Two Rarities from Masterworks Broadway


Masterworks Broadway is the gift that keeps on giving. There have been so many interesting releases and reissues that it’s been almost dizzying to try and keep up. Their output is consistent and excellent, offering titles as contemporary as Kinky Boots, but also long-unavailable recordings from the Columbia/RCA vaults. The latest batch of releases include the film soundtrack of A Little Night Music and the uber-rare Seven Come Eleven, with the original London cast album of Cowardy Custard (featuring Patricia Routledge) scheduled for release next month.

While the stage version of A Little Night Music is one of the most enchanting musicals ever written, its 1977 film adaptation is a curious misfire. The disappointment of the film is somewhat surprising given that most of the original Broadway production’s creative team worked on the adaptation. Also retained were original cast members Len Cariou, Hermione Gingold and Laurence Guittard. Taking on the lead role of the one and only Desiree Armfeldt is an out-of-her-element Elizabeth Taylor, who is much easier to watch when her character isn’t singing. The most notable and worthy addition to the film cast was the brilliant Diana Rigg, who is excellent as Charlotte.

While it isn’t the worst adaptation of a stage musical ever put to film, it certainly ranks near the bottom of the list. The setting was moved from Sweden to Austria, with several characters receiving new names. Several songs, including “Liaisons,” “In Praise of Women,” and “The Miller’s Son” were cut. There was no quintet, and all their pieces were dropped. Harold Prince, a titanic producer and director for the stage, didn’t fare as well in the movies, with Night Music his second and last film to date.

However, the soundtrack makes for an interesting listen, if only to hear how Sondheim adapted himself for the screen. He turned “The Glamorous Life” into a staggering solo for Desiree’s daughter, Fredrika. This soliloquy has become a favorite of Sondheim interpreters, most notably Audra McDonald, who included it on her recent solo album. Another notable change is the evolution of the sublime instrumental “Night Waltz” into the song “Love Takes Time,” performed by the main characters during the opening of the film. “Now/Later/Soon” has been abridged and is instead “Now/Soon/Later,” while there are new lyrics for “A Weekend in the Country,” which gives the woefully underused Gingold an opportunity to sing a few bars. (For what it’s worth, Jonathan Tunick won the Oscar for Best Score: Adaptation for his contributions).

This new release doesn’t supplant the sublime original Broadway or worthy original London cast recordings by any means, but is more worthy of your time than the leaden 2009 revival recording. Bonus tracks include the previously unreleased extended version of “Every Day a Little Death” used in the film, “Night Waltz,” and the end credits.

I hope this means that the film soundtrack for 1776 is not far behind, essential as the only recording of Howard Da Silva’s performance as Ben Franklin, as well as the opportunity for Virginia Vestoff’s “Compliments” (one of the great moments in musical theatre) to be made available.


Seven Come Eleven was the 1961 installment of Julius Monk’s popular Upstairs at the Downstairs nightclub series. Monk’s cabaret revues were the epitome of New York sophistication, with topical yet gentle satires of pop culture and current events performed in an elegant environment by elegantly attired performers. There are numbers dedicated to First Lady Jackie Kennedy, the John Birch Society, and the Peace Corps, among others. Steve Roland scores with the Gilbert and Sullivan patter parody “Captain of the Pinafores.” Best of all is young Mary Louise Wilson, unbelievably funny in her major solo “Forbidden Tropics,” about scandalous literature, as well as her sketch “Don’t You Feel Naked Not Drinking?” opposite Rex Robbins. It makes for a pleasant listen filled with witty lyrics and playful music, but the album is definitely a capsule of a bygone era.

