Scissors closed, glue sticks capped. Fellow Gazette theater reviewer Paul Lamar and I have just finished pasting up our “Best of” theatrical scrapbook for 2015. In no particular order, we have chosen the following local productions:
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (Proctors). Brisk and clever, this tuneful Tony winning musical started its first national tour right here in Schenectady and for a week had the region in stitches. Richly designed and wonderfully performed, this sharp sendup of a serial killer who bumps off all the heirs of a family so he can inherit the fortune was a season highlight.
“South Pacific” (Schenectady Light Opera Company). All the warmth and humor of this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic was sensitively brought to life, thanks to the direction of Peter Caracappa and Adrienne Sherman. The energy of the large cast, and two superb leads: Heather-Liz Copps and Steven Leifer, truly made this some enchanted evening.
“Souvenir” (Capital Rep). A joy from start to finish, Steven Temperley’s cheeky comedy is a theatrical valentine — albeit one with a devilish cupid. Is it a play about artistic determination or a lost Monty Python sketch? It just may be both. Sublime performances from Georga Osborne as “First Lady of the Sliding Scale” Florence Foster Jenkins and Jonas Cohen as her long-suffering accompanist Cosmee made this stunning production the best comedy of the year.
“Tigers Be Still” (Curtain Call). Smartly directed by Carol Max, Kim Rosenstock’s nimble comedy of depression and its fallout was perfectly couched with humor and hidden horror. Adding in the stellar performances — notably from Christine Doige and Christopher Foster — made the production outstanding.
“Unknown Soldier” (Williamstown Theater Festival). At times the story was wound a bit too dense, but it seldom failed to fascinate. Daniel Goldstein and Michael Friedman’s wonderful new musical exploring the power of mystery, history and romance trapped in a photograph, was brought to life in a visually stunning production under the guidance of director Trip Cullman. Moving and memorable.
“SPUN: A Brother/ Sister Rock Musical” (Adirondack Theater Festival). This work-in-progress about a dysfunctional set of siblings greatly benefited from the extraordinary acting and singing of Max Sangerman and Brook Wood. This concert-style musical with a familial bent had the audience on their feet.
“The Night Alive” (Curtain Call). The work of Irish playwright Conor MacPherson may have been frequently produced this past year, but this play, his latest, was given an outstanding production this past fall. Directed by Carol Max, a character study of down-and-out Dubliners, featuring an extraordinary cast headed by Chris Foster, it was funny, quirky and unforgettable.