I've never done a year-end wrap-up, but we all love them, right? We're hopelessly addicted to rankings and lists and that's why Buzzfeed exists. As we come to the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the end of the year, what better way to express gratitude for 2013 than to review some of its best moments?
I'm incredibly lucky to see a lot of theater. Much of it is good or very good, but some productions rise to the top and are still stuck in my brain weeks or months later. In chronological order, here are some of the shows that took my breath away this year.
The Motherfucker with the Hat, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago
|Photo by Michael Brosilow|
"Dark" is my single favorite keyword for a show; if I use it, it's usually a huge compliment. If something is "dark" and "gritty" AND "smart," it's a winner. So it was with January's The Motherfucker with the Hat. Let's get this out of the way first: if you've never seen Jimmy Smits on stage, I can't describe it to you. You just have to witness that combination of utter calm and fierce spirit for yourself. Combine him with an exceptional cast, a script that is intelligent and daring and real, and one of the most imaginative stagings I've ever seen in a space that size, and you have an exceptional production. It's not an easy show and it doesn't tie any bows at the end. It questions the nature of the human spirit uncomfortably and profoundly. This was my first trip to Steppenwolf. I'll definitely be back.
In the Heights in Concert, United Palace of Cultural Arts, New York
The expectations were SO HIGH. It's my favorite musical of all time. I flew to New York for less than 48 hours just for this show. I paid more than I ever spend on tickets to sit third row center. While standing in the longest will call line of all time, we thought it might not happen at all. And then in the quickest succession we were warm inside the theater, the lights went down, the cast came out, the music went up, and the euphoria began. The best way I've found to describe it is to say that the cast wanted to give everything they had to the crowd, the crowd wanted to give every ounce of affection in their hearts to the cast, performers and audience alike had more passion for the show then they knew what to do with, and it all came out in an absolutely electric lovefest unlike any other experience I've ever had. It was pure magic. I can barely press play on videos of that night for the intensity of the chills I get mere seconds in. I'll never, ever forget it.
American Songbook: The Songs of Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey, Lincoln Center, New York
|© Kevin Yatarola|
It HAD to be a wonderful night: Brian D'Arcy James, Alice Ripley, Idina Menzel, the music of Next to Normal and more, all in the gorgeous Allen Room. The moments that most moved me, though, were unexpected. Idina premiered a new song from If/Then that was simple and poignant and perfect. The original Broadway cast of Next to Normal joined the Buenos Aires cast of N2N's Spanish adaptation, Casi Normales, for "Light"/"Luz" and proved that this incredible musical translates to any language or culture. One beautiful night made me even more excited for If/Then and whatever Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey take on in the future.
Talley's Folley, Roundabout Theater, New York
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
The Nance, Lincoln Center Theater, New York
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Les Liaisons Dangereuses, American Players Theater, Spring Green
As I reflect on the list as a whole, I'm surprised to see so many plays! I definitely tend toward musicals, so this just goes to show that I have to keep pushing my theatrical boundaries. What were your favorite shows of the year?