Angela Lansbury sings “Liaisons”

My friends and regular readers are aware of the cool reception I gave Trevor Nunn’s revival of A Little Night Music that played the Walter Kerr last year. I don’t want to rehash all that again as the production is now closed and we can look forward to a better and brighter future as a result, but the highlight of that production to me was Angela Lansbury’s Tony nominated performance as Madame Armfeldt, a performance that I think was the only Tony-worthy aspect of the entire production (and her across the board rave notices seem to match my sentiments). Her character, Madame Armfeldt, has only one song in the show, “Liaisons,” but it is one of the most memorable of the entire score and one of my personal favorite Sondheim songs.

Ms. Lansbury made a special appearance in London at this weekend’s Olivier Awards to help present Stephen Sondheim with a special lifetime achievement award. Having seen this little news item on Twitter, I made it a point to tune in. The awards ceremony, which until this year had been an industry banquet, made significant changes and was televised for the first time in years (while simultaneously airing on BBC Radio 2, which is how I was able to chime in). There were some kinks in the format, as the early half of the evening relied far too heavily on colorless color commentators interviewing winners in lieu of focusing on the stage, but the performances were all quite interesting to hear, as were the incredibly brief but pitch-perfect acceptance speeches.

The award for Sondheim was saved until the very end of the evening, following the presentations of Best Musical and Best Play. Adrian Lester started the tribute by reprising “Being Alive” from his Olivier Award winning performance of Bobby in the Donmar Company of 1996. Cameron Mackintosh spoke at length about Sondheim’s work as well as their personal relationship before the impresario introduced Lansbury, who received a thunderous standing ovation on her entrance.

It seemed for a few moments that Lansbury was only there to present Sondheim with the award, but following his acceptance speech she delivered a staggering performance of “Liaisons.” Enjoy:


Theatrical Highlights of the Year

1. Lend Me a Tenor. April 13, @ the Music Box Theatre. Don’t you love farce? I do. But it’s a genre that is very difficult to pull off successfully. Ken Ludwig’s 80s comedy isn’t particularly funny on the page, but first-time Broadway director Stanley Tucci did a marvelous job bringing out the laughs. The ensemble was mostly terrific: Anthony LaPaglia as the opera singer, Tony Shalhoub as the harried producer, Mary Catherine Garrison as the virginal but hormonal ingenue and Jennifer Laura Thompson as the resident diva were all quite fun. Justin Bartha made an amusing Broadway debut as the sad-sack mistaken for the great divo (even if his vocal prowess brought Ohio’s taste into question). But it was Jan Maxwell as the fiery wife of the opera singer who walked away with the evening, in a hilarious performance.

2. Anyone Can Whistle. April 11 @ the City Center. One of the biggest flop musicals in Broadway history was given a rare NYC revival courtesy of Encores for Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. I doubt it could be any better than this production. The book is a hot box of crazy, with ideas and satire swirling around a wonderful score. It was superlatively cast with Sutton Foster and Raul Esparza, but it was Donna Murphy in an inspired performance who put the show in her pocket and took it home. Casey Nicholaw directed and choreographed with great ease. Original cast member Harvey Evans helped Nicholaw to reconstruct the Cookie Chase and the lunacy was inspired.

3. A Little Night Music. July 31 @ the Walter Kerr Theatre. While I love the musical itself, this production didn’t do very much for me when it opened a year ago and didn’t make the cut for ’09. I don’t generally put revisits on the list, but this is one exception that I’m more than willing to make. Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch joined the cast during the summer and the maudlin evening was transformed into something far more pleasant. I’ll never love the production with its drab sets and costumes, anemic orchestrations and glacial pacing, but Bernadette is a sparkplug that the production needed from the very beginning.

4. I Do! I Do! August 21 @ the Westport Country Playhouse. This pleasant production was so charming and so polished, I was hoping someone would bring it to NY for a nice off-Broadway run. Kate Baldwin and Lewis Cleale starred as Agnes and Michael, a couple whose marriage is explored during the musical’s two hour running time. The show was an unusual Broadway property in the 60s: a two-hander musical with full orchestra. Gower Champion created a wonderful period piece (based on de Hartog’s The Four Poster) which holds up surprisingly well. Elements may have dated, but marriage – and the good, bad and ugly that go with it – remain the same. Baldwin was enchanting and Cleale was delightful.

