As the year comes to an end, we love to look back at the highlights of the past 12 months. Throughout 2012, I had the privilege of seeing so many incredible performances while covering the New York theater beat. While reflecting on the amazing range of dramas, comedies, musicals and interactive experiences I attended, I compiled a list of the top 10 performances I saw in 2012. This list does not rank the shows from best to absolute best, but instead is a collection of my favorite 10 performances, with no preferential order.
Then She Fell
An interactive, haunted-house type experience inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Then She Fell stayed with me long after I left the outpatient ward of the Greenpoint Hospital. With an outstanding cast of performers, sets and costumes that were pitch-perfect, and a rich background of academic and creative influences, this experience was chilling, richly sensual and extremely rewarding.
The Best of Everything
Adapted from Rona Jaffe's best-selling, pre-feminist novel, The Best of Everything, staged at the HERE Arts Center, was intimate, educational and also hilarious. Tapping into the nostalgic Mad Men fascination of our culture, this play, cleverly adapted by Julie Kramer, offers a look at the lives of young unmarried career girls in New York. While the blunt presentation of drinking, sexism and even abortions was unsettling, the script, and stellar performances by the cast, also gave a thoroughly delightful character study of women who weren't afraid to follow their ambitions as well as their hearts.
Cynthia Nixon broke my heart and rebuilt it again as Vivian Bearing, a woman dying of ovarian cancer in the Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Wit. Director Lynne Meadow and Nixon are both cancer survivors, and their intimate insight into the material was evident, as Nixon gave an achingly honest portrayal of a woman struggling to maintain a steely exterior while offering insight into the beautiful vulnerability that lurked beneath her protective exterior. I can't remember the last time I cried so much at a play.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
"What a DUMP!" was the last thing that crossed my mind when leaving this rich, rewarding production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The Steppenwolf Company's production, starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, offered new and unique insights into all of the characters as well as Edward Albee's portrayal of marriage, drinking and fun and games. It is an exhausting and enriching night that is not to be missed.
Jim Parsons was outstanding as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey, the story of a charming alcoholic and his best friend, a pooka named Harvey. (For the record, this pooka is a six foot tall rabbit that only Elwood and perhaps a few others can see.) While the play taps into darker themes of hypocritical social standards and the quality of mental health, this production also featured some beautifully lighthearted moments, many thanks to Parson's superb performance as Elwood.
As You Like It
Shakespeare in the Park opened its season in Central Park with the charming As You Like It. Starring Lily Rabe as Rosalind and with Stephen Spinella giving a beautiful performance as the self-proclaimed melancholy Jacques, with the added charm of being performed outdoors at the Delacorte Theater, this production was beautiful in every sense of the word and inspired some interesting thoughts about the battle of the sexes -- and what would happen if roles were reversed.
Inspired by A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park introduced audiences to the family who lived in the house the Youngers bought before they moved in. (Cue the goosebumps for the literary nerds among us.) It also returns to the house 50 years later, where times have indeed changed. This play, which made it to Broadway with its original cast intact, is not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions, or provide some even more uncomfortable answers. While the journey is a bumpy one, it is also richly rewarding.
Peter and the Starcatcher
I was completely enchanted by this show, which explores who Peter Pan was before he became Peter Pan. Based off the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher, which was staged like an old English music hall, combined the innocence of childhood with the bittersweet wistfulness in knowing that it would all come to an end eventually. Throw in a flamboyant Captain Hook and a cheerfully cross-dressing Smee for laughs as well as some of the most creative costumes on Broadway and you're in for a perfect fusion of laughter and tears.
This one-night only performance of The Mikado, performed at Carnegie Hall with the Collegiate Chorale and a host of Broadway stars, was one of the most entertaining nights I've ever experienced. The score, by Gilbert and Sullivan, has not lost any of its charm in the years since its premiere, and with Christopher Fitzgerald as The Lord High Executioner, Victoria Clark as Katisha, Chuck Cooper as The Mikado himself, Jason Danieley as Nanki-Poo and Kelli O'Hara as Yum-Yum, performing the solo roles, the production was pure hilarity and bliss from beginning to end.
One Man, Two Guv'nors
"Does anyone have a sandwich?" will never sound the same to me again after seeing One Man, Two Guv'nors. This madcap play, which follows a bumbling fool played by James Corden who attempts to serve two bosses and find something to eat. A genius in physical comedy, Corden gave an outstanding performance and was equally matched by his impressive cast. I laughed until I cried and then some more.
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