Curtain Call — 2016 Equity shows: Top 10

When it came to Professional Equity productions, the  year 2016 had some surprises and phenomenal shows and a few disappointments as well. Here are the top 10.

Hartford Stage, Hartford: The premiere of Anastasia was one of the happy surprises. It was a wonderful production and is heading to Broadway, with previews starting March 23. The show will open at the Broadhurst Theatre and is definitely worth a trip to the city. Inspired by real-life experiences of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, the mystery has been heightened by the Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens collaboration. Add to this the superior direction of Hartford Stage’s Darko Tresnjak and this is a very fine production.       

Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven: My Paris: The story of Toulouse-Lautrec was a production that I felt not only captured the artistry of the title character, but the artistry of the Long Wharf creative team. Featuring music and lyrics by Charles Aznavour and book by Alfred Uhry, this was a hit. That it had a Connecticut run at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre made it a real Connecticut hit. Unfortunately, Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower, which I couldn’t wait to see, fizzled out and landed on my flop list.

Lou Diamond Phillips stars as Lucifer in his play, Burning Desire, with Tara Franklin, left, and Ryan Wesley Gilreath, right.

Lou Diamond Phillips stars as Lucifer in his play, Burning Desire, with Tara Franklin, left, and Ryan Wesley Gilreath, right.

Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: So many times, celebrities try their hand at plays, and sometimes they actually hit the jackpot. That’s how I felt about Lou Diamond Phillips’ play Burning Desire. I gave the play a rave review. Lou Diamond Phillips not only wrote this play, but he starred in it and was absolutely sensational. A well balanced mix of humor and romance, this play found its way to the hearts of audiences who cheered throughout.

Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven: Set in the  mysterious moors of Northern England during the 19th Century, The Moors is a play as dark as it was satirical. Jen Silverman wrote this piece, which earned five stars for showing the vicious nature of all species when placed in bleak atmospheres. Directed by Jackson Gay, the play reminds one of Jane Eyre. Nature played an important role  in this “howling good production.”

Westport Country Playhouse, Westport: Artistic Director Mark Lamos of the Westport Country Playhouse presented a two plays in repertory: Art and Red. The play Red, my favorite,  is about artist Mark Rothko, an abstract expressionist known for  his passion. In the Westport production  Stephen Rowe, who played the role of Rothko on Broadway and was the understudy for the role, captured that passion of the artist and led a mini art history course throughout the production. It was absolutely a  delight for art lovers and theatergoers.

Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury:  With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach, the super-talented cast of Legally Blonde under the baton of music director TJ Thompson ranks as one of the top ten Equity productions. The show was produced well and featured Janine Molinari’s outstanding direction and choreography. The show was pure entertainment.

Westport Country Playhouse, Westport: Buyer & Cellar was a most entertaining and enlightening play. It is set in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion, where Streisand actually created an exclusive shopping mall (fact).  A young out-of-work actor takes the job of managing the shopping center (not true). This “what if” scenario provides a lot of comedy. Michael Urie, who created the character Off-Broadway reprised his role at Westport. (Although Westport Country Playhouse has two winners out of 10, it also had a major disappointment with its production of Camelot, which lacked all the magic one associates with that title.)

Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven: Sarah Ruhl’s Scenes from a Court Life proved a winning production for Yale Rep. The play juxtaposed action of the Stuart family of the 17th Century Great Britain with the American Bush family. Focusing on how  “ruling families” protect their interests both publically and privately was quite a comedic turn with an underlying serious note, which is that dynastic succession leaves a lot to desired.

Goodspeed Musicals, Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam: Appropriately titled, Anything Goes is a musical comedy that continues to delight audiences with Cole Porter’s score. The musical features a singer, gangsters, a stern mother, and a couple of lovers. No wonder it is timeless.

Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven: Yale’s production of  Happy Days by Samuel Beckett  was “picture perfect” and  “deeply moving.” Yale’s Artistic Director James Bundy and the clarity of performances delivered by Dianne Wiest and Jarlath Conroy conveyed what it means to be human.

 

About author
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com

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