Advertisements

Lucille Lortel Nominations 2017 Off-Broadway: Hadestown, Sweeney Todd Lead

Hadestown and Sweeney Todd each led the Lucille Lortel Award nominations this year, with seven apiece, including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Revival respectively.  Sweet Charity received six; Ride The Cyclone, five. Three of the Off-Broadway shows,  honored  coincidentally with four nominations apiece — Dear Evan Hansen, Indecent and Oslo — have since transferred to Broadway, as has Sweat. The 32nd Annual Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway will be presented on Sunday, May 7, 201y at NYU Skirball Center

Outstanding Play

Indecent
Produced by Vineyard Theatre in association with La Jolla Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre
Written by Paula Vogel, Created by Paula Vogel & Rebecca Taichman

Oslo
Produced by Lincoln Center Theater
Written by J.T. Rogers

Underground Railroad Game
Produced by Ars Nova
Written by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard

Vietgone
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in association with South Coast Repertory
Written by Qui Nguyen

The Wolves
Produced by The Playwrights Realm in association with New York Stage and Film and Vassar’s Powerhouse Theatre Season
Written by Sarah DeLappe

Outstanding Musical

The Band’s Visit
Produced by Atlantic Theater Company
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Itamar Moses, Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin

Dear Evan Hansen
Produced by Second Stage Theatre in association with Stacey Mindich Productions
Book by Steven Levenson, Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Hadestown
Produced by New York Theatre Workshop
Written by Anaïs Mitchell

Ride the Cyclone
Produced by MCC Theater
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond

The Total Bent
Produced by The Public Theater
Text by Stew, Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald

Outstanding Revival

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead
Produced by Signature Theatre
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks

Othello
Produced by New York Theatre Workshop
Written by William Shakespeare

Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro
Produced by Signature Theatre
Written by Edward Albee, María Irene Fornés, and Adrienne Kennedy

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Produced by Rachel Edwards, Jenny Gersten, Seaview Productions, Nate Koch, Fiona Rudin, Barrow Street Theatre, Jean Doumanian, Rebecca Gold, and Tooting Arts Club
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Hugh Wheeler, Adaptation by Christopher Bond

Sweet Charity
Produced by The New Group in association with Kevin McCollum
Book by Neil Simon, Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Outstanding Solo Show

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide
Produced by Judd Apatow, Mike Berkowitz, Brian Stern, Mike Lavoie, and Carlee Briglia
Written and Performed by Chris Gethard

Latin History for Morons
Produced by The Public Theater in a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Written and Performed by John Leguizamo

Notes From The Field
Produced by Second Stage Theatre and American Repertory Theater
Created, Written, and Performed by Anna Deavere Smith

The Outer Space
Produced by The Public Theater
Book and Lyrics by Ethan Lipton, Music by Ethan Lipton, Vito Dieterle, Eben Levy, and Ian M. Riggs
Performed by Ethan Lipton

Sell/Buy/Date
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club
Written and Performed by Sarah Jones

Outstanding Director

Will Davis, Men On Boats
Anne Kauffman, A Life
Lila Neugebauer, The Wolves
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

Outstanding Choreographer

Joshua Bergasse, Sweet Charity
David Dorfman, Indecent
Georgina Lamb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
David Neumann, Hadestown
David Neumann, The Total Bent

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play

Reed Birney, Man From Nebraska
Michael Emerson, Wakey, Wakey
Lucas Hedges, YEN
Joe Morton, Turn Me Loose
David Hyde Pierce, A Life

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play

Johanna Day, Sweat
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Jennifer Kidwell, Underground Railroad Game
Kecia Lewis, Marie and Rosetta
Maryann Plunkett, Women of a Certain Age

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Michael Aronov, Oslo
Charlie Cox, Incognito
Matthew Maher, Othello
Justice Smith, YEN
Paco Tolson, Vietgone

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Jocelyn Bioh, Everybody
Hannah Cabell, The Moors
Randy Graff, The Babylon Line
Ari Graynor, YEN
Nana Mensah, Man From Nebraska

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical

Ato Blankson-Wood, The Total Bent
Shuler Hensley, Sweet Charity
Patrick Page, Hadestown
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical

Sutton Foster, Sweet Charity
Amber Gray, Hadestown
Jo Lampert, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit
Siobhan McCarthy, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Nathan Lee Graham, The View UpStairs
Gus Halper, Ride the Cyclone
Joel Perez, Sweet Charity
Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit
Chris Sullivan, Hadestown

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Asmeret Ghebremichael, Sweet Charity
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Betsy Morgan, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Emily Rohm, Ride the Cyclone
Karen Ziemba, Kid Victory

Outstanding Scenic Design

Scott Davis, Ride the Cyclone
Rachel Hauck, Hadestown
Laura Jellinek, A Life
Mimi Lien, Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro
Jason Sherwood, The View UpStairs

Outstanding Costume Design

Montana Blanco, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead
Tilly Grimes, Underground Railroad Game
Susan Hilferty, Love, Love, Love
Sarah Laux, The Band’s Visit
Emily Rebholz, Indecent

Outstanding Lighting Design

Mark Barton, Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro
Jane Cox, Othello
Greg Hofmann, Ride the Cyclone
Amy Mae, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ben Stanton, YEN

Outstanding Sound Design

Mikhail Fiksel, A Life
Robert Kaplowitz, Hadestown
Stowe Nelson, Small Mouth Sounds
Nevin Steinberg, Wakey, Wakey
Matt Stine, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Outstanding Projection Design

Elaine McCarthy, Notes From The Field
Duncan McLean, Privacy
Jared Mezzochi, Vietgone
Peter Nigrini, Dear Evan Hansen
Peter Nigrini, Wakey, Wakey

HONORARY AWARDS
Lifetime Achievement Award
William Ivey Long

Playwrights’ Sidewalk Inductee
Lynn Nottage

Edith Oliver Service to Off-Broadway Award
Harold Wolpert

NOMINATIONS BY SHOW TITLE

Hadestown 7
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 7
Sweet Charity 6
Ride the Cyclone 5
The Band’s Visit 4
Dear Evan Hansen 4
Indecent 4
A Life 4
Oslo 4
YEN 4
Othello 3
Signature Plays: Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, María Irene
Fornés’ Drowning, and Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of
a Negro 3
The Total Bent 3
Underground Railroad Game 3
Vietgone 3
Wakey, Wakey 3
The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World
AKA the Negro Book of the Dead 2
Man From Nebraska 2
Notes From The Field 2
The View UpStairs 2
The Wolves 2

The Babylon Line 1
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide 1
Everybody 1
Incognito 1
Joan of Arc: Into the Fire 1
Kid Victory 1
Latin History for Morons 1
Love, Love, Love 1
Marie and Rosetta 1
Men On Boats 1
The Moors 1
The Outer Space 1
Privacy 1
Sell/Buy/Date 1
Small Mouth Sounds 1
Sweat 1
Turn Me Loose 1
Women of a Certain Age 1

Members of the general public are welcome to view the 7:00 PM ceremony. Public tickets are $75.00 and currently on sale via phone at 212.998.4941, online at http://www.nyuskirball.org and in person at the Skirball Center’s Shagan Box Office (556 LaGuardia)

Advertisements

15 Great Books About The Theater

The 50 best plays and 10 greatest musicals of the last century are all available as books to read, but what are the best books about the theater?

That’s the question I asked in giveaway contests for two books:

 

 

The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway
And


Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical

Below are 15 books (one of them in two volumes) selected by the contestants, with some of their comments. Click on the the titles for links to a page where you can learn more about the book, read excerpts, and purchase a copy.

Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart

“I picked up the book after I saw the show at Lincoln Center, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Moss, or the show really, before I went in. I left the theatre feeling inspired and rejuvenated with my love for theatre. I read the book in two days and felt even stronger feelings upon finishing it. It’s incredible how vivid his stories are, especially from his childhood. And the book often feels like a novel, not a memoir, because the dialogue is so rich. Easily one of my favorite books about theatre for sure.”

Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim

This contains Stephen Sondheim’s two volumes of annotated lyrics, written separately, Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat.
Stephen Sondheim has always been my favorite musical theatre composer/lyricist. His collection is an invaluable resource to any Sondheim fan/theatre lover. These books provide an insight of the process of song writing and creating a musical in general and give a brief history of how each of his shows came to be. The West Side Story and Sweeney Todd chapters were especially useful while I was working on productions of those shows for a better understanding of the original work.

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel

“It’s such an insightful and thorough look at the insides of the current American musical, and shows the start of such musicals from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim. It truly is a great read.”

“It wowed me earlier this year. I got the book over the holidays and devoured it – I was so impressed by how clearly and intelligently he dissected the American musical. Not only does it work as an analysis of the American musical, but it can serve as a guidebook for creating musicals – what the essential elements are (and how they exist in musicals) and why they work in the creation of a show. It’s a wonderful read, and while it may not be the BEST book (that would probably go to Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hate) but it certainly is one of the most interesting and entertaining I’ve read.”

 

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum

It’s just full of fascinating stories – sometimes the shows that DON’T work are more interesting than those that do, because there are just so many things that can go so terribly wrong…I love seeing the thought processes behind these “failures,” and of course for every so-called flop out there, there’s someone who actually cherishes that show for various reasons! It’s important to remember even Broadway’s mistakes, especially because they can hopefully help us all learn from them for next time

Broadway: The American Musical

“One of the best books written about the history of Broadway and it’s roots. It’s huge, has tons of cool photos and it is accompanied by great videos of each chapter. Bonus: it has an intro by Julie Andrews.”

Original Story: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood by Arthur Laurents

“It was incredibly honest about himself and the theatre folks he worked with over the years. Laurents was able to create a richly detailed tapestry of a story while not glossing over the moments that were challenging.”

The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate by Peter Brook

“The Empty Space” by Peter Brook. This book showed me more of what theatre can, could, and should be than any class I ever took in college. He takes theories and movements that I was familiar with and turned them into something I had never imagined, allowing me to grow as a director and artist.”

David Merrick – The Abominable Showman: The Unauthorized Biography  by Howard Kissel

“We can all learn how to be a creative genius/monster from the actions of David Merrick!”

THE SEASON A Candid Look At Broadway by William Goldman

“It is certainly dated in more than a couple of ways, but I can’t think of many more books that have impacted the way I think about the business and ecosystem of New York Theatre the way that that one has. From the flops to the hits, not only do you get to be jealous of the standard ticket prices of the shows in the late 60s, you learn about why certain shows connect with critics or audiences and other shows don’t. And the idea of “The Muscle” who is the chief driving creative force behind a production, is something I think about all the time in regards to both Broadway and Hollywood.”

 

Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama by Jordan Tannahill

Theatre of the Unimpressed by Jordan Tannahill. The book mostly functions as a diagnostic of the state of contemporary theatre in Canada and attempts to establish a standard for revitalization. Not everything is agreeable, and the book is more about problems than solutions, but it really gets the wheels in my head turning.

Ghost Light: A Memoir by Frank Rich

“It passionately describes how a love for musical theater is born out of both a need to escape into something beautiful and a desire to relate to characters in a range of emotional states. Personal and lovely”

How Does the Show Go On: an Introduction to the Theater by Thomas Schumacher

I love it because it’s geared towards kids and is written to excite a new generation of audience members and theatre artists

Unnaturally Green: One girl’s journey along a yellow brick road less traveled by Felicia Ricci.

“It’s a story of the actress who got to play Elphaba in Wicked, and it’s really wonderful because it goes through all the audition calls, the rehearsal process and the show itself. For the student actress as me, it’s one of the best resources to get more familiar with theatre work. I always wondered how it goes on Broadway, what happens after you get the role, is it any different from what I know… Felicia reveals just so many little details! I learned a lot of new things about American theatre while sitting in Russia and drinking my tea. That’s the magic. And that’s the theater.”

Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Burger
“It goes into detail about the decline and fall of Turn Off the Dark. Understanding what makes a show with ‘everything going for it’ fail helps us recognize what is needed for a show to succeed.”

 

Hamilton: The Revolution

“Reading that book not only gave me insight to Lin Manuel Miranda’s world, but all of his collaborators as well. Reading Hamilton is much like reading other books, even though it is nonfiction there are still literary elements that spark imagination. When I read about Hamilton, I can’t help but feel an appreciation for art. Creating art is one of the most ambitious challenges anyone can face. To create art you have to become vulnerable, explore different styles, and above all show humanity. With automation in the 21st century it is difficult to find true human work in anything. Hamilton, the whole world of Hamilton, is unadulterated humanity, and that is why I love the book.”

89th Oscar Nominees: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pasek and Paul, Fences, Moonlight

 

“La La Land,” the musical tribute to Los Angeles, leads The Academy Award nominations with a record-tying 14, Lin-Manuel Miranda received an Oscar nomination for best original song. (If he wins hell be the youngest ever EGOT — winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.) Also nominated for best original song are Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (creators of Dear Evan Hansen) for two songs from La La Land. Two of the best picture nominees, Fences and Moonlight, were adapted from plays — by August Wilson and Tarell Alvin McCraney respectively.

Complete list of nominations:

Best Picture
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

Best Actor
Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert
Ruth Negga
Natalie Portman
Emma Stone
Meryl Streep

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea (currently in the play Yen at MCC)
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis
Naomie Harris
Nicole Kidman
Octavia Spencer
Michelle Williams

Directing
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Film Editing
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Moonlight

Foreign Language Film
Land Of Mine
Tanna
The Salesman
Toni Erdmannn

Original Score
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Production Design
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts
Hail, Caesar
La La Land
Passengers

Visual Effects
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Jungle Book
Kubo And The Two Strings

Adapted Screenplay
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Original Screenplay
Hell Or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester By The Sea
20th Century Women

Animated Feature Film
Moana
My Life As A Zuchinni

Cinematography
Arrival
La La Land
Moonlight
Lion
Silence

Costume Design
Allied
Fantastic Beasts
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Documentary Feature
Fire At Sea
I Am Not Your Negor
Life Animated
OJ: Made In America
13th

Documentary Short Subject
Extremis
The White Helmet

Makeup and Hairstyling
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Original Song
Audition, La La Land
Can’t Stop The Feeling, Trolls
City Of Stars, La La Land
The Empty Chair, Jim: The James Foley Story
How Far I’ll Go, Moana (by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider And Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

Sound Editing
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Sound Mixing
Arrival
Hacksaw
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

Best-read posts in 2016 on NewYorkTheater.me

As my best-read posts from 2016 below make clear, some theater trends stay strong year after year: Anything about “Hamilton” is still popular nearly two years after the musical first opened, Off-Broadway. And many of my most popular posts this year were written before 2016.

5 BEST-READ POSTS IN 2016

1. The 50 Best Plays of The Past 100 Years, According to Entertainment Weekly

Hamiltonquizcollage
2. Quiz: Which character in Hamilton are you?

Close in popularity to this quiz was another Hamilton Quiz, put together this year.