5. Our Town. August 27 @ the Barrow Street Theatre. I was a bit late to this party, but I greatly admired David Cromer’s spare, bare bones production of the Thornton Wilder classic. I have to confess that until I saw this, I had never read nor seen the play before. Sitting in the front row, I was privileged almost immediately to Cromer’s performance as the Stage Manager (which was a brilliant, non actory showing). He opened up the audience’s imagination, making us work to get into the world of Grover’s Corners. What he was preparing us for was the startling and unbelievably moving display of theatrical realism in the third act. It was a coup de théâtre of the highest order.

6. Brief Encounter. September 25 @ Studio 54. Imaginative, witty and ever-so-British, this import from the Kneehigh in UK made a stop in Brooklyn and the Guthrie before finding its Broadway berth via Roundabout – and with much of its original cast intact. Better late than never. This charming adaptation of the David Lean film of the same name, based on Noel Coward’s Still Life uses theatrical imagery, imagination and Coward’s music to tell the story of an unrequited affair between a British housewife and doctor. A swell cast, esp. Annette McLaughlin in a choice supporting role as Beryl and one of the best bands on Broadway made this one a real treasure. Wish they had recorded a cast album.

7. The Scottsboro Boys. October 7 @ the Lyceum Theatre. One of the best musicals I’ve seen in the last five years. A horrible chapter in our nation’s history is given life through an archaic and racist form of entertainment. Kander and Ebb’s score – their final collaboration – is as rich and fulfilling as their classics of the 60s and 70s. The musical pushed envelopes in storytelling and was not without controversy over its use of minstrelsy to tell the story, but it was a story of empowerment and abandonment. Director/choreographer Susan Stroman returned to top form with some of the best work of her career. The brilliant ensemble was led by John Cullum as the Interlocutor and Joshua Henry as Haywood Patterson, in what should be a break out role for the young actor.

Act One Finale

My musical theatre professor Stephen Kitsakos teaches his classes about various song types heard in musicals. He would start at the very beginning with the overture and progress in sequence through the general structure of a musical. However, my two favorites were always the eleven o’clock number and act one finale. The eleven o’clock number is that last showstopper that galvanizes or energizes the audience just prior to the finale. With the act one finale, Stephen (facetiously) said its most important function is to entice the audience to return after intermission. That is merely one aspect (and truth be told, a valid one). It should also serve to move the story forward and provide a sort of button for what has been seen so far. There are dozens and dozens of different numbers that come to mind, but I’ll keep it to a few examples.

Dreamgirls. Michael Bennett’s staggering finish to act one is the stuff of theatre legend. The Supremes-like trio is on the rise, but everyone is forced to deal with Effie White’s diva temperament. Effie, the overweight lead singer finds herself pushed to back up position for the prettier Deena. The first act ends with her being kicked out of the Dreams, with a volatile confrontation (“It’s All Over”). Effie sings of not feeling well and pains in her stomach, which hint at the pregnancy revealed in the second act when she struggles to make a comeback. The original production’s first act ended with Jennifer Holliday’s impassioned and defiant “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” a force of nature showstopper that earned the star standing ovations mid-song. There are reports of people standing on their chairs and running down the aisles to the stage screaming while she was riffing. Bennett; however, brilliantly cut off Effie’s moment by upstaging her applause with the debut of the new Dreams as the curtain falls.


A Little Night Music. Stephen Sondheim has written phenomenal act one finales for his shows, but this one in particular is quite dazzling. Fredrik and Desiree have reconnected after fifteen years apart. He’s married to an 18 year old virgin. His 19 year old son is in love with his stepmother. Desiree’s lover is insanely jealous, his wife tells the virgin about Fredrik and Desiree having a fling. As the show approaches the end of the first act, Desiree unhatches a plan to win Fredrik back for good by inviting him and his family to her mother’s estate for “A Weekend in the Country.”


