Best Theatrical Events of 2016: My Top 20
2016 was a rough year on many levels, but in my frontmezzjunkies world, I am feeling very blessed. Through this blog and all of you who read it, I’ve been able to see more theatre then I think I’ve ever seen before. And had the pleasure to hone my writing skills. So I thank you all because many on this list I would not have had the opportunity to witness the amazing had it not been for your attention. Theatre is truly an amazing entity when it takes us on an emotional journey whether it be sad, beautiful, joyous or all those mixed together. If theatre can do that, it’s pure magic.
So here’s my list of my top 20 theatrical moments of 2016. Starting with #20 and working my way to my #1. In order to garner suspense!
So to everyone involved in these shows, thank you for moving me and entertaining me. You all deserve my applause.
20- The Wolves
“Sarah DeLappe, the playwright, delivers spectacularly on her debut production…This is where DeLappe’s genius is most apparent: in the details and the differences…It’s captivating watching the teens argue, fight, tease, and commune together, wanting to be a uniformed force, but also striving for personal identity, individualization, acceptance, and accomplishment…The team and the play are the true winners here.”
“We know it’s not going to be all sunshine and lollipops. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the playful innocence of the writing and the deep maternal care that we are witness to…Danai Gurira writes dialogue between these young adult women that is both fun, flirtatious, and caring…Beautifully directed with unflinching honesty by Liesl Tommy, ‘Eclipsed’ makes us painfully aware of the history and the terror of these women’s lives.”
18- The Father
“It’s a smart and powerful piece of writing that is both surprising, funny at times, and deeply moving. Langella does a masterful job with this complex and unique role, holding back nothing, and giving it his all…The rest of the cast do a wonderful job…This MTC production is beautifully crafted, designed with great attention to detail and meaning…The direction of this cast by Doug Hughes is perfection…Unforgettable.”
17- A Life
“It’s as if we are turning the pages of a storybook, much like the glorious set design, flipping from the minutiae of one moment to another. It’s wildly engaging and deeply touching. Everyone in the cast gives us the purity of a life being lived. Pierce is simply outstanding pulling us in, as is Heberlee…I give a great deal of credit to the playwright Bock for crafting such a marvelous and unique story, and presenting it to us with such a surprising and creative vantage point.”
16- Radiant Vermin
“It’s a superbly funny abstract comedy…I was blown away with the final birthday party scene, in full amazement of their ability to give us the rapid-fire delivery of all these characters and moments without missing a beat…My heart was racing when, magically, they stop and revert back to asking us directly, ‘What do we value the most? Property or life?’ And then, they ask us our verdict. My verdict was a standing ovation.”
“Each one of her many multicultural portrayals is brilliantly detailed in mannerisms, accent, and body language, while also being very real and moving in content…But these characterizations are just the tip of the iceberg in regard to where the true artistry lies is this dazzling new work. Her power and genius is based more on what this assortment of characters are saying…Teaching us through storytelling…Enlightening and engaging us while being entertained.”
“This dense play, exquisitely directed by Leveaux with precision and style, is still a struggle to unlock…Susan’s slow mental deterioration, brilliantly portrayed by the exceptional Rachel Weisz, mirrors the British post-war disillusionment and depression, and is as exciting as it is devastating…’Plenty’ challenges us to lean in and play close attention as it bounces around the ’40’s, ’50s and ’60s. But as we put the puzzle pieces together, we begin to all feel the weight of Susan’s story.”
13- Bright Star
“what a bright and lovely star it is…That compelling yet emotionally deep twang winds its magic throughout this piece, giving it a strong yet sad quality that’s difficult to explain in any other manner. The music has a laziness like a sweet molasses but a compelling rhythm fueled by the banjo and strengthened by the fiddle…Cusack displays a most glorious voice and inhabits both younger and older versions of herself almost magically…every performance touched my heart…I was fully invested and moved to tears by the end.”
12- The Crucible
“I won’t say a word about Ivo van Hove’s dramatic flair, but it’s very apparent he wanted to excite us visually and dramatically. Many may say it is too much, but I think it works here, once again. His direction and creative storytelling kept me thoroughly engaged and as frustrated as Miller expertly intended…This powerful and superlative cast make an impressive argument, and van Hove’s theatrical flair and intense direction drive this idea home.”
