With the Tony Awards coming up this weekend, we're looking forward to celebrating the biggest moments of the 2015-16 Broadway season. But why do we never get to celebrate individual little flashes of inspiration in each show? Here, we look back on the most memorable moments in the past year on the Great White Way.
1. The Spying Hand of Judith Light in Thérèse Raquin
Thérèse Raquin (Keira Knightely) and her lover, Laurent (Matt Ryan), are racked with guilt after murdering the son of Madame Raquin (Judith Light). In the script, what happens next is described as follows: "Mme. Raquin enters, unseen by Thérèse and Laurent." But what happened onstage in Evan Cabnet's production elicited gasps at every performance. As Knightley and Ryan squabbled, our attention was pulled to Light's hand appearing in the doorjamb without warning. It was perhaps this season's finest example of an actor and director taking what could have been an ordinary moment and turning it into something chilling.
2. The Separation of Voice in Spring Awakening
Midway through the second act of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's musical Spring Awakening, the naive Wendla Bergmann is hauled off by her mother to a back-alley abortion clinic, having unknowingly been impregnated by Melchior Gabor. It's a heartbreaking scene to begin with, and Michael Arden's Deaf West Theatre revival of the show made it even more devastating to watch. Wendla was played by two actresses, Sandra Mae Frank, who signed the role, and Katie Boeck, who spoke and sang it. Arden's brilliant take on the moment encapsulated his exciting vision, with Frank's Wendla losing her "voice" as she was physically separated from Boeck and dragged away.
3. The Angry Clarinet Tap Dance in Shuffle Along
William Grant Still was an African-American composer and instrumentalist who played in the orchestra of the 1921 musical Shuffle Along. The young songwriter George Gershwin, so taken with Shuffle Along, would see it several times during its original run. Years later, the show's composer, Eubie Blake, heard George Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm," and noticed something strange: the song's four central notes were the same that Still would play in the Shuffle pit. Whether Gershwin actually stole the tune is anyone's guess, but in George C. Wolfe and Savion Glover's new Broadway musical Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, this instance of alleged cultural appropriation becomes one of the show's central themes. As a showcase, Glover choreographs an angry tap pas de deux between dancer Phillip Attmore (as Still) and a clarinet — one of Shuffle's unforgettable scenes.
4. The Double Kiss of A View From the Bridge
Sometimes a revival of a frequently seen play still has the ability to shock. Such was the case in Ivo van Hove's deconstructed A View From the Bridge, when a drunken Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) drunkenly kissed both his niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox), and her lover, Rodolpho (Russell Tovey), to prove once and for all that Rodolpho is, in fact, "a weird" (one of the coded words in the script meaning homosexual). With the mesmerizing Strong out like a lion on the prowl, this scene had audiences cringing with disbelief, and everyone at the Lyceum Theatre could feel the tension, both onstage and off.
5. The Subtleties of the Sister Songs in Hamilton
In Hamilton's sister songs "Helpless" and "Satisfied," we look on as not one but two of the Schuyler girls fall for the young, upstart aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda). In the case of Angelica Schuyler (Renée Elise Goldsberry), the moment is particularly powerful, and not just because she tragically ruins her own chances at romantic happiness by sizing up Hamilton too quickly. Angelica's love for Hamilton is highlighted by her indifference to every other guy at the ball ("Laughin’ at my sister as she’s dazzling the room," sings Eliza in "Helpless"). The most subtle but telling mark of Angelica's total obsession with Hamilton? The way she straight-up ignores George Washington as they dance together while she sings (about Hamilton): "Handsome, boy, does he know it!…Peach fuzz, and he can’t even grow it!" Damn.