As 2002 begins, here is a look back at some highlights and disappointments of the fall 2001 season.
Some of the events of 2001 were, in their own tragic way, even more far-fetched than anything envisioned by Stanley Kubrick or Arthur C. Clarke in the famous film titled after the year that is just now ending. Through a combination of grit, creativity, faith, and drastic cost-cutting measures, New York theater people persevered during the difficult weeks and months following September 11. Some shows couldn't weather the drop-off in attendance, but many have soldiered on. And nothing has been able to stop The Producers.
Following is a very opinionated, highly selective look at some of the most notable shows, performances, and occurrences during the last four or five months. I realize that such retrospective columns usually survey the entire previous calendar year, but spring and summer seem so long ago that I decided only to concern myself with theatrical happenings of the fall.
Best Examples of Shows Living Up to Their Hype:
Metamorphoses, Elaine Stritch at Liberty
Best Example of a Show NOT Living Up to its Hype:
Heartening Proof That a Witty, Intelligent Musical Can Be a Broadway Hit:
Most Welcome Return Engagement:
Rinde Eckert's And God Created Great Whales
Most Ridiculous Idea for a Show (But They Did It Anyway and It's Still Running):
Puppetry of the Penis
Most Intriguing, if Significantly Flawed, Play:
The Shape of Things (runners-up: Psych and Speaking in Tongues)
Most Audacious Marketing Gambit:
The Producers' $480 tickets--but it seems to have worked. Word is that these exorbitantly priced ducats have been selling even for the many performances at which star Nathan Lane has been absent, and the show has reportedly made back (or is about to make back) its entire investment in just over half a year's run on Broadway.
Biggest Waste of Time and Money:
Thou Shalt Not (runner up: By Jeeves)
Least Memorable Musical Score:
Summer of '42
Most Underrated Play:
Wonder of the World
Clearest Evidence That Christmas-Themed Theater is Being Taken Over by Gays:
Christmas With the Crawfords, A Queer Carol, Santa Claus is Coming Out
Most Welcome Return to the Theater:
Kristin Chenoweth in the Encores! Broadway Bash
Actor Most Deserving of a New York Times Profile Hailing Him as a New Star:
Most Brilliant Comic Actress on Broadway:
Katie Finneran in Noises Off
The Janet McTeer Award for Proving that Ibsen is Actable if You're a Truly Great Actor:
Kate Burton and Michael Emerson in Hedda Gabler
Most Welcome Revival of a Show That Might Have Been Thought of as an Unrevivable Relic of a Previous Era:
The Voice of the Turtle
The Super Trouper Award for Managing to Give an Excellent Performance in a Problematic Show:
Karen Mason and Judy Kaye in Mamma Mia!; Lewis J. Stadlen, Marian Seldes, Alix Korey, and Judith Blazer in 45 Seconds From Broadway; Linda Emond in Homebody/Kabul; Robin Bartlett in Everett Beekin; Norbert Leo Butz in Thou Shalt Not
Sexiest and/or Most Beautiful Actors and Actresses Seen on Stage in New York City this Fall:
Gretchen Mol, Paul Rudd, and Frederick Weller in The Shape of Things; John Leguizamo in Sexaholix; Margaret Colin in Speaking in Tongues; Raúl Esparza in Cabaret (and tick, tick...BOOM!); Kyle Hall in Metamorphoses; Cynthia Nixon in The Women; Polly Bergen in The Vagina Monologues; Kate Jennings Grant in Summer of '42; Jeffrey Donovan in The Glory of Living
Most Tenacious Producer:
Jordan Roth, who reopened his excellent production of The Rocky Horror Show for a few weeks after 9/11 even though, for some reason, the show had struggled at the box office from the get-go.
To the many theater, cabaret, and concert performers who gave selflessly of their talents in myriad benefits to aid the families of the victims of the World Trade Center disaster.