11- Noises Off
“This nearly perfect British farce is getting another spectacular revival…This team is perfection, making it all look so easy and seamless. All should be credited with the word, ‘spectacular’…The only complaint I have of this whole shows lies in the portrayal of love and attraction… I can’t say I ever believed in the love or the affairs, I never really saw it, nor felt it…This cast of professionals are spot on perfect, never missing a beat or failing to get the laugh”
10-A Streetcar Named Desire
“Something about this current production from the get-go, directed with perfection by Benedict Andrews, just swings out and knocks us over…Anderson takes us through an emotional journey that is epic, devastating, and deeply affecting…It’s a majestic and heart-wrenching performance, and not to be missed.”
“From the first note sung of this beautiful new musical, we know we are in for a mystical and creative piece of musical deliciousness…It’s a beautiful piece of non-classic Broadway songwriting, that floats and swirls like an wonderful aroma. The harmonies and the melodies are just plain delectable…When that timer rang that this inventive pie of a show was done, I can only tell you how delicious it all was.”
8- Notes from the Field
“The detail and depth of this dissertation is epic and powerful. To whittle this piece down to a few sentences feels like a disservice to her, and to us…The expanse and detail of the topic is mind blowing and emotional…These powerful messages Smith serves will stay with you long after leaving the theatre. She wakes us up and preaches to us in a way that is subtle and stimulating. Tears will come.”
7- Ride the Cyclone
“I loved every minute of it, and will tell everyone I meet to go see this exciting, crazy musical…Directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell with a sharp witty sense of fun and dark sincerity, it’s a marvelously clever set-up, rich in ghoulish bravado and weirdness…This show is a macabre amusement park ride masking as a brilliant musical, one that I hope will find its way to Broadway.”
“Craig gives a wonderfully engaging performance, worthy of the hype and the movie star excitement surrounding this production. The rest of the casting is fascinating and diverse, heaving with masculinity and intensity…In Gold’s creation, this ‘Othello’ powers through, as if on a military charge against the enemy. Its energy is exhilarating. The power lies in the snippets of humanity that weaves their way through.”
5- Sunday in the Park with George
“Gyllenhaal was spectacular in the role. Devastatingly good right from the beginning. Such an impressive performance especially knowing how little rehearsal time they all had, and who knew his voice had that power and range?…Ashford took a bit more convincing at the beginning…But quickly, I was forced to give in to her…Musically gorgeous thanks to Music Director Chris Fenwick, this production succeeds marvelously, even in its simple staging.”
“Stephens is doing what appears to be the thing he is most brilliant at: creating two characters, flawed and difficult, engaging (but sometimes disengaging) in a one-on-one dialogue that is as complex in its emotionality as it is in its simplicity of words…Parker is exceptional in making Georgie so layered that we are instantly taken. And Arndt shows a quiet yet powerful dignity in his depiction of this surprising man…Both Parker and Arndt fit perfectly into the skins of their characters.”
3- She Loves Me
“There is a whole lotta love to be found at Studio 54 these days in the absolutely charming revival of ‘She Loves Me‘…Directed by Ellis is an impeccable supporting cast of pros. There isn’t a sour note in the lot…It’s a beautifully crafted and written show, a bit old-fashioned, but with some surprisingly modern twists and turns…The show reminds us what it is like to fall in love, but beyond that, it reminds me of the beginning of my love affair with theatre in general. ”
” It’s like a hilarious slap in the face, and in many ways, that is the best description one could give Unreachable, the new play by experimental writer and director Anthony Nielson, starring Dr Who’s Matt Smith…. It was like watching one of those segments from the Carol Burnett Show when Tim Conway could and did crack everyone else up with his improved stories (https://youtu.be/3qqE_WmagjY). O’Neill is on fire, and the rest of the cast tries to keep up with the craziness, and it’s a joy to behold…The play feels like it’s under construction, and in a constant state of flux (and I mean that as a compliment)…what a night of theatre it is. And I wouldn’t want to change a thing, unless he can rewrite it and make it better”
1- Dear Evan Hansen
“‘Dear Evan Hansen‘ has not lost any of its power and tension. It soars with an intense beauty that still captures our hearts and plays havoc with it all at the same time…Not much has changed with ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ beyond a tightening of its components. Visually it’s as perfect and awe-inspiring as it was Off-Broadway. Maybe even more so…I’m not sure if I will ever feel completely content with the final moments, but all in all, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ delivers us a deeply felt rich story.”
So there you have it, my top 20. Share with me yours, or the ones you think I missed.
And here’s to what 2017 will bring. In the first week I’ll be seeing The Present with Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh, which was my #1 on the shows I’m most excited to see –
And I’ll also be seeing The Band’s Visit at the Atlantic Theatre Company, a show that I’m only hearing great things about. So I think it will be a great way to start. The rest of the year might be a horror show, but in the theatrical world of frontmezzjunkies.com, everything is coming up roses.