BillyElliotElectricity
3. Broadway’s Best Dance Numbers
Videos of 10 dance numbers from Broadway musicals that readers voted the best ever (including Electricity from Billy Elliot, pictured above)

4. Broadway 2013-2014 Season Guide

I have no idea why this particular Broadway season preview guide is so popular three years later, especially since only two shows from that season are still running (Aladdin and Beautiful.)  Maybe somebody can explain? Meanwhile, here’s the Broadway 2016-2017 Season Guide.

5. America’s Hamilton

The documentary about the making of “Hamilton” the musical and the history of Alexander Hamilton

haobama

5 BEST-READ REVIEWS IN 2016

Grand Paradise 16-+(photo+by+Darial+Sneed)

The Grand Paradise: Bushwick’s Titillating Tropical Resort

Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton : Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hip-Hopped History Musical

The Radicalization of Rolfe

The Radicalization of Rolfe

The Radicalization of Rolfe: A gay Nazi’s version of The Sound of Music.

 

Amazing Grace 

Hadestown New York Theatre Workshop By Anaïs Mitchell Developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin 2015/16 SEASON May 6, 2016—July 3, 2016 With Hadestown, celebrated singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and inventive two-time Obie award-winning director Rachel Chavkin (Three Pianos; Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812) transform Mitchell's "phenomenal concept album" (Rolling Stone) into a bold new work for the stage. This folk opera follows Orpheus' mythical quest to overcome Hades and regain the favor of his one true love, Eurydice. Together we travel from wide open plains where love and music are not enough nourishment to survive the winter, down to Hadestown, an industrialized world of mindless labor and full stomachs. Inspired by traditions of classic American folk music and vintage New Orleans jazz, Mitchell's beguiling melodies and poetic imagination pit nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against death. Scenery by Rachel Hauck Costumes by Michael Krass Lighting by Bradley King Sound by Robert Kaplowitz Properties by Noah Mease Arrangements & Orchestrations by Michael Chorney Music Supervision, Co-arrangements & Orchestrations by Todd Sickafoose Music Direction by Liam Robinson Choreography by David Neumann Dramaturgy by Ken Cerniglia Co-conceived by Ben t. Matchstick Stage Manager Lindsey Turteltaub Featuring Nabiyah Be, Damon Daunno, Lulu Fall, Amber Gray, Patrick Page, Jessie Shelton, Chris Sullivan, Shaina Taub

Hadestown: A Hell of a Musical

 

BEST-READ PROFILES IN 2016

 noah-robbins-in-grease-live

Noah Robbins on Grease Live, His First Musical Since High School

 LeslieOdomJrbyMandell

An Aaron Burr Who’s Not The Villain: Leslie Odom Jr in Hamilton

 santino fontana profile

Santino Fontana’s Act One, The Unluckiest Lucky Actor In New York

 BobbyMoreno1

Bowie, Bogosian and Bobby Moreno

TOP 5 EVENT POSTS IN 2016

Times Square, January 23, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. Click to see enlarged.

Times Square, January 23, 2016 at 1:30 p.m.

Broadway and the Blizzards of 2016

 Hillaryatconvention

Hillary Quotes Hamilton in Convention Speech

Hamilton Cast to VP Elect Mike Pense: Respect Us (Trump Replies: Apologize)

kilroys2016

2016 Kilroy’s List of Good but Unproduced Plays by Women

Broadway for Hillary

New Year’s Eve in New York City 2017 Last Minute Plans

My annual New Year’s Eve guide features the Broadway show schedule for New Year’s week, and other shows, parties, concerts, intimate dinners, cruises, outdoor events and quiet alternatives you can still do on New Year’s Eve 2017 (when 2016 turns into 2017) in New York City. Also free events — and TV listings.

Only eight percent of Americans reportedly say they plan to go out on New Year’s Eve. For those who haven’t made those plans yet, here are some ideas:

TIMES SQUARE

The New Year’s Eve tradition in Times Square began in 1904 with a rooftop celebration to greet the New Year. Three years later, they started lowering a ball.

From the organizers comes this overview of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, so you know what is in store for you if you decide to stand at the Crossroads of the World for New Year’s Eve

3 p.m. Revelers start arriving late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. By approximately 3:00 PM., the Bowtie of Times Square (42nd to 47th Sts. between Broadway & 7th Ave.) is fully closed to traffic. The crowd, in the millions, could go as far uptown as Central Park, 17 blocks away.

Another way of saying this: If you want to be within naked-eyesight of the Times Square ball, arrive in the afternoon, and be prepared to stand immobile until the ball drops at midnight.  Huddle with friends and loved ones for warmth.

mariah-carey-times-square6 p.m. The celebration begins with the lighting and raising of the New Year’s Eve Ball atop One Times Square.

Following is an evening of entertainment — although, if you’re looking solely to be entertained, standing in Time Square might not be the best option.

11:16 – 11;19 p.m. “The Associated Press, the world’s oldest and largest news gathering organization, presents a news reel highlighting some of the most memorable events of 2016.”

11:38-11:44

Mariah Carey performs medley of Auld Lang Syne, Emotions and We Belong Together on the Countdown Stage. (The picture is of Carey performing at Times Square on New Year’s Eve a decade ago.)

11:59 p.m.

The Sixty-Second Countdown

The Mayor of New York City and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon push the Waterford crystal button that signals the 70-foot descent of the New Year’s Eve Ball over 60 seconds, as everybody counts down.

Midnight

HappyNewYearclock

Confetti, “2017” sign in lights, lots of hugging and wishing for a Happy New Year

I’ve spent three New Year’s Eves in Times Square, which is probably two more than necessary, but found each memorable. Do keep in mind, though, that the highlights will be televised. See What’s on TV, below.)

In just a few days, this street will be packed with millions of huddled masses yearning to shout

In just a few days, this street will be packed with millions of huddled masses yearning to shout “Happy New Year!”

DINING OUT ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

Open Table lists some 800 restaurants  with “New Year’s Eve offers” Most of them offer a choice of seatings – either earlier in the evening, so that you can make it in time elsewhere for the stroke of midnight, or party-hat-equipped seatings that lead up to midnight, where you can often turn on a TV so that you can watch the ball drop in Times Square. Open Table enables you to look for one in your neighborhood.

Have a favorite neighborhood eatery that’s not listed on Open Table? Go to them NOW, and ask them whether they will take reservations.

THEATER ON NEW YEAR’S WEEK

Fifteen of the shows currently on Broadway will be offering performances on New Year’s Eve — all of them matinees. (They’re almost all in Times Square, remember.) Then 16 of the shows will offer performances on New Year’s Day, a mix of matinee and evening performances.

Below is the schedule for the entire week leading up to New Year’s Day.

Crossed out dates= canceled performance
Bold faced dates= added performance
Italic dates= different curtain time

 Click on the schedule to see it enlarged.

Keep in mind that a good number of these shows are closing soon, so this may be your last chance to see them.

Closing December 31:
Fiddler on the Roof

Closing January 1, 2017:
The Illusionists
Matilda
Something Rotten

Closing January 8, 2017:
The Color Purple
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Encounter
Falsettos

Closing January 15, 2017:
Jersey Boys
The Humans
Holiday Inn

Closing January 22
Oh Hello

Closing January 29
The Front Page

(If tickets are not available through the box office, try buying tickets here)

Of course, New York theater is far more than just Broadway, and some Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows are not just happening, but getting into the whole excess thing that means New Year’s Eve to so many in New York. Prime example is Sleep No More, which for New Year’s Eve adds something called the McKittrick Masquerade, “live performances and an open bar all night long,” at a cost of a mere $450 apiece.

Similarly XIV Company offers its  “Nutcracker Rouge,”  (a “baroque, burlesque” not-for-children take on Nutcracker Suite) at Irondale Theater in Brooklyn, followed by a party with the cast.