South Pacific. Rodgers and Hammerstein and Joshua Logan ended the first act of the show with a musical scene rather than a curtain number. It’s mostly dialogue between the two protagonists, interspersed with reprises of Nellie’s upbeat songs heard so far. The scene takes a serious turn when Emile and the audience discover a new, uglier facet of Nellie’s personality when she reveals her racial prejudices against Emile’s deceased Polynesian wife. The final reprise in the act is Emile’s “Some Enchanted Evening,”  first sung as an expression of love to Nellie, but is now in an entirely new context.


She Loves Me. My favorite musical comedy. The first act ends with Georg realizing that Amalia, his arch nemesis at work, is his lonely-hearts correspondent and soul mate. Knowing this information, he irritates Amalia, who is quite insecure as to whether or not Dear Friend will actually show up. Georg’s teasing leads to an argument between the two and Amalia dismisses him with a withering summation of his character flaws. The quieter-than-usual first act finale is her plaintive plea, “don’t let it end, Dear Friend,” a gentle waltz that brings down the curtain as she becomes quite aware that she has been stood up.


Gypsy. I don’t know that you an have a discussion about act one finales without bringing up Gypsy. Madame Rose dominates the musical and has three major solos that are all at eleven o’clock quality. I look at Rose’s character arc through these three numbers: “Some People” is a defiant expression of her determination, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” is her desperation and “Rose’s Turn” is her defeat. As the show approaches the end of the first act, favored daughter Dainty June runs off with Tulsa, the rest of the act walks away while faithful Louise and Herbie want nothing more than to settle down. Rose, ever the pioneer woman without a frontier, sets her sights on bringing stardom to the overlooked Louise, in an incredibly chilling moment where it becomes clear that Rose will stop at nothing.


Bernadette Peters in “A Little Night Music”

The summer nights in New York are now smiling broader than ever. A luminescent new star has taken the reins of A Little Night Music and has wholly revitalized what was once a lugubrious affair. The excitement among the theatre crowd has been considerably high since it was announced that Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch would be replacing Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury in the Broadway revival. Peters is giving the stage performance of a lifetime as the one and only Desiree Armfeldt, bringing the desperately needed Midas touch to a rather colorless staging. I all but hated the production when I attended its first preview (save for Lansbury, naturally), but with the addition of Peters, this Night Music is now a must-see.

Peters’ performance is a master class in poise, finding humor and humanity in her portrayal of the aging actress looking to settle down. But, not only is she bringing her A-game, but she is bringing out the best in those around her. Her relationship with Alexander Hanson’s Fredrik is loose, flirtatious and sexy and eminently more believable. With Peters running the show, you see why the men are drawn to her, but also understand her desperation to settle down with her family.  From an acting perspective I was impressed with the choices she was making – unexpected, original and wholly valid; not only is she likable, you want to stand and cheer for her by the finale. Everyone has that level of ease and for the first time it feels like a genuine ensemble onstage at the Walter Kerr. To say the production is better would be a colossal understatement; it’s like night and day. The change is especially apparent in the first act, which previously felt like Lutheran penance but is now a more breezy (if not brisk) farcical set-up. The knives were always there, but the whipped cream was lacking – it is now more balanced, more nuanced and more satisfying.

