Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 5 Productions of 2008

So I’m sitting here on this cold, snowy December morning thinking about the New York theatre I saw in 2008, attempting to compartmentalize everything into a scant few Top 5 lists. Let me tell you – it has been a challenge. But I think I’ve done it.

So, without further ado…

The following Top 5 list is based on Broadway and Off-Broadway productions I personally saw in 2008. There were, in fact, a lot I did not see: Passing Strange because I was stupid, South Pacific because I had to make choices, Billy Elliot because I’m broke. I suspect this list would have been drastically different had I seen any of those shows.

1. August: Osage County
August: Osage County is widely known as the three-hour play that you want to last another three hours. And it has not earned that reputation without reason. It is a brilliant, character-driven story that propels you through a few tragic yet hysterical days in the Weston household. To put it simply, August: Osage County leaves you beautifully stunned. Tracy Letts’ subsequent Tony and Pulitzer are so well deserved. I saw the production early enough to see the entire original cast, including the author’s father, Dennis Letts, who was in the final days of his battle with lung cancer. To read my complete review, click here.

In September 2007 I slept on the line at the Delacorte to see the concert in Central Park. In August 2008 I did the same thing to see Diane Paulus’ fully realized production as part of The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park series. And in February 2009, I’ll trade in my sleeping bag for a $100 bill and will be able to see it in a big fancy Broadway house. Little will compare to that sultry summer evening in Central Park, seeing this moving and inspired production of Hair under the stars and in this political climate. The memory of rushing to the stage to dance to the final strains of “Let The Sunshine In” with this stellar cast will be forever cherished.

3. [title of show]
[title of show] touched a nerve, tickled my funny bone, made me cry and won my heart in 90 minutes. The “little show that could” chronicles its own move to Broadway in a way that speaks to all creative types battling those dreaded vampires. Rocking hard with only four chairs, Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan proved that a small, original musical has just as much right to the Broadway stage as those big, splashy type musicals. Sadly, [title of show] was one of the many casualties of the bleak 2008-2009 season. Something, however, tells me that we haven’t seen the last of this incredible foursome or their original musical. And I certainly am one [tos]ser eager for their return.

4. In The Heights
In June, being caught up in the delightful frenzy of Ms. Antoinette Perry’s company, a friend and I agreed to get tickets for In The Heights for September just moments before it won the Tony for Best Musical. Of course, I was foolishly thinking I’d have the money to afford a full-price orchestra seat by then. After selling about $150 worth of CDs, I raised the money and despite the looming threat of Hurricane Hanna’s aftermath, I headed to NYC to see In The Heights. And the adventure begins there. I missed my train and arrived in GCT with 10 minutes until curtain. I grabbed a cab and was dropped off in a torrential downpour two blocks away from the Richard Rodgers. As soon as I got out of the cab, I realized that I was missing my wallet along with my train ticket, credit cards, ID and $200 cash (to pay my friend back for the aforementioned unaffordable ticket). I ran through the pouring rain to get to the theatre, picked up my ticket at the box office and rushed down to the 2nd row. Just as soon as I announced, “My wallet is gone!” the house lights dimmed and the show began.

During the whole opening number of In The Heights, my mind was racing with worry. Even still, it didn’t take long for this invigorating and heartfelt production to reel me away from those worries for a couple of hours. In The Heights is an exuberantly performed show that inspires on so many levels. And,
like [title of show], I heart Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of In The Heights, too.

5. Port Authority
One of my personal favorite actors, Tony winner John Gallagher, Jr., made two post-Spring Awakening appearances on the Atlantic Theater Company’s stage in 2008. Most recently he appeared in the much touted Farragut North, which I unfortunately had to miss. Earlier in the year, however, he appeared in Conor McPherson’s beautiful monologue play Port Authority, which I did have the good fortune to see. Alongside the brilliant Jim Norton and the masterful Brian d’Arcy James, Gallagher’s vulnerable and heartbreaking turn as a young Irishman helped to create one of 2008’s most pleasant surprises and a memorable evening of theatre to behold.

[title of show], August: Osage County, Cry-Baby, Equus, Hairspray, In the Heights, Spring Awakening (2x) and Xanadu; Off-Broadway: Damn Yankees, Green Eyes, Queen Esther, Hair, Hamlet, Port Authority, The Black Suits and The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks.

1 comment:

Esther said...

You have great shows on your list, some I wish I'd seen! And I agree with you about In the Heights. I really enjoyed it.

It's so hard, even seeing 12 shows during my November trip to New York there were more I wanted to see but I just couldn't squeeze in. Too bad Broadway shows don't have 10 a.m. weekday performances. ;-)

My biggest disappointment is not getting off my fanny and finding some way to go see Hair in the park. But I'm definitely going to see it on Broadway. And I wish I'd been able to see [title of show], too. I've been listening to the cast recording and it's so funny. And I'm dying to see John Gallagher Jr. in something again. Wish I could have seen Farragut North.

I hope we can get together again in 2009.