FAMILY SHOWS NOT ON BROADWAY

1473804899-christmas_spectacular_radio_city_rockettes_tickets

Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular

Harlem Gospel Holiday Celebration at Mount Olivet Baptist Church

That Physics Show

NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTIES AT NIGHTCLUBS & WEIRD PLACES (including home)

https-cdn-evbuc-com-images-26816208-85633514729-1-originalThere’s a New York for almost any taste, so why would it be surprising that Eventbrite lists nearly 500 New Year’s Eve parties? Forty of those are listed as free (that’s my taste.) Others are obscenely expensive.

You can dance at parties set up in Times Square venues, such as the Marriot Marquis and the AMC 42nd Street movie theater, most promoting a great view of the ball dropping (which — do you mind my pointing out? — is an insane pitch, but apparently an effective one. Maybe that’s a good summary of 2016)

You can also dance at a party set up at  a “Secret Bushwick Warehouse Location.” That’s BangOn!NYC‘s offering; we do know it’s called “Time + Space” and features a host from Australia —  “tropical house” DJ Thomas Jack.

 websterhallnyeWebster Hall offers “four huge dance floors, 6 unique rooms, 8 DJs, and 100,000 balloons at midnight.” It’s loud.

Also loud is what’s billed as the “F#CK 2016!” party at Brooklyn Bazaar: “As quite possibly the worst year on record, let’s destroy it like a teenage house party” with performances by Titus Andronicus (that’s a band, not Shakespeare’s bloodiest play), High Waisted and Toys in Trouble.

For contrast there is the Third Annual New Years Eve Flamingo Formal, which takes place at the Royal Palm Shuffleboard Club. (In Florida, a shuffleboard club might not be hip enough to be hosts on New Year’s, but this one opened in 2013 in Gowanus, Brooklyn.)

joan-crawford-partier

Many have suggested throwing your own New Year’s Eve party, and offer vaguely insulting step-by-step tips on how to do so. The most memorable advice for throwing a party came from Joan Crawford, who was quite a partier in her day (see above). Her advice (see below)  can be summed up as:

  1. Have a mix of people as your guests, but nobody with dirty feet.
  2. Secretly drug them.

joan-crawford-advice-on-party-giving

(Don’t do this.)

CONCERTS

St. John the Divine Concert for Peace.

st-john-new-years-eve-concert An annual event since 1984, when it was founded by Leonard Bernstein. Free.  This year with special guests Judy Collins, soprano Jamet Pittman, and theater composer Jason Robert Brown, in a program that includes Haydn, Bach, African-American spirituals,  and a new work  “Light Shall Lift Us,” a musical response to the Pulse nightclub killings in Orlando.

The New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center: “Some Enchanted Evening.” Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and Tony-winning baritone Paulo Szot sing Broadway hits from The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, while the orchestra performs Copland and Strauss. The bad news about this concert is that it’s sold out. The good news is that it’s being broadcast live on PBS starting at 8 p.m.

Phish

Phish at Madison Square Garden for the tenth year in a row!

The Long Bellow at Bowery Ballroom

Louis Armstrong Tribute with Joey Morant and Catfish Stew at BB King Blues Club.

CABARET

Tip: Most cabarets offer two seatings on New Year’s Eve. The one earlier in the evening is far less expensive. Many of these performers return to these venues every New Year’s — a wonderful tradition that makes last-minute tickets chancy, but worth trying.

Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, with her band the Whiskey 5, at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Annaleigh Ashford

Annaleigh Ashford

charles-busch

Playwright and performer Charles Busch at Feinstein’s/54 Below early show

Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub

SandraBernhard

Natalie Douglas at the Duplex — her 17th New Year’s there

NatalieDouglas

Marilyn Maye at the Metropolitan Room

maye_pre_060310_gls_030

FIREWORKS

NewYearsEvefireworks

Annual Prospect Park Fireworks – free. at Grand Army Plaza

Coney Island New Year’s Eve Celebration – free fireworks on the boardwalk

Central Park Fireworks (See also midnight run below)


HARBOR CRUISES

Big selling point of all these cruises — a close-up of the New Years Eve fireworks over the water. Most include a buffet, open bar, and dancing with a dj. Drawbacks: These cost hundreds of dollars, and many are already sold out.

Circle Line New Year’s Eve Cruises

 Zephyr New Year’s Eve Family Cruises

A MEDITATIVE ALTERNATIVE
The Kadampa Meditation Center in Chelsea, $30 for non-members, provides a way for you to “ring in the New Year “with compassion and beneficial intentions!” — hors d’oeuvres, meditation, and no alcohol. (Pre-registration is required.)
WALKING AND RUNNING AND BIKING
New York Road Runners’  Emerald Nuts Midnight Run in Central Park
Shorewalkers Happy New Years Day Hike — Hiking the shores and parks of upper Manhattan starting at noon on New Year’s Day, which gives you a good excuse to go to bed early.
19th annual Bike Ride and Outdoor After Party, from Time’s Up environmental action organization, which meets in Washington Square Park at 10 p.m. and bicycles en mass to the Belvedere Castle in Central Park.
WHAT’S ON TV
ABC: Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with hosts Ryan Seacrest and Fergie. For the 45th year, ABC invites viewers to a “Rockin’ Eve,” although the show has been without longtime host and producer Clark since his death in 2012. Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey and the cast of  “On Your Feet” from Times Square, plus  guests from the Billboard Hollywood Party in California.
andersoncooperCNN: New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin for the tenth year, from Times Square, with CNN correspondents reporting from celebrations across the country — and, afterwards,  a second countdown from New Orleans.
(I can’t help quoting what Anderson Cooper said in 2013: “I don’t know anybody who has a fun time at a party at New Year’s Eve. That’s why I work on New Year’s Eve.”
Fox: Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution. from Miami, with Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg

FXX: A 30-hour marathon of “The Simpsons” animated TV series, dubbed “The Simpsons New Year’s Resolutions,” beginning with “The Simpsons Movie” at 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 and continuing with resolution-themed episodes from the past 26 seasons. (And yes, they did a Simpsons marathon last year too)

NBC: New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly.Daly returns to Times Square for the 14th year, joined by Mel B. Performers include Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Pentatonix and Blake Shelton.

PBS: Live from Lincoln Center New York Philharmonic concert, followed by Downton Abbey marathon. (And yes, they did that marathon last year too)

Some TV specials you might want to avoid:
AMC: “The Walking Dead” marathon all New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Fox News Channel: “All American New Year” will feature President-Elect Donald Trump live from Florida starting at 11 p.m.
You can also watch the Times Square festivities online here
 DogonNewYearsEve

Top New York Theater Stories of 2016

endofyear2016-collage

Many New York theatergoers surely see 2016 as “the worst year ever, until next year” according to the title of an essay in the New Yorker by Jia Tolentino, who cited a Twitter meme that picture how people felt at the beginning of the year compared how they feel now at the end – e.g.

ScottRudinSure, the theater had its heavies too: Producer Scott Rudin, for example, twice. (See June and October.)

But the downbeat reaction by New Yorkers has little to do with the theater this year.

In theater, 2016 was The Year of Rachel Chavkin.

rachel-chavkin-1

The theater director brought us:

Hadestown

small_mouth_sounds for Calendar

The Royale

Khris Davis (Jay), McKinley Belcher III (Fish)

AND, on Broadway,

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Josh Groban as Pierre and the cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

It was also The Year of Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom the Associated Press just named Entertainer of the Year. He was “everywhere in popular culture this year — stage, film, TV, music & politics”

Below are some of the top New York theater news stories of 2016, and some of the weirdest theater stories of 2016. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two. There are also some of the people that the theater community lost this year.  The stories are offered chronologically by month, and paired with some articles that I wrote each month.