Then there’s “Send in the Clowns.” The delicate, intimate musical scene is one of the most anticipated in the entire canon. Not only was it the highlight of this revival, but it may be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen Bernadette Peters do – and that includes her superlative “Rose’s Turn” from the 2003 revival of Gypsy. Desiree and Fredrik sit on her bed as she makes the leap, risks everything for love only to have her dreams shattered right in front of her. Peters’ acting in the scene was truly remarkable. Between her beauty and nuance, it was impossible not to watch her as she listened, reacted and ultimately interrupted with Sondheim’s most famous song, tears streaming down her porcelain cheeks (and I might add, of most of the people around me). With Peters at the helm, the scene becomes the emotional apex of the show, as it should be (with Lansbury, it was “Liaisons”), a quiet showstopper that will continue to haunt you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Elaine Stritch has also joined the company, replacing Angela Lansbury in the role of Madame Armfeldt, Desiree’s  imperious mother and former courtesan. Stritch delivers her lines as well as her one major solo (“Liaisons”) with a brittle, no nonsense approach, delivering one liners with blunt honesty and the driest of wit. The actress doesn’t quite have all her lines, but she manages to make those moments work as though they were a genuine product of age. Understudy Bradley Dean was on for Aaron Lazar at the performance I attended and is even funnier and more in tune with the character than Lazar.

The rest of the company remains the same yet they’ve all made vast improvements, over the course of a mere month. Ramona Mallory is more restrained, and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka is bringing more clarity to Henrik’s hilariously over-the-top self loathing. The most pleasant surprise: Erin Davie has finally found her Charlotte. Davie is starting to get the laughs she’s missed before, has stopped playing Charlotte as a victim and the growth is exceptional. Leigh Ann Larkin’s accent still makes little sense, but even she is finding depth that wasn’t apparent a month ago. This was my first time seeing Katherine McNamara as the uncanny, wise beyond her years Fredrika and she is superb (the children hired for this production are exceptional). The Liebeslieders are, of course, marvelous, though I wish the silly “sway-ography” (only way I can describe it) they perform at the top of the “Night Waltz” would be cut. (I still miss the real overture).

For the record, I still hate Nunn’s hamfisted direction, those hideous sets (I really want to take a bottle of Windex to those mirrors), costumes and orchestrations, but this time the misguided scenography didn’t bother me. It’s by no means an ideal production, but when Desiree is well cast, very little else matters. Everything is better because of Bernadette. The ensemble finally feels like an ensemble and it should only grow better and stronger with each performance. The final preview for Bernadette and Elaine ran a bit longer than that never-ending first preview, but the hours seemed to pass in an instant. I only wish the producers opened with Bernadette in the first place. Peters and Stritch are contracted until November. Trust me, if you miss this star turn you’ll regret it for years to come.

Revisiting “A Little Night Music”

I didn’t have plans to revisit the revival of A Little Night Music before Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ departures, but much to my surprise I won a contest on BroadwaySpace for a pair of tickets to their final matinee on June 20. I’ve done a lot of final performances, from Bernadette’s Gypsy to The Norman Conquests, so it’s something with which I’m familiar. There is a huge fan base, the cheers are a little louder and longer and the general feeling in the theatre is that of good will. I met up with SarahB and Byrne at Sosa Borella before the show where we dubbed it “Angie Day – Summer Edition” and drank a toast to the star and her day. We headed down to the Walter Kerr, where we met up with fellow ITBA blogger (and Prettybelle enthusiast) Donald from Me2ism. We also had the opportunity to meet our delightful Twitter friend and fellow theatre fan Shari Zeck, who had flown in to see Ms. Lansbury.

Full disclosure: it was a pleasure to be in attendance on this particular performance and in spite of quibbles found myself enjoying the production more the second time, managing to focus on the text and action and mostly forgetting the bland sets, costumes and anemic orchestrations. Getting those quibbles out of the way: Trevor Nunn’s direction is hamfisted, lacking in nuance and full of far too much indicating. Act 1 and Act 2 feel like they were directed by two entirely different people, the former feels like a Lutheran penance, while things pick up considerably in the latter. Erin Davie is still humorless and ineffectual as Charlotte while Leigh Ann Larkin’s accent is still circling the airports of the world.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, fresh off a now notorious Tony performance, is much better than you’d remember based on that telecast but she also never, in my estimation, reached greatness in the part. There are moments when it seems that she’s playing the character of Desiree Armfeldt as the world’s greatest lush, with the idiosyncratic mannerisms of someone secretly taking a nip when no one is looking. Her “Send in the Clowns” stopped the show, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by it (those pregnant pauses – Trevor, how could you?); however, she really shone in the final scene, earning applause when Fredrik and Desiree finally connect (myself included). I think Night Music has one of the most flawless endings in musical theatre history, up there with She Loves Me. Now, mind you I mention these criticisms about her performance, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy her this time. At this point, I can only fault the director for the things that didn’t work.

