Best and Worst of 2013. Week in New York Theater.

Police tape on sign outside Apollo Theater, after its ceiling collapses, injuring dozens.
Police tape on sign outside Apollo Theater, after its ceiling collapsed, injuring dozens.

The week in theater was one of unusual extremes, with tragic news coming from London one day – the collapse of a theater – followed by news the very next day that delighted Harry Potter fans. There were similarly both happy arrivals and a sad departure on Broadway.

The year as a whole can be seen this way, as one of triumphs and tragedies. Below are both best and worst lists.

I’ve also updated the guide to the Broadway 2013-14 season, adding closing dates of current shows – five are closing within the next few weeks, three more in February — and the 20 new shows with opening dates in Spring, 2014.

Cherry Lane Theater, gift-wrapped

Last-minute holiday gifts for theater-lovers

The Week in New York Theater, Dec 16-22, 2013


RentThe principal of Trumbull High School in Connecticut, after social media and the national press reacted with uproar at his decision to stop a production of the school version of “Rent,”  has agreed to let “Rent” go forward in March as originally planned. Theater triumphs over the small-minded.

Playwright J.W. Sweet creates a petition calling on the Obama Administration to “appoint a new head of the National Endowment for the Arts and be a more conspicuous advocate for the arts in general.”


Playwright: From Page to Stage

The documentary on PBS tonight follows the production of two new plays by young playwrights — The Brother/Sister Plays by Tarell McCraney and Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph — as they make their way from regional theaters to New York.

Video of complete documentary:


Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross
Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross

The beautiful, talented and courageous Valisia LeKae, 34, is leaving her Tony-nominated role as Diana Ross in Motown, to undergo treatment for ovarian cancer. “I feel it important to share my story in order to educate and encourage others about this disease and the fight against it.”

Facts about ovarian cancer from the Centers for Disease Control: Each year about 20,000 women in the United States get it.

 Karin Gehm Barrett ‏@montauksunset  I am a 9 year Ovarian & Uterine Cancer survivor. Sending love, light, good karma and prayers!

Leslie Odom, Jr. ‏@leslieodomjr You can do it, sis! The community is praying for you and believing in a full and speedy recovery.
Anika Noni Rose ‏@AnikaNoniRose Praying for you, Valisia.

Bebe Neuwirth, who won a 1997 Tony as Velma, then portrayed Roxie a decade later, will be back on Broadway in Chicago the Musical as Matron Mama Morton, January 14 to March 9.

Charles McNulty on the difference between the Yankees and the Brits doing Shakespeare on Broadway. “Shakespeare isn’t simply a playwright. He’s also a theatrical tradition demanding training that can’t be fudged or caught on the fly.”


CT  IcemanProduction-03.jpg_CTBroadsheet_04-29-2012_ALL_BDOG_K64

The Iceman Cometh…to Brooklyn, in 2015

Can theater really change your life? Lyn Gardner asks question, dubious. Her readers respond: Yes!

Has an individual work of theater transformed your life?

Paul Hufker ‏@PaulHufker I saw Pinter’s “The Homecoming” on broadway in 2006. In that moment, I became a playwright.

Bari Hochwald ‏@The_GTP The Tooth of Crime production at Syracuse Stage with LaMama changed my understanding of #theatre & career path completely

Guildenstern ‏@Rosencrantz3 Jerusalem left me dumbstruck for days.

 La MaMa E.T.C. ‏@LaMaMaETC Oof Mark Rylance. So good. Such a physical performance.

 Guildenstern ‏He’s also astonishing in Twelfth Night. Just incredible. I can’t believe he’s 53!

 Meghan Lin ‏@MeghanEBLin: Les Mis made me a better person. And a community theater production of Assassins from 1996 has never left me.

On the curb in front of NYC's famous black plastic garbage bags

Top (and Weirdest) Theater Stories of 2013


Apollo theatre incidentLondon’s Apollo Theatre partially collapsed during a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,

e4d574aea00f652a460f6a706700b712According to the Associated Press: “London Ambulance Service said it had treated 79 people, 56 of whom were taken to local hospitals in ambulances and two commandeered London buses. Of these, 47 were “walking wounded” with minor injuries, while nine “had suffered more serious injuries including head and back injuries.”

The Apollo Theatre in London was built in 1901 and seats 775. 720 theatergoers were there when ceiling collapsed

The oldest theaters on Broadway were built in 1903, the Lyceum and the New Amsterdam. Most were built in the teens & 1920s.


JK Rowling will produce but not write a Harry Potter play about his “early years as an orphan and outcast” aiming for the West End within the next two years.

New Brooklyn Theater presents Edward Albee’s Death of Bessie Smith FREE at Interfaith Medical Center, a Brooklyn hospital facing closure. January 9-19

Christopher Tierney, former, injured cast member of Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark, will star in I Am The Wind, as one of two men caught in a storm on the open sea, 59 E 59, Jan 9-26


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Richard Rodgers Theatre


Matilda 10

                                              Just right


Why are so many stage accents so terrible?

Fake (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Newsies), indecipherable (Matilda), unnecessary (Waiting for Godot.)

In all of 2013, there were only three put-on accents that, in my hearing, enhanced the performances, rather than detracting from them or making no difference: Patrick Page’s oozing Southern prosecutor in A Time To Kill, Debra Jo Rupp’s German-born sex therapist in Becoming Dr. Ruth, and Holland Taylor as the late witty, down-home Texas Governor Ann Richards in Ann.

Why were these accents able to stand out? I talked to Holland Taylor’s dialogue coach, Jessica Drake, to find out.

David Nando ‏@davidnando_ I also think it is because many actors only do SOUND changes and not rhythm and physical changes, as well. How people move, hold tension, and shape words with their mouths informs resonance, etc. Part of learning a dialect in depth includes watching footage of native speakers, muted, focusing on the physical expression


Poll: The Worst Broadway Show of 2013


Top 10 Lists of Top 10 Theater of 2013

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged, (then scroll down and click again to see it even bigger)


Updated: With 10 lists now (plus my own),  we can put together some (meaningless) statistics:

Twelfth Night and The Glass Menagerie are on most critics’ top 10 lists of the best theater of 2013  – but not all (Time doesn’t have either.) Other critical favorites: Here Lies Love (7 of the 11 critics chose this), Matilda (6 ), The Flick (5), Pippin (5) and (4 apiece) After MidnightFun Home. Buyer and Cellar, and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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