JANUARY

The first #Ham4Ham digital lottery is TOO successful – more than 50,000 entries for 21 seats, crashing the website.

Times Square, January 23, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. Click to see enlarged.

Times Square, January 23, 2016 at 1:30 p.m.

Broadway and the Blizzards of 2016: The shutdown of public transportation during the blizzard causes the Broadway League to cancel all performances of Broadway shows for Saturday, January 23, 2016, both matinee and evening.

Kecia Lewis as Mother Courage

Kecia Lewis as Mother Courage

Tonya Pinkins announces she is leaving the Classic Stage Company’s production of Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children,” directed by CSC artistic director Brian Kulick, on January 5, two days before its planned opening. The theater delays the opening by only 12 days, and casts Kecia Lewis, who gets great reviews. Dues to the theater’s strict calendar, the show closes five days after it opens.

The first-ever BroadwayCon, a ComicCon-like convention for Broadway fans

Grease Live was broadcast on the Fox television network, its first foray into the live musical trend established by NBC.

GreaseLivepublicity

RIP
David Bowie

DavidBowie3
Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman

Elizabeth Swados

ElizabethSwados
Abe Vigoda

AbeVigoda

My articles:
WTF? How necessary is clarity in the theater?

Interview with Noah Robbins of Grease Live, his first musical since high school

FEBRUARY

Grammy winners

Grammy winners

The Hamilton cast recording wins a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

helen-mirren-in-beer-commercial

Tony-winning actress Helen Mirren appears in a Super Bowl commercial, saying, “If you drive drunk, you — simply put — are a short sighted, utterly useless, oxygen wasting, human form of pollution, a Darwin-award deserving, selfish coward. If your brain was donated to science, science would return it.” — and then finishes the spot by drinking from a bottle of beer

end-of-year-alzheimers

Four different plays open this month that contain a character with Alzheimer’s

  • Dot by Colman Domingo
  • Her Requiem by Greg Pierce
  • Smokefall by Noah Haidle
  • The Humans by Stephen Karam

Of the 20 performers nominated for Oscars this year, seven have performed (or are soon to perform) on Broadway. (Last year, it was 11 out of 20.)

RIP

Harper Lee

HarperLeewithquote

My articles

Immersive Theater, Defined: Five Elements to Sleep No More,Then She Fell Etc.

Hollywood and Broadway: 2016 Oscars

MARCH

Wicked NY

Wicked NY

Wicked becomes one of only three shows to gross $1 billion on Broadway.

 

Maryann Plunkett, Lynn Hawley, Meg Gibson

Maryann Plunkett, Lynn Hawley, Meg Gibson

Hungry, the first of Richard Nelson’s trilogy of plays, The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life Of One Family, opens at the Public Theater. The first play, and the two subsequent plays, mention Donald Trump’s name precisely once.

todd-haimes_roundabout

In an interview with American Theatre Magazine, Todd Haimes, the artistic director of the 50-year-old non-profit, Roundabout Theater Company, complains that he only made $450,000 a year

NerdsMusicalstars

Nerds, a musical about the rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, is abruptly canceled while the cast is rehearsing for an April opening

RIP

Patty Duke

RIP Patty Duke

My article

In praise of The Civilians, at 15

APRIL

Hamilton wins 2016 Pulitzer Prize

Hamilton the Revolution published, becomes best-seller

The success of Hamilton may have saved Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill.

Hamiltoncastinprayer2

The producers of Hamilton have agreed to give the musical’s original cast members an unspecified share of the profits, which are reportedly some half a million dollars a week and sure to grow, given the planned new productions. More than two dozen cast members had hired labor lawyer Ronald H. Shechtman, and they were given support by a Twitter feed #Stand4Ham, which ran the photograph above after the announcement.

“This should be a real moment of celebration for any actor who feels powerless,”  Actors Equity president Kate Shindle said.

The “messy” behind-the-scenes fight that got Hamilton’s cast Broadway’s best deal

Jed-Bernstein

Jed Bernstein departs as president of Lincoln Center after just 27 months. The announcement says it was prompted not by a change in career plans, but a month later, the true reason is revealed – the discovery that he was in a relationship with a staff member.

RIP

Frankie Michaels

(born Francis Chernesky), age 60. He holds record as youngest ever Tony winner (age 10) for Mame

My articles:

Could a Play Stop A Demagogue: Theatre and Electoral Politics

Tim Federle From Gypsy to Librettist, With Severals Stops at Novelist

MAY

The season ends. Broadway stats for the season, according to The Broadway League:
13,317,980 visitors (up 1.6 percent from 2015)
$1.373 billion gross (up .6 percent from last year)
Average ticket price: $103.11 (down $1.07 from last year!)

Lupita Long'o in Eclipsed

Lupita Long’o in Eclipsed

May is really New York theater award month, although the most visible theater award, the Tonys, happens in June.  Symptom: There were three different NYC award ceremonies on May 23rd, the Lilly Awards, the Obies, and the Theatre World Awards. Lupito Nyong’o attended all three, either to pick up an award or to present one.

My articles:

Men vs. Women on Broadway This Season

10 Cool Time Square Hangouts

JUNE

tony-musical-winners-2016

At the 70th annual Tony Awards , black actors win all four musical performer categories for the first time since the Tonys began

Hamilton swept the 2016 Tony Awards with 11 awards out of the 16 for which it was nominated

BroadwayforOrlando

Some 70 Broadway performers gathered together for Broadway for Orlando, a single to raise money for the LGBT center in Orlando, Florida, after the mass shooting in a gay nightclub there. They sang  “What The World Needs Now Is Love” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1965

The ensemble performs “Broadway Blues” in Shuffle Along,

The ensemble performs “Broadway Blues” in Shuffle Along,

After “Shuffle Along” did not win any of the 10 Tonys for which it was nominated, producer Scott Rudin announced that the musical will close July 24, after only 100 performances. He blamed his decision on Audra McDonald’s forthcoming maternity leave.

RIP

Peter Shaffer 

PeterShaffer

My article:

Sung-through: Real American Musicals or Concerts with Benefits?

JULY

Dozens of veterans of the Broadway stage performed at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, while none performed at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The Broadway revival of Motown closes nine days after its official opening in July.

My articles
Meet the Cats cast:  Shonica GoodonEloise KroppRicky Ubeda

Runaways by Elizabeth Swados, Four Decades Later

AUGUST

Ham4Ham

#Ham4Ham performances come to an end, after a year.

The 20th anniversary of the New York International Fringe Festival. Afterwards, the festival organizers said they were going on “hiatus.” — no festival in 2017, at the least.

Broadway for Black Lives Matters

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim’s new musical, in collaboration with David Ives, was given a reading in August at the Public Theater, which plans to present it to the public in 2017.

MelissaErrico

Melissa Errico writes an essay in the New York Times in August about how she’s forced to play an ingénue yet again, because there are few roles in musical theater for middle-aged women.

 

RIP

James Houghton, age 57

James Houghton (Founding Artistic Director, Signature Theatre Company)

My article

Broadway for Black Lives Matters — and Off-Off Broadway Too

SEPTEMBER

Wells Fargo antiarts ad

Wells Fargo ad outrages the theater community. Wells Fargo apologizes.

Watercolor costume sketch by Lemuel Ayers for the musical St. Louis Woman, starring Pearl Bailey, 1945

Watercolor costume sketch by Lemuel Ayers for the musical St. Louis Woman, starring Pearl Bailey, 1945

The new National Museum of African-American Culture and History in D.C. features hundreds of theater-related items in its permanent collection.