Now onto the good: Hunter Ryan Herdlicka and especially Ramona Mallory have grown in their parts, with more nuance and understanding. Aaron Lazar and Alexander Hanson are still excellent as ever. The Liebeslieders are in excellent voice, and make an impression in spite of the walkography thrust upon them. (What a shame they don’t get to sing the full overture, a glorious piece of music). Keaton Whittaker is still a welcome presence as Fredrika.

And then there’s Angela Lansbury. Lansbury has been the toast of Broadway for so many years and has rightfully earned the status of legend, from Hotel Paradiso onward (to say nothing of her five Tony Awards). I’ve been so fortunate to see her in Deuce and Blithe Spirit, each time amazed that she was returning to Broadway. With her stage renaissance, I had hoped she would play the role of Madame Armfeldt and I am so glad this production made that pipe dream a reality. Out of the three productions, this one outshone the other two. On this last performance, Ms. Lansbury gave the greatest performance I’ve seen from her. On her entrance, which is timed with the applause button for the overture, the ovation grew and grew and lasted what I think must have been between 45 seconds and a full minute. Adulation from everyone in the house; the mere sight of Lansbury in the wheelchair made my heart leap. Her final rendition of “Liaisons” was the most devastating I’ve ever heard in my life, with all respect to Hermione Gingold, Regina Resnik, etc. In the final section of the song, there was unexpected emotion from Ms. Lansbury, as tears came to her eyes. A testament to her unrelenting brilliance: it came from a personal place for her last show, but was also an exceptionally valid acting choice . “Send in the Clowns” got the ovation; but it was “Liaisons” that was the pinnacle of this afternoon’s performance.

At the curtain call, there was a huge ovation as Zeta-Jones and Lansbury stepped forward. It took a couple minutes for Catherine to get the audience to quiet down, finally getting the audience to shut up and sit down. In a moment of pure class, the star dedicated virtually the entire speech to Angela. It was unexpected, honest and a beautiful tribute as those in the house and onstage hopelessly fought back tears. Zeta-Jones got down her knees and bowed down to Angela, who in turn gave a sophisticated curtsy to her co-star. It was a beautiful moment, chock full of emotion. Suffice it to say, I think it was in the back everyone’s minds that this could potentially be the last time Ms. Lansbury, the Queen of Broadway, appears on stage. But the first thing I said to SarahB was “So what do you think Angie will appear in next season?”

‘A Little Night Music’ goes to Paris

Here is a brief video clip containing scenes from the production of A Little Night Music that is playing a strictly limited engagement this week at the Théâtre du Châtelet. This marks the Paris debut of the Sondheim-Wheeler classic, which is also currently a sell-out in a new Broadway revival (by way of London). Gretta Sacchi is Desiree; Leslie Caron her mother Madame Armfeldt. It’s a full-scale production with sets, costumes, 31 piece orchestra and it’s being performed in English. The theatre’s youtube channel has a lot of other clips, including interviews with the cast and clips from other productions they have done.

Our very own KariG is currently in Paris and will be seeing this production tomorrow evening; looking forward to what she has to say about it (she’s a tough cookie on this one – it’s her favorite musical).

