J. Robert Spencer and Aaron Tveit in Next to Normal (© Joan Marcus)
Let me start off by saying that I know that all of these performances are fairly recent. My goal with this post is to highlight some of the greatest talent onstage today and to showcase some of the Broadway men I have been fawning over for the past couple years.
1. Christian Borle - Legally Blonde
Who doesn't want to marry Emmett in Legally Blonde? He is sweet, smart and adorable. And Christian Borle brings all of this with his tender yet powerful voice. "Chip on My Shoulder" is my favorite song in the whole show. For those of you familiar with it, I am obsessed with the part when Borle sings, "guess you never can tell….with Little Miss Woods comma Elle." It is amazing.
Another song of his that I am obsessed with is "Legally Blonde." The best is when Emmett sings, "if you're still here, can I just say how much I want you to stay." The falsetto there is out of this world.
2. J. Robert Spencer - Next to Normal
To those of you who have read my column, it must be no surprise that Next to Normal has made a reappearance. J. Robert Spencer was incredible as Dan when I saw him on Broadway. Let me reiterate: He should have won the Tony!
Dan is such a complex character because he wants to be supportive of Diana, but at the same time he is so frustrated by her relapses and her constant emotional unavailability to him. J. Robert Spencer portrayed all of this in his performance.
His best moment is the reprise of "I Am the One." For the first time in the show, Dan faces the grief that still remains from the loss of his son. Gabe and Dan sing with each other instead of against each other. Spencer cries as his son wraps his arms around him. This, of course, left me sobbing in the audience.
3. Josh Gad - The Book of Mormon
Although I have never seen the show live, I can tell how amazing Josh Gad is just by listening to the recording. I have heard very few people who can put as much characterization in their voices as this guy. My favorite of his songs is "Man Up," in which he turns into a kind of Mormon superhero who steps up when Elder Price leaves the mission.
4. Gavin Creel - Hair
This may be a bizarre thing to say, but if I had to marry a man for his voice, I would be with Gavin Creel. He has one of the most attractive voices I have ever heard. It's like a breath of fresh air.
While Creel is great as Claude in the show, I have to say I prefer Seth Rudetsky's placement of him on Berger's songs in the Actors Fund Benefit Recording. When I have the CD in, I listen to "Going Down" about six times in a row.
When the revival of Godspell was initially planned, Creel was supposed to portray Jesus. Although Hunter Parrish is also phenomenal, I would've loved to hear Creel on those songs.
5. John Gallagher, Jr. - Spring Awakening
John Gallagher, Jr.'s Moritz made Spring Awakening. He gives the audience an intimate look into the disintegration of his sanity. The audience may have laughed when Moritz tells Melchior how traumatized he is by his dreams, but we are crying with him when he tells his father that he did not pass in school. Even with his voice, Gallagher reaches out to the audience and asks us to save him. The emotion in his voice during "And Then There Were None" is devastating. When Gallagher sings, "they're not my home, not anymore. Not like they so were before," tears come to my eyes every time.
One of the most incredible parts of Gallagher's performance is Moritz's suicide. Because Gallagher had been in several bands, he was familiar with musical equipment and packing it up. Michael Mayer had the idea to have Gallagher pack away his microphone before his suicide as a symbolic gesture that the show was over for Moritz. This simple staging is incredibly haunting. And his delivery of Moritz's final monologue is so moving.