Lena Horne, 1947

Lena Horne, 1947

Nicholas Edwards as Daveed Diggs/Thomas Jefferson in Spamilton

Nicholas Edwards as Daveed Diggs/Thomas Jefferson in Spamilton

Spamilton, spoof of Hamilton by the creator of Forbidden Broadway, becomes its own hit — despite (because? regardless of) its 10 cent lottery.

Soho Rep abruptly shut down its theater at 46 Walker st, where it has operated since 1991, and is looking for a new home.

RIP

Edward Albee

albees2

My articles

Four books about American musicals, all explaining the success of Hamilton

Black Fringe

OCTOBER

Nathan Lane

Nathan Lane

Reviving past practice, The Front Page producer Scott Rudin eliminates any press previews, inviting critics instead to opening night. (Does this mean they’ll also be reviving the ticket prices of the past? )

joseph-polisi

Joseph W. Polisi announces he will leave his post as president of Juilliard in 2018.

Bette Midler

Bette Midler

Hello, Dolly starring Bette Midler  made a record nine million dollars in advance sales on the first day that tickets were available for the Spring 2017 show.

bob-dylan

Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first musician to do so. (His songs have been featured in four Broadway shows.)

Inside the Hamilton store on 46th Street

Inside the Hamilton store on 46th Street

#TheHamiltonShop, 1st Broadway souvenir shop selling just one show’s merchandise,

RIP

Tammy Grimes

Tammy Grimes

Tammy Grimes

My article:

Presidential candidates on stage

hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump-puppets-designed-by-rick-lyon

NOVEMBER

trump-vs-hamilton

In one of his first acts as President-Elect, Trump attacks Hamilton

Hamilton curtain call aimed at Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is in attendance. Trump demands an apology, calls the musical “overrated.”

Adam and Eve scene from

Betsy DeVos is appointed Secretary of Education She was lead producer with her husband of Kathie Lee Gifford’s 2012 musical Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson

Robert Stanton and Nick Westrate, two of the leaders of #FairWageOnstage

Robert Stanton and Nick Westrate, two of the leaders of #FairWageOnstage

The League of Off-Broadway Theaters and Producer agreed to “hefty wage increases” for Off-Broadway performers thanks to the efforts of the Fair Wage Onstage campaign. Currently, the average Off-Broadway performer earns less than one-third of the minimum salary for a performer on Broadway.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 opens to rave reviews on Broadway. It was eveloped by the Off-Broadway theater Ars Nova, which had to sue the commercial producers before they would honor their agreement to give them the proper billing in the Playbill.

2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom

RIP

Florence Henderson

florence-henderson

My article:

Death and Disenfranchisement: Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes From the Field

DECEMBER

potterparamour

Although there was some confusion due to a misleading press release put out by Cirque de Soleil, the real story is that the owners of the Lyric, Ambassador Theatre Group, aka ATG, plan to renovate the Lyric in hopes of its housing in 2018 “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” now playing to sold-out audiences at the Palace in London’s West End. ATG is therefore kicking out “Paramour” in April, 2017.

HAIRSPRAY LIVE! -- Pictured: Ricki Lake & Marissa Winoker as Pinky's Girls, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad (center) -- (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

HAIRSPRAY LIVE! — Pictured: Ricki Lake & Marissa Winoker as Pinky’s Girls, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad (center) -)

Hairspray Live, the fourth year in a row that NBC has broadcast a Broadway musical live in December.

In Transit1

In Transit is the first a cappella musical to debut on Broadway. It is not well-received

David Oyelowo as Othello and Daniel Craig as Iago

David Oyelowo as Othello and Daniel Craig as Iago

Othello with David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig. Security tight. Reports that they are looking to transfer it to Broadway.

Brandon Victor Dixon as Aaron Burr

Brandon Victor Dixon as Aaron Burr

The last original principal cast member of “Hamilton” leaves the show. Hamilton replacement cast assessed

Radio City Rockettes as rag dolls

Radio City Rockettes as rag dolls

1473804899-christmas_spectacular_radio_city_rockettes_ticketsThe Radio City Rockettes have been invited to perform at the Presidential Inauguration, joining the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and America’s Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho. Some of the Rockettes don’t want to go

According to Broadway World, dancer Phoebe Pearl wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.

“I usually don’t use social media to make a political stand but I feel overwhelmed with emotion/ Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed. The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling. I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident”

Their union, The American Guild of Variety Artists, said they couldn’t boycott the event, but the Rockettes owner, Madison Square Garden Entertainment announced that participation was voluntary. “It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available.”

RIP

Carrie Fisher

fisher
Debbie Reynolds

debbie-reynolds-now

(Mother and Daughter)

debbie-reynolds-and-carrie-fisher

My article

The Trump Effect

Favorite New York Stage Performances in 2016

My ten favorite individual performances in New York stage shows that opened in 2016 are listed alphabetically, with explanations for my choices largely excerpted from my reviews, but let’s begin with three noteworthy ensembles:

great-comet-7

Normally, when one talks of a “great ensemble,” it means that the actors work together well, and, often implicitly, that nobody stands out. The ensemble from “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” certainly works well together, but everybody also stands out – each performer is assigned a mini-stage and a section of auditorium to entertain, part of the effort of translating the show’s immersive theater legacy in a Broadway setting.

Small Mouth Sounds 2 Max_Baker__Babak_Tafti__Quincy_Tyler_Bernstine__Marcia_DeBonis__Zoë_Winters_in_Small_Mouth_Sounds_(photo_by_Ben_Arons)

All but one of the seven cast members of “Small Mouth Sounds” performed mostly in silence, portraying people attending a silent retreat. The actors in Bess Wohl’s comedy, directed by Rachel Chavkin (who also directed Great Comet and Hadestown this year) slowly – and mostly silently — reveal each individual’s tragedy, the reason why they are seeking relief for their suffering.

the-wolves-6

“The Wolves” depicts an adolescent girl’s soccer team, and at times the cast feels like one organism, chattering (cross-talking) while engaged in vigorous physical warm-ups. Yet the actresses manage to get across the distinctive personalities of their characters.

Laura Benanti

With her gift for comedy and her glorious voice, Laura Benanti couldn’t be better as Amalia, the love-struck shop clerk in “She Loves Me,” whose anonymous object of affection, with whom she corresponds through a Lonely Hearts Club, is actually her hated co-worker. If there’s a wink now and then in her manner – we’re all having fun up here — there is persuasive passion when it counts. It was a pleasure to see the Tony-winning actress back on Broadway after an absence of almost six years

Nathan Lane

Through the alchemy of his barking brilliance, Nathan Lane, portraying a scheming editor for whom no ploy is too low, turns the entire third act of “The Front Page” into more or less a one-man show, everybody else transformed into his supporting players.

Jessia Lange

As the drug addicted mother in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,Jessica Lange was not just a fading ethereal figure, but a robust woman whose entire life unfolds before us — alternatively innocent, skittish, coquettish, sneering, full-out furious, resigned. It’s a memorable performance to put on our collective mental shelf besides her Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire and her Amanda Wingfield in Glass Menagerie – her only  two previous forays on Broadway.

T

Taylor Mac, the creator and star of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, is one of the two performers on this list who are inseparable from the theater piece they are in, a work they created. The breadth of his artistry is matched only by the depth of his stamina.

Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,

Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,

In “Shuffle Along, Audra McDonald portrayed Lottie Gee, “the first black ingénue.”  acting with her usual miraculous grace and emotion, and singing with her usual heavenly voice completely reoriented (as usual) to fit the part. But, in a newly revealed talent, she also tap danced effortlessly in a whole catalogue worth of styles.

