Lyrics) - The Notebook
  • PigPen Theatre Co. (Music & Lyrics) - Water For Elephants
Considering how often I've heard theater folk talk about how unremarkable this plentiful season has been, you'd think we'd have trouble coming up with any "stand-outs." Each category required a great deal of thought and paring down, and none was more difficult than this category. For example, there were more than a few books of musicals that nearly made the list...

Stand-out Direction:

  • Daniel AukinStereophonic
  • Lila Neugebauer - Appropriate
  • Jessica Stone - Water For Elephants
  • Danya Taymor - The Outsiders
  • Alex Timbers - Here Lies Love
What I like best about this list is that each director elevated the material with which they were working. Some used big ideas, others were more cerebral, but all were impressively creative, creating productions that pushed boundaries and remained innately theatrical.

Stand-out Choreography:

  • Raja Feather Kelly - Lempicka
  • Rick and Jeff Kuperman - The Outsiders
  • Annie-B Parson - Here Lies Love
  • Justin Peck  - Illinoise
  • Jesse Robb and Shana CarrollWater For Elephants
These choreographers each created distinct languages to convey and expand the stories and themes of their pieces. Each of these shows had specific needs - moving art, violent rumbles, political rallies, poignant friendships, spectacular circus routines. As such, these needs were met in creative and integrated ways.

Stand-out Design:

  • Back to the Future: Designed by Tom Hatley. Lighting design by Tim Lutkin and Hugh Vanstone. Video design by Finn Ross. Sound design by Gareth Owen. Illusion design by Chris Fisher.
  • Here Lies LoveScenic design by David Korins. Costume design by Clint Ramos. Lighting design by Justin Townsend. Projection design by Peter Nigrini. Sound design by M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer. 
  • Lempicka: Scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez. Costume design by Paloma Young. Lighting design by Bradley King. Projection design by Peter Nigrini. Sound design by Peter Hylenski and Justin Stasiw.
  • The Outsiders: Scenography by AMP featuring Tatiana Kahvegian. Costume design by Sarafina Bush. Lighting design by Brian MacDevitt. Sound design by Cody Spencer. Projection design by Hana Kim. Special effects design by Jeremy Chernick and Lillis Meeh.
  • Water For Elephants: Scenic design by Takeshi Kata. Costume design by David Israel Reynoso. Lighting design by Bradley King. Projection design by David Bengali. Sound design by Walter Trarbach. Puppet design by Ray Wetmore, JR Goodman and Camille Labarre. Circus design by Shana Carroll.
One thing that is true about this season is that a lot of chances were taken to bring a wide variety of shows to life. The public came in expecting their favorite books and films to come to life in front of them. Jaw-dropping special effects, impressionistic creativity, vivid lighting and lavish costumes came together to create some amazing experiences for audiences. Again, I probably could have doubled this list - and two plays were numbers 6 and 7 on my list.

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