Auspicious Debuts, 2009

Looking back as my year of theatregoing ends, I wanted to give a shout out to those performers in 2009 whose debut work made me sit up and take notice. Some are unknowns taking their first steps, others are established stars coming into NY theatre for the first time. There is no rhythm or rhyme to the list, just stream of consciousness. Here goes:

Seth Rettberg, Avenue Q: Performing the roles of Princeton and Rod on the national tour, and assuming understudy duties during the final months of the Broadway engagement of this little show that could, Rettberg assumes the mantle of leading man of this motley crew of subversive puppets. Mr. Rettberg gave a high energy performance, complete with offbeat charm and winsome presence, not to mention his pleasant pop tenor voice and stellar comic timing.

Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts: This is the Broadway debut this year that will one day give you bragging rights. Mr. Hill, a Steppenwolf Ensemble member, takes this new Tracy Letts play, puts it in his pocket and walks away with it. As Franco, the young, idealistic African American who reinvigorates star Michael McKean, Hill displayed skill and professionalism far more advanced than many of his peers. He has made a name for himself in Chicago, but his NY debut is only the first of what looks to be many great career successes.

Susan Louise O’Connor, Blithe Spirit: Most people don’t walk away from this classic Noel Coward play talking about Edith, the maid. But in this charming, but unevenly cast revival, Ms. O’Connor made many in the audience do just that. As the nervously eager maid in the Condomine household, the young starlet made an indelible comic impression with what little stage time she had, particularly a showstopping sequence in which she cleared a breakfast table. It cannot be easy to be in a play with such star quality, but where Rupert Everett and Christine Ebersole failed in their comic characterizations, Ms. O’Connor picked up their slack and then some.

Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King: He’s a world famous actor and an Oscar winner but that doesn’t stop the excellent Australian actor from making my list. Ionesco isn’t really my cup of tea. That said, I don’t know if I’ve ever been haunted by the memory of a performance more than I have been by Mr. Rush’s auspicious NY theatre debut. I’ll long remember Mr. Rush’s physicality as his King Berenger, fighting to keep his own life up until the very end of the play. I vividly see the actor, decked out in garish makeup and wearing pajamas and a crown, dancing around the stage, leading a march, etc. He was surrounded by choice costars including Susan Sarandon, Lauren Ambrose and the perennial favorite Andrea Martin. While all performed well, the evening belonged to Rush, who ended up taking home every award possible for his comic and tragic work. Those final moments, as Berenger slowly gives in to his mortality, will stay forever etched in my mind.

Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter, Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests: I couldn’t just pick one here, it wouldn’t be fair given that ensemble nature is what made this production so successful. In what is one of the great productions of the decade, this revival of Alan Ayckbourn marked the American debut of this brilliant ensemble, all of whom transferred from the sold out run at the Old Vic late last year. While these six actors are well known for their theatre, TV and film work in London, they are not so well known here. However, the six actors, with director Matthew Warchus created one of the most vibrant and astounding experiences I’ve ever had inside any theatre in my life.

Quentin Earl Darrington, Ragtime. It’s not easy filling the shoes of Brian Stokes Mitchell, especially given the indelible mark the actor left on the role of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in the original Broadway production. Mr. Darrington comes to Broadway in the part, after having played it in Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s acclaimed Kennedy Center production and is one of the many strengths in this actor-driven revival of a contemporary classic. Large in stature and voice, Darrington provides a gentle presence in the first act, and his fall into terrorism is all the more devastating as a result.

Alexander Hanson, A Little Night Music. The lone holdover from the original London production of this Trevor Nunn revival, Mr. Hanson strikes all the right notes as Fredrik Egerman. Expecting to be overwhelmed by Catherine Zeta-Jones, I was surprised at her mere adequacy especially when stacked against his superb, nuanced performance. Often the unsung lead of the show (let’s face it, most people talk about the ladies in this musical), Mr. Hanson strikes the right balance as the aging lawyer in search of his remote youth.

Honorable mentions: Noah Robbins, Brighton Beach Memoirs; Jude Law, Hamlet; Donna Migliaccio, Ragtime; Julia Stiles, Oleanna.