John Gallagher Jr and Chris Noth in Farragut North (© Jacqueline Mia Foster)
As we draw near the end of this great semester at TMU (and my last semester in college), I've been trying to decide what sort of wisdom, if any, I have left to impart. I'm in graduation goggles mode as I reflect on the awesome theater experiences I've had over the past four school years that I've spent in New York.
My freshman year began in September 2008 (or the 2008-09 Tony season if you will). My main memory of shows in the fall of 2008 is seeing [title of show] several times. A friend and I were lucky enough to score tickets to the closing night, or "pep rally," and it was definitely one of the coolest nights I've ever had in the theater. Everyone's love for the show was palpable. (The cast of [title of show] is currently appearing in a different show with a three name title -- Now. Here. This. at the Vineyard Theatre.)
My friends and I made a road trip down to Arena Stage to see Next to Normal that fall as well, and when that premiered on Broadway in spring of 2009, it became one of my favorite shows of all time (and won a couple well deserved awards). I will never forget the performances of that brilliant cast. I have fond memories of sitting outside the Booth Theater in the cold weather at 7 or 8 in the morning to wait for rush tickets. That's college in New York!
It was a great spring for theater, with the wonderful revival of Hair opening as well, with incredible performances by Gavin Creel, Caissie Levy, and Will Swenson (all still stars!) I saw every musical revival that year (I must not have done much homework) which included West Side Story (with incredible performances by Karen Olivo and Josefina Scaglione), Guys and Dolls, and Pal Joey. Billy Elliot took home the Best Musical prize over Next to Normal, Rock of Ages and Shrek. (I just now realized that only one of these shows is still running- I doubt I would have thought it would be Rock of Ages if you asked me three years ago).
As for favorite plays, I caught reasons to be pretty at the Lyceum and the revival of Speed the Plow post Jeremy Piven, during Norbert Leo Butz's stint. I never miss a Norbert performance. I'd also like to give a shout out to 9 to 5 the Musical, which was a favorite of mine.
I saw a lot of Off-Broadway as well, but what's coming to the front of my mind is John Gallagher Jr.'s performance in Farragut North at the Atlantic Theater Company (which recently became the film, Ides of March starring Ryan Gosling.) I also remember enjoying Victoria Clark and Jonathan Groff's performances in Prayer for My Enemy at Playwrights Horizons.
2010 was not so packed with musicals, but with quality plays. I still haven't seen Red, the Tony Award winner for best play that is now playing regionally across the country, but I saw all of the other nominees: In the Next Room, Time Stands Still, and Next Fall. American Idiot was hands down my favorite show of 2010 (which I mentioned in my first column), but I also really liked the inventive Fela!, especially Bill T. Jones' choreography. 2010 was also the year of Everyday Rapture, Lend Me a Tenor, the gorgeous Ragtime revival, and Jude Law's Hamlet. Like I said, I never miss a Norbert performance, and I felt lucky to catch his performance as Jeffrey Skilling in the short-lived Enron.
It's funny to look back on how Broadway has changed over the past few years. No one is trying any "Enrons" these days- many of the currently running hits have had tryouts out of town or downtown: Clybourne Park, NYTW's Peter and the Starcatcher and Once, Other Desert Cities, Newsies at Paper Mill Playhouse, and The Lyons from the Vineyard. (Though you could argue with me last year's hits Book of Mormon, Anything Goes, and How to Succeed all opened cold on Broadway.) I would say that I probably look at productions more critically these days, particularly after seeing many of my favorite little shows close when they couldn't fill the seats in Broadway house.
Looking back as well as looking forward, I've got to say I'm thrilled for Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom to premiere this June on HBO, featuring stage stars John Gallagher Jr., Thomas Sadoski, Alison Pill, and Jeff Daniels . Theater people talking fast on my TV? That's the next best thing to putting them all on a New York stage.