Friday, December 28, 2012
The Grooviest Theater of 2012
Although I didn't make it to Broadway this year, I did see many groovy plays and musicals as well as some great performances here in Chicago (and Nashville). So below are my theatrical favorites of 2012 in order of preference (click on a title to read my complete review):
11) A Class Act
Porchlight Music Theatre gave this musical about lyricist Edward Kleban (A Chorus Line) its Chicago premiere with an excellent production.
10) Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
This Bailiwick Chicago production of the rock musical featured a charismatic performance by Matt Holzfeind as our seventh President of the United States.
9) 50 Shades! The Musical
Two different musical parodies of the best-selling erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, played in Chicago this year - but only one of them was worth seeing. Created by the Chicago-based improv ensemble, Baby Wants Candy, this raunchy and hilarious show was often reminiscent of an old-fashioned musical - if Rodgers and Hammerstein had wrote songs about fisting.
8) The Nutty Professor
I went down to Nashville this summer to see this new musical based on the 1963 Jerry Lewis movie, and it turned out to be a fun show with a great cast - including a delightful Klea Blackhurst - and an infectious score by the late Marvin Hamlisch.
7) Kinky Boots
This new musical had a tryout in Chicago this fall, and although I felt the show needed some work before making its Broadway debut in March, I did enjoy Cyndi Lauper's engaging score and the wonderful performances of Billy Porter, Stark Sands and Annaleigh Ashford.
6) Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
I spent seven hours one Saturday last April at Court Theatre's outstanding production of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, and the ensemble cast - including Heidi Kettenring, Hollis Resnik and Larry Yando - could not have been better as his flawed but captivating characters.
5) We Three Lizas
Chicago's About Face Theatre and the creative mind of the talented Scott Bradley gave us this fabulous new holiday musical as an early Christmas present. This Liza fan had a TERRIFIC time!
4) Immediate Family
Directed by actress Phylicia Rashad, who played Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Paul Oakley Stovall's play reminded me of that popular sitcom - with a Modern Family gay twist - and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
3) Hit The Wall
This brilliant dramatization of the 1969 Stonewall riots and the beginning of the gay rights movement is what you call damn good Chicago theater.
2) Good People
Actress Mariann Mayberry gave an amazing performance in Steppenwolf Theatre's memorable production of David Lindsay-Abaire's play.
1) A Little Night Music
I had a blissful smile on my face throughout Writers' Theatre's sublime production of Stephen Sondheim's 1973 musical, and the the Tony Award-winning Deanna Dunagan and the lovely Shannon Cochran were both marvelous as the wise Madame Armfeldt and her actress daughter Desiree. It was the best theatrical event of 2012.
Best Solo Performances of 2012
If you ever get the chance to see acclaimed author Fran Lebowitz or actress/comedienne Andrea Martin (SCTV, My Big Fat Greek Wedding), GO! Lebowitz is a deliciously divine speaker whose insights on various issues will make you laugh as well as think, while Martin's hilarious one-woman show, Final Days! Everything Must Go!!!, was an evening of (Edith) Prickley delights.
UPDATE 12/29: I forgot I saw the one and only Lily Tomlin perform in Skokie last February - and, of course, she was marvelous. So I had to add her to this post.
Most Disappointing Show of 2012: Failure: A Love Story
I had high expectations for this new play by Philip Dawkins (who wrote my favorite new play of 2011, The Homosexuals), but I just found it annoying and depressing.
Worst Show of 2012: I Love Lucy Live on Stage
I went to this show with very low expectations - and it definitely met them. With the exception of Bill Mendieta's fine performance as Ricky, I did not enjoy this "behind-the-scenes" glimpse of two lesser-known I Love Lucy episodes, but it is a way for people to cash in on the beloved sitcom's continued popularity. The production is still playing in Chicago, but I highly recommend that any Lucy fan buy the complete TV series on DVD for only $84.49 on Amazon (such a deal!) instead of shelling out $62-82 on a ticket to this pointless, laughless stage version. I Love Lucy should ONLY be seen on TV starring the ONE AND ONLY Lucille Ball - end of story.
Photo by Michael Brosilow.