 

 TurnMeLoose4

I first saw Joe Morton playing a mute alien in the indie film Brother from Another Planet. He’s since become best known as Kerry Washington’s father in Scandal, What a delight and a revelation to see him embody a character who could not be more different, stand-up comedian and activist Dick Gregory, in the solo show “Turn Me Loose.” He had the comic timing down pat, but subtly let us see the human being behind the act.

Deirdre O'Connell

Deirdre O’Connell, who this year portrayed a reckless California mother with a sense of history in “The Way West,” is Off-Broadway royalty, in the same league as Jayne Houdyshell (whom I picked to be one of my top ten last year, and who afterward finally got the attention she deserved, winning a Tony for her role in The Humans) She never fails to impress me with her performance – I will be forever grateful for her part in “Circle Mirror Transformation” — yet is so unheralded that I manage to mangle the spelling of her name.

 

Ben Platt as Evan Hansen

Ben Platt is heartbreaking as the titular character in “Dear Evan Hansen,” an awkward teenager afraid to talk to anybody for fear of breaking out into a sweat. He is such a demonstrably good actor that when he sings (with a lovely tenor and strong falsetto) such unbearably sad, lonely and lovely songs as “Waving Through A Window” and “Words Fail,” you might momentarily marvel at how he is able to make his face appear as sweaty as Evan Hansen’s would be.

Maryann Plunkett

It is a reflection of how completely credible Maryann Plunkett has been in Richard Nelson’s plays about ordinary families living in upstate New York that it came as a surprise to learn that she’s a Tony-winning veteran of nine Broadway shows, including a couple of musicals. In Nelson’s “The Gabriels” trilogy this year, Plunkett portrayed Mary Gabriel, a widow and retired doctor. In Nelson’s “Apple Family” quartet from 2010 to 2013, she played a schoolteacher, one of three Apple family sisters. All seven plays were all “in real time,” opening on the day they were set, meaning that Plunkett and the rest of the cast were forced to learn new lines the very day the plays opened. The entire cast deserves kudos for disappearing into their roles, but paradoxically, Plunkett stands out for disappearing the most.

Notes from the Field 3

Anna Deavere Smith’s performances are, like Taylor Mac’s, inseparable from the work she creates. In “Notes from the Field,” as with her previous work, she exhibits her deep talent for mimicry, portraying 17  disparate characters, young and old, from East and West, of different ethnicities. She also demonstrates once again her  masterful command of stagecraft.

 

It’s impossible to cap an appreciation of New York stage performances in 2016 at only ten. There were enough good ones for another top ten, and here they are: Khris Davis for a memorable New York stage debut as Jay “The Sport” Jackson in The Royale, and then in Sweat; Melissa Errico in Finian’s Rainbow; Sutton Foster in Sweet Charity /; Amber Grey for her performances in both “Great Comet” and “Hadestown“; Katrina Lenk in The Band’s VisitJessie Mueller in Waitress; David Oyelowo in “Othello“; Phylicia Rashad in “Head of Passes“;  Noah Robbins in “Master Harold…and the boys“; Michael Urie and Robin de Jesus in Homos or Everyone in America (I count them as one, since they were persuasive as a…unit.)

 

Poll: The Worst Broadway Show of 2016

Welcome to my fifth annual Worst Broadway Show poll. I chose these ten nominees; this is my Bottom 10 list this year (a counterbalance to my Top 10 list.) If you disagree with my choices, you can express this by 1. not voting for a show on the list that you liked; 2. adding your choice for worst in the “Other” slot if it’s not one of the ten below; 3. Making a comment in the comments section beneath the poll.
Judge the quality of the show as you see it, not whether it did well at the box office.
The ten choices below are arranged alphabetically. (Only shows that opened in 2016 qualify.)

 

Below are links to my reviews of these shows, which make clear why I did not like them:

American Psycho

Blackbird

Disaster

Heisenberg

Holiday Inn

Hughie

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Oh, Hello

Our Mothers Brief Affair

Paramour

Top 10 Lists of Top 10 Theater 2016

“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is the top choice of the majority of drama critics in their lists of Top 10 New York theater for 2016. Unlike last year’s top 10 lists, the most favored show doesn’t dominate.  “Great Comet” is not on three of the (11) lists, while “Dear Evan Hansen” is on all but two of the lists. (But “Dear Evan Hansen” is number one on only one of these lists.)  Also popular: “A Life” (on 7 lists); “Notes from the Field” and “Falsettos” (each on 5); “The Gabriels,” “The Band’s Visit,” “Shuffle Along” and “Sweat” (each on 4)

Jonathan Mandell in New York Theater

1.Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
2.Sweat
3.Dear Evan Hansen
4.A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
5.Notes from the Field
6.Caught (and YOUARENOWHERE and A Life)
7. Vietgone
8. Indecent
9. She Loves Me
10. Fringe Festival favorites: Black Magic, The Radicalization of Rolfe, Rent Control

Charles Isherwood, New York Times

1. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
2. Dear Evan Hansen
3. Ride the Cyclone
4. Sweat
5. Falsettos
6. The Crucible
7. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
8. Indecent
9. Red Speedo
10. Turn Me Loose

Ben Brantley, New York Times

1. The Gabriels, Election Year in the Life of One Family
2. The Crucible
3. Underground Railroad Game
4. A Life
5. The Wolves
6. Notes From The Field
7. The Encounter
8. Heisenberg
9. Hold On To Me Darling
10. Oslo

Richard Zoglin, Time

1. Shuffle Along
2. Love, Love, Love
3. Dear Evan Hansen
4.Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
5. Red Speedo
6.Falsettos
7. She Loves Me
8. Maestro
9. Skeleton Crew
10. Notes from the Field<

Jesse Green, New York Magazine

1. The Gabriels
2. Small Mouth Sounds
3. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
4. Dear Evan Hansen
5. Homos, or Everyone in America
6. The Effect
7. The Harvest
8. A Life
9. Red Speedo
10. Notes from the Field

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York
1. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.
2. Othello
3. Dear Evan Hansen
4. A Life
5. Indecent
6. The Wolves
7. Underground Railroad Game
8. The Harvest
9.Long Day’s Journey Into Night
10. Notes From the Field.

David Cote, Time Out New York
1. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
2. A Life
3. Sweat
4. The Front Page
5. Othello
6. The Band’s Visit
7. King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings
8. The Encounter
9. Vietgone
10. Long Day’s Journey Into Night

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
1. Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
2. The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family
3. Dear Evan Hansen
4. The Band’s Visit
5. The Crucible
6. Oslo
7. Othello
8. Falsettos
9. A Life
10. Shuffle Along”

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

(top 10 specifically on Broadway)

1. Dear Evan Hansen
2. Shuffle Along
3. The Humans
4. The Crucible
5. Waitress
6. The Front Page
7. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
8. Falsettos
9. Blackbird
10. Bright Star

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline
(list limited to new shows, rather than revivals.)
1. Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
2. The Gabriels
3. Dear Evan Hansen
4. The Band’s Visit
5. The Crucible
6. Oslo
7. Othello
8. Falsettos
9. A Life
10. Shuffle Along

Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal resists a top 10 list format, but in his article The Best Shows of 2016…, he mentions these 11 New York plays and musicals, new and revived (which I’m putting in alphabetical order):
A Day By The Sea
The Band’s Visit
Dear Evan Hansen
Finian’s Rainbow
Hold On To Me Darling
Love, Love, Love
Noises Off
Prodigal Son
She Loves Me
Sweat
Sweet Charity.
(The link requires a subscription. Click here for brief mention on his blog.)

Top 10 New York Theater in 2016 To Be Grateful For

My list of ten favorite shows on New York stages in 2016 reflect two unmistakable trends – the use of the stage to present important current issues facing the country, and shows that innovate in artistic form.

