2013 has been an amazing year in theater in New York City, and, rather than waiting another month, Thanksgiving seems the right time to express one’s gratitude with a top 10 list.
As it happens, my ten selections are more or less evenly split between Broadway and Off-Broadway, plays and musicals, still running and already ended. (I could do a whole other list just on Off-Off Broadway — and maybe I will.)
Below are links and excerpts from my reviews, and whether the show is still running.
Fun Home — running through January 12, 2014
A remarkable musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her childhood with a father who was secretly gay is a work of theater that is inventive, entertaining, in places exhilarating, and almost inexpressibly heartbreaking.
Twelfth Night — playing through February 1, 2014
After a Romeo on a motorcycle,Macbeth in an insane asylum, andJulius Caesar in a women’s prison, Mark Rylance decided to bring his own high concept to Shakespeare’s plays – presenting “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III” the way the Bard intended…Twelfth Night in particular makes for electrifying theater.
Christopher Durang’s hilarious yet improbably moving play, which moved to Broadway from Lincoln Center, was both a spoof of Chekhov, and an homage to him, and featured a cast of already celebrated performers and several who will now be.
After Midnight – open-ended
The more than three dozen supremely talented entertainers of “After Midnight” – singers, dancers and musicians – thrill with an astonishing 27 musical numbers over 90 intermission-less minutes. This re-creation of the Cotton Club during the Harlem Renaissance misses the opportunity to provide cultural or historical context, but few will care or even notice. “Guest artist” Fantasia (there until February) — luscious, sparkling — floors us with her polished singing of the enduring jazz standards. But this is a show too rich in talent to have to depend on any one star. Even the orchestra is called the All-Stars — “The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars” — and they’re well-named.
The Glass Menagerie — running through February 23, 2014
This seventh production on Broadway of Tennessee Williams’ first masterpiece brings home “the saddest play I’ve ever written,” as he called it. I can’t recall any stage production of this play where everybody and everything worked together so well — every detail seems just right.
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 — Running through December 31, 2013
This musical with catchy and lovely songs is adapted from a “scandalous slice” of “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy. This should not intimidate. The show is the hippest dinner theater on earth. Since I wrote my review, it is moved to a tent in the theater district; they still serve a Russian meal and vodka, but it costs extra.
David Byrne’s inspired musical at the Public Theater turned the life story of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines, into a night at a disco.
Richard Greenberg scored in this funny, sad and lovely play at MTC on Broadway – superlatively acted by an eight-member cast led by Judith Light and Jessica Hecht, portraying an extended Jewish family celebrating two Christmases 20 years apart.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream — running through January 12, 2014
There is something terrifically apt in director Julie Taymor, so loved after creating The Lion King, and so hated after Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, inaugurating a beautiful new theater in Brooklyn with Shakespeare’s play about the fickleness of affection.
There are echoes of her previous work in Taymor’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center… But Taymor’s inventive, visually stunning staging has the feel of something new…It is time to love Julie Taymor again.
Shuler Hensley portrayed a 600-pound man in Samuel D. Hunter’s play at Playwrights Horizons that was richness in characterization and wonderfully performed.