Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of the Year Guide: Best and Worst Shows and Moments



Best Shows of 2010

1. The Scottsboro Boys – It is difficult to imagine a more daring,
disturbing or dangerous Broadway musical than this true story about
nine young black males falsely accused of raping two white women
framed as a minstrel show. What a shame that it flopped so quickly,
but a campaign is already underway to bring it back.

2. The Merchant of Venice – This production, which premiered last
summer in Central Park and transferred to Broadway, is a master class
in Shakespeare. As played by Al Pacino, Shylock comes off not as a
villain or victim, but a wildly theatrical figure reacting to
oppression and betrayal. He is joined by a pitch-perfect supporting
cast including the incandescent Lily Rabe.

3. A View from the Bridge – Starring Liev Schreiber and an absolutely
radiant Scarlett Johansson, Gregory Mosher’s revival of Arthur
Miller’s Greek tragedy set in 1950s Brooklyn was straightforward,
focused and uniformly well-acted. It drove forward with such intensity
that you wished it wouldn’t even pause for an intermission.

4. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – This relentlessly silly, chaotic
musical about the first unofficial Tea Party candidate in American
history gained a strong following during its Off-Broadway run but will
shutter quickly on Broadway. But even if it confuses and frustrates
just as many people as it turns on, it remains a unique triumph.

5. Angels in America – Staging Tony Kushner’s mammoth drama about New
Yorkers affected by the AIDS crisis during the mid-1980s in the tiny
confines of the Signature Theatre must not have been easy, but
director Michael Grief and his excellent cast pulled it off
splendidly. It remains the most daring and influential play of the
past two decades.

6. Time Stands Still – Donald Margulies’ four-character drama about a
strained romantic relationship, which premiered earlier this year and
then returned to Broadway, is thought-provoking and full of great
insight. Laura Linney and Brian d’Arcy James give stunning
performances alongside Eric Bogosian and Christina Ricci, who replaced
Alicia Silverstone.

7. Clybourne Park - Bruce Norris' play, loosely inspired by "A Raisin
in the Sun," was a devastatingly good dark comedy examining the social
trends of "white flight" from newly mixed-race neighborhoods during
the late 1950s and the current gentrification of those same
neighborhoods.

8. Gatz - This unabridged, line-by-line reading of F. Scott
Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” performed by 13 actors over the course
of eight and a half hours with intermissions and a dinner break
sounded avant-garde but was actually theater at its simplest and
purest level. This inventive production fully immersed us into the
world of Jay Gatsby.

9. The Pee-Wee Herman Show - “Fun” is literally the secret word over
and the audience screams every time it’s repeated. But that doesn’t
even begin to describe the silliness, excitement, visual extravagance
and absolute anarchy packed into this 90-minute comedy show, where
Paul Reubens makes his strangely triumphant return to his trademark
character.

10. Million Dollar Quartet - What exactly is it that makes this show
so damn enjoyable and invigorating? Is it the pure simplicity and
rapid-fire energy of four rock 'n' roll legends performing their
signature tunes for 100 blissful minutes? Is it the charisma and
talent of the actors who portray these legendary figures? In any case,
it's one hell of a winner.

Worst Shows of 2010

1. Banana Shpeel - Having received ghastly reviews and massive
walkouts during its Chicago tryout, Cirque du Soleil's
slapstick-vaudeville spectacle was delayed no less than three times
before finally opening. It might not be the worst show of all time,
but it was extremely painful to sit through two and a half hours of
annoying clowns and tired tricks.

2. Lear – Young Jean Lee's painfully bad adaptation of “King Lear”
eliminated all major characters, including Lear himself, except for
his three daughters and the two sons of Gloucester. At one point, it
turned into a bizarre episode of “Sesame Street.” Seriously.

3. Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party – In spite of what might
have been a noble intent to discuss Lincoln’s ambiguous sexuality,
there was simply no redeeming value whatever to this slow and poorly
acted three-part soap opera. Well, besides the cool title.

4. The Addams Family – In spite of a lavish set of twisting and
turning staircases, elaborate pieces of puppetry (including a giant
squid and venus flytrap) and the help of Nathan Lane and Bebe
Neuwirth, this misconceived musical comedy is slow, sappy, stupid,
self-conscious and simply not funny. It’s da-da-da-dumb (snap, snap).

5. Elling – This a delicate parable about male outcasts might have
been well served in an intimate Off-Broadway theater. Instead, it was
poorly chosen as a star vehicle for Brendon Fraser, who made a
horrifically bad Broadway debut. It closed in a week.

Best theater moments of 2010

1. Numerous theater celebs amassing at the Philharmonic for Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday concert, which was later broadcast on PBS.

2. An angry female loudly screaming that the audience was being treated like “guinea pigs” during a pause at the four-hour first preview performance on November 28.

3. Megan Mullally quitting the Broadway production of "Lips Together Teeth Apart" while in rehearsals.

4. "Next to Normal" winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

5. John Earl Jones awkwardly explaining to Vanessa Redgrave that he has to go to “make water” in “Driving Miss Daisy”

Top shows in 2011 to look forward to:

1. Catch Me if You Can – The folk responsible for “Hairspray” are
behind this musical adaptation of the 2002 Stephen Spielberg-Leonardo
DiCaprio film.

2. Anything Goes – This revival of Cole Porter’s classic musical
comedy sports a strong cast including Sutton Foster and Joel Grey.

3. The Book of Mormon – “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey
Parker will hit Broadway with their satirical take on religion.

4. Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo – Robin Williams will play a tiger
that prowls the streets of Baghdad and interacts with Americans and
Iraqis.

5. Priscilla Queen of the Desert- Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick
Adams will play three pals who sing hit songs in drag.

Top 5 Moments to Look Forward to in 2011:

1. Finally reading the reviews of “Spider-Man," assuming that it finally opens

2. Learning whether or not Daniel Radcliffe can sing in "How to
Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"

3. Harvey Fierstein taking over the role of Albin in "La Cage aux Folles"

4. Brian Bedford saying the famous “handbag” line as Lady Bracknell in
"The Importance of Being Earnest"

5. Billie Joe Armstrong returning to the cast of "American Idiot" as St. Jimmy