If these seem like very different trends, an argument can be made that they are both in reaction to this surreal election year.

Some shows that fit the bill of socially conscious or artistically innovative, or both, aren’t on this list, simply because they weren’t my favorite. The most obvious example is Richard Nelson’s trilogy “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,” which was admirable in many ways, but which didn’t hold me the way his earlier, similar trilogy about the Apple family had.

It’s worth noting that most of the shows on this list were Off-Broadway or Off-Off Broadway, although two of them are scheduled to transfer to Broadway in the Spring of 2017, marking the long-delayed Broadway debuts of their authors.

1. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Josh Groban as Pierre and the cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

Josh Groban as Pierre and the cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

This sung-through musical adapted from a “scandalous slice” of “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy was on my list of top 10 in 2013, when it had moved from the Off-Broadway theater Ars Nova to a circus tent in the Meatpacking District. I was struck from the get-go by its catchy songs and by its cutting-edge stagecraft.

I list it as my favorite now that it’s on Broadway starring Josh Groban, because of how little it’s changed. Its staging comes very close to the kind of immersive theater that’s lately been intriguing theatergoers all over the world – everywhere but Broadway, until now.

The musical is a collaboration among three emerging theater artists who have now fully emerged – composer Dave Malloy, director Rachel Chavkin and set designer Mimi Lien. All of them have an already impressive track record – Chavkin was also the director and collaborator this year on the terrific Hadestown — and promise groundbreaking work to come.

 

2. Sweat

Sweat 2

Like Grapes of Wrath, Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat offers a devastating look at social and economic breakdown, told not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation. The characters in Sweat hang out in a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, which 2010 U.S. Census data identified as the poorest city in America.

Everything clicked for me in the Public Theater production of this play, which is transferring to Broadway in Spring 2017. Playwright Lynn Nottage, who spent much time doing research in Reading, deserves additional kudos for continuing her presence in that city, developing a site-specific installation in  the abandoned Reading Railroad Station, entitled “Out/Let,” to engage the diverse and divided communities of the city in dialogue, and create a cohesive and collective portrait of the city.

3. Dear Evan Hansen

dear-evan-hansen-bway-6-photo-matthew-murphy

This musical is about an awkward teenager whose life is turned upside down because of a well-meaning lie he tells in the wake of a suicide of a classmate, which is amplified by social media. Ben Platt’s heartbreaking performance, Pasek and Paul’s tuneful score and the sensitive book by Steven Levenson make this show both affecting and entertaining. But “Dear Evan Hansen” is also insightful into all matter of basic human conditions, from grief to altruism, and it has only gained in relevance and impact just in the short time it has journeyed from regional theater to Off-Broadway to Broadway, where it opened this month.

 

4. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

Taylor Mac 1776 to 1806

Taylor Mac 1776 to 1806

Taylor Mac’s 24-decade history of popular music was also a 24-hour history – a marathon culminating presentation of American songs from 1776 to the present that was outrageous, outlandish, offensive, embarrassing, raunchy, insightful, inspired, clever, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, sometimes thrilling — and once-in-a-lifetime. Mac has singlehandedly invented his own genre. The term “concert” feels inadequate – just as calling Mac a drag act doesn’t get anywhere close to describing the artist’s extraordinary talent and breadth of theatrical ambition . The Mac voice is a flexible instrument that serves all genres, the body a canvas for fabulousness, the mind a weapon against mainstream complacency.

 

 5. Notes From The Field

Anna Deavere Smith as Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant, delivering Freddie Gray's funeral eulogy.

Anna Deavere Smith as Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant, delivering Freddie Gray’s funeral eulogy.

It’s been nearly a quarter century since Anna Deavere Smith more or less invented her own art form, a theatrical genre that combines activism, extensive research, a deep talent for mimicry, and a journalist’s devotion to accuracy and balance with an artist’s masterful command of stagecraft. She applies her approach once again, albeit a bit diffusely, to explore the interconnection between a neglectful public education system, a overly funded prison system, and the killing of black people by police.

 

6. Caught (and YOUARENOWHERE and A Life)

caught_02-louis-ozawa-changchien

“Caught” messed with your head in the most exquisite of ways. In part a send-up of the art scene – the conceptual artist as con artist — it was itself a form of conceptual art, and a series of cons, presenting a Chinese dissident artist who turned out to be very different from what he initially seemed. It is a prime example of an emerging trend that I call trickster theater. Other terrific examples of trickster theater this year were ” YOUARENOWHERE” by Andrew Schneider, which I’m not going to attempt to explain (except to say that its title is both “You are Now Here” and “You Are Nowhere”), and A Life by Adam Bock, which has a coup de theatre halfway through that I really shouldn’t reveal. (That’s the problem with trickster theater – it’s hard to write about.) Either one of these could be in my top 10 as well. I single out Caught because in its provocative way it had things to say about truth and lies and perception, about the pitfalls of cultural exchange – and even, what I suspect will be a big news story, the relationship between China and the West.

 7. Vietgone

vietgone-12

Qui Nguyen and director May Adrales find such richly inventive and entertaining ways to tell the love story of two Vietnamese refugees in America that the play feels wiped clean of the clichés of both the ‘immigrant experience’ and ‘the hell of war’…For all the pop-culture silliness, the playfulness with language, and the clever stagecraft, ‘Vietgone’ paints complex and credible portraits of the two main characters.

 

 8. Indecent

Indecent 2 The cast of Indecent photo by Carol Rosegg

While Broadway reacquainted audiences with Shuffle Along, Off-Broadway was opening our eyes to another landmark Broadway show from the 1920s – this one an all-Jewish, lesbian-themed drama that led to a criminal prosecution. Indecent is both a fascinating history lesson written by Pulitzer-winning Paul Vogel, and a cleverly staged entertainment directed by Rebecca Taichman. It is scheduled to transfer to Broadway in 2017, making – incredibly – Vogel’s Broadway debut.

 

9. She Loves Me

Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti

I’ll concede this revival of a 1963 slightly dated, somewhat flawed musical is an outlier on the list, but I have a soft spot for “She Loves Me,”,in which I played the lead in a student production when I was in ninth grade (She Loves Me, the Broadway Musical That Changed Our Lives.) Still, even somebody who has never heard of this romantic musical comedy could easily fall in love with this year’s Broadway production, thanks to the gorgeously melodic score, David Rockwell’s jewel box of a set, and the stand-out performances by Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski as two lovelorn shopgirls in an elegant European parfumerie.

 

10.  Black MagicThe Radicalization of Rolfe,  Rent Control

Aaron Marshall-Bobb, Malik Squire, Skyler James, Ibn Days, Tony Jenkins, Evan Reiser, Justin Campbell

Aaron Marshall-Bobb, Malik Squire, Skyler James, Ibn Days, Tony Jenkins, Evan Reiser, Justin Campbell

The Radicalization of Rolfe

The Radicalization of Rolfe

 

These three shows were among my favorite at the 20th New York International Fringe Festival, a festival I’ve attended every year since it began.

Black Magic is a choreopoem written by undergraduates about a series of anonymous black men, who died violently.

The Radicalization of Rolfe tells a back story of The Sound of Music, but unlike such shows for equally cherished stories like Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz, it’s not a musical, and it’s subversive – Rolfe, the minor character who was 16 going on 17, is depicted as a gay Nazi. But the play is not campy.

Rent Control is Evan Zes’s  solo show, which he says is based on his personal experience,  that is as much about the life of a struggling actor as it is about his adventures as a housing hustler doing battle (or taking advantage) of the behavioral sink that is New York City’s housing market.

The Fringe organizers announced that they are going on hiatus next year, which makes my singling out shows from this anniversary year all the more necessary. Who knows what will happen in the future?