It is interesting to note that some of the finest theatrical productions this past year have been either fully realized musicals or themed around the music of some famous composer. It seems music was very much a part of our theater-going lives — and that’s a good thing.
My colleague Matthew G. Moross has pointed out as well that this year provided a “wonderful mix of the classic and the new.” He and I have come up with our picks for the best of the best of a very good year. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Artfully balancing the struggle to accommodate and compromise with that of responsibility and expectation, Berkshire Theater Festival’s exquisite remounting of Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” proved that the horrifying and hilarious sit next to each other on the family sofa. In a richly shaded performance, actress Maureen Anderman proved that she is without peer as master interpreter of Albee’s all-too-revealing prose.
Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage production of “The Last Goodbye” was an enormously successful rock-opera based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A very young cast performed the brilliant piece with humor and clarity, with an especially fine performance by Jo Lampert as a gloriously androgynous Mercutio.
What we LOVED in 2010
The Theater Barn offered “Lies and Legends” based on the music of the late, great Harry Chapin. Subtitled “The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin,” the show included 26 of the performer’s songs creating not one story but 26. That’s a big bang for one’s theatrical buck.
C-R Productions offered a thrilling version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” It was thrilling for many reasons, not the least of which was the performance of understudy John Farchione as Nanki-Poo. By the time I saw the production, Farchione had had the script for exactly three days. A star is born!
Berkshire Theater Festival also produced the best new script of the year with the world premiere of William Donnelly’s accomplished three-character play, “No Wake.” In this introspective, quiet and emotional work, Donnelly created characters previously tethered, now set adrift on an uncharted course that offers no clues to destination. Shepherded by Kyle Faber’s sensitive direction, Jurian Hughes and David Adkins offered brilliant insight into wounded parents who are unsure how to heal.
Stageworks/Hudson presented its annual “Play by Play,” this year themed around the old classic pop favorite “Blue Moon.” Though there was no actual music, each of the seven 15-minute plays was, like that bewitching old song, a love story.
Director Anne Kaufman helmed a riveting and riotous production of John Guare’s 1980s’ society exposé “Six Degrees of Separation” at the Williamstown Theater Festival in July. With a spot-on ensemble, led by the classy and comedic Margaret Colin, Guare’s biting critique of celebrity, identity and deception has never seemed so bruising and funny.
The most pleasant surprise was the most unexpected. Director Bartlet Sher’s breathtaking production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” landed at Proctor’s in April with a crackerjack design, a first-rate cast and a full lush orchestra that made the cast album seem thin. From “Bali Ha’i to “Happy Talk,” everything in this tour worked just right, offering more than “Some Enchanted Evening.”
Capital Repertory Theatre’s “33 Variations” was absolutely riveting. Moises Kaufman expertly weaves the life of a 21st century woman dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease with that of composer Ludwig van Beethoven. The production offered some fine acting and music that was, well, Beethoven.
Barrington Stage produced a new and powerful post-Civil War drama “The Whipping Man.” Playwright Matthew Lopez took all the crackle and burn from the battlefield and moved it inward and crafted a smart, thought-provoking drama with a shattering climax.