Who’s That Woman?

Forgive the quality, it’s silent footage synched up with a live recording of the show. It offers an imperfect glimpse into what many consider to be the greatest production number in the history of musical theatre and the grand opulence that was the original production of Follies, the sort that we may never again see on a Broadway stage.

Mary McCarty leads the ladies of the ensemble.

Theatrical Highlights of the Year

1. Follies. February 12, 2007 @ the City Center. A star-studded, riveting performance of a landmark musical; possibly the ultimate in cult status. Donna Murphy and Victoria Clark were at the top of their game. The rest of cast rose to the occasion, save for Christine Baranski‘s psychotic and off-key rendition of “I’m Still Here” which still stopped the show. It was a real treat to hear the score unadulterated and with its complete original orchestration. An event that was not to be missed and woefully went unrecorded. Saddest part? The rumored transfer never came to fruition.

2. Coram Boy. May 17, 2007 @ the Imperial Theatre. A delightfully and unapologetically Dickensian romp through plot machinations and melodrama that made for an inventive evening at the theatre. British actress Xanthe Elbrick successfully played an aristocratic adolescent male in the first act and a cockney orphan of 8 in the second, earning the Theatre World award and nominations from all the awards committees. Jan Maxwell, as a self-preserving feministic accomplice to the villain, delivered a fully layered and realized performance, also worthy of much praise. Ran for 30 performances, becoming one of the most expensive flop plays in history. Deserved better reviews and audience for its theatrical inventions and concept.

3. Deuce. May 22, 2007 @ the Music Box Theatre. Terrence McNally‘s second rate play wouldn’t have made my list save for one exception: it brought Angela Lansbury back to Broadway. For that reason alone it deserves much praise in spite of the inherent weakness of the work itself. Lansbury and co-star Marian Seldes were a marvel of technique (with 110 years of Broadway between them) and a chance to see Lansbury back on Broadway (the last time she was in NY was a flop revival of Mame in 1983 that closed when I was 6 weeks old) was worth the price of admission alone.

4. Journey’s End. June 5, 2007 @ the Belasco Theatre. Admittedly, I was severely disengaged with the first act; even to the point of nodding off (though that may have been the free wine from the Theatre World award reception I attended that afternoon). However, the second act put everything into perspective and the last five or ten minutes of the show were among the most harrowing spent in a theatre. The audience was so numb they forgot to applaud. Remarkable work by the ensemble; most notably Boyd Gaines and Stark Sands. Truly an event that should have been seen by more, especially given the inescapable relevance of an 80 year old anti-war play.

5. Grey Gardens. June 12, 2007 @ the Walter Kerr Theatre. Though I’d seen this musical in 2006, this particular performance was the most memorable I attended. It was the first performance following the Tony awards at which Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson took home the Best Actress and Best Featured Actress in the Musical Tony’s. The house was abuzz with fans and newcomers; creating that certain palpable energy that comes oh so rarely in the theatre. Never have I witnessed a star receive a standing-ovation on a second act entrance. I doubt we may ever have cause for that again.

6. 110 in the Shade. July 23, 2007 @ Studio 54. Christine Ebersole’s greatest competition for the Tony award came from star Audra McDonald‘s nuanced portrayal of the love-lorn, insecure spinster Lizzie Curry in this 1963 musical adaptation of Nash’s The Rainmaker (memorably filmed with Katharine Hepburn in 1956). The score by Jones & Schmidt shone, the cast was outstanding and Audra made your heart feel light from the moment she entered to the moment the inevitable rains came. It’s very rare to see a matinee crowd respond with such vigor to a stage musical revival such as I did on this hot July day; but when McDonald finished “Raunchy”, the house erupted as though we were attending a rock concert. It was also a treat to see John Cullum performing as Lizzie’s father and Bobby Steggert‘s comic impression as Lizzie’s not-so-bright yet tender-hearted little brother.

7. Gypsy. July 25, 2007 @ the City Center. Patti LuPone finally got to tear it up as Rose in NY. In spite of the lack of a complete scenic design and a rather bizarre lamb puppet, the production was everything you would hope for in your presentation of this musical; a stellar Rose, a solid Herbie and a heart-breaking Louise. LuPone maneuvered her way through the role with fiery conviction, earthiness and a determination that could put the fear of God into Patton. Her “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” not only foreshadowed the second act “Turn,” but could very well be the most definitive delivery of that song. Laura Benanti was the greatest Louise I have ever seen. Someone so attractive could play awkward teen so well – and have a transformation into Gypsy Rose Lee that was nuanced and damn sexy. Boyd Gaines went above and beyond the call for what is required of Herbie. Tony Yazbeck was a most convincing Tulsa; and one you would think could elope with June without requiring a true stretch of our willing suspension of disbelief. Excited for the Broadway transfer this spring.

8. August: Osage County. December 4, 2007 @ the Imperial Theatre. Tracy Letts‘ new drama is one of the most riveting and enjoyable pieces of theatre to open on Broadway in a few years. A spectacular return to the old-school three-acter, the play explores the dormant volcano that is the Weston family and their myriad of dysfunction. Ferocious performances from Deanna Dunagan as Violet, the combination Mary Tyrone, Regina Giddens and Martha and Amy Morton as her equally volatile daughter anchor this brilliant work. There have been some people who’ve dismissed the critical plaudits and claim the work is an overrated variation on Mama’s Family. Those people are missing the subtextual boat here, especially when you view the dynamite second act; which has some of the best contemporary writing ever presented on a NY stage. Never mind the naysayers, see this play before it closes.

What I want to see next year: Come Back, Little Sheba, Sunday in the Park With George, The 39 Steps, Les Liaisones Dangereuxes, The Country Girl, November, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, In the Heights, A Catered Affair, South Pacific, Gypsy, Show Boat at Carnegie Hall, Billy Elliot, and also Saved! at Playwrights Horizons.