Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flashback: Best of 2002-03

Flashback: Best of 2002-03

As I count down my SOB Best of 2005-06, here’s a flashback to my personal best list for the 2002-03 theatrical season, as well as my honorable mentions and what I believe was the absolute worst show I saw that season.

My SOB Best of 2002-03 includes:

#1 – La Bohème (Broadway Theatre, New York, NY) – Credit Baz Luhrmann with the spellbinding genius for making one of the most enduring of operas into an accessible and excellent theatrical event. Not since Dorothy landed in Oz have I witnessed as glorious a transformation from black and white to full blown color as I did during this amazing production. In this case, it occurred when love was in full bloom. I only hope that Luhrmann won’t stay away from Broadway too much longer.

#2 – The Last Five Years (Plays & Players Theatre, Philadelphia, PA) – While I didn’t have a chance to see the original or Off-Broadway versions of this captivating two-handed musical, that literally and effortlessly tells the story of lost love backwards and forwards, I was mesmerized by this remarkable Philadelphia production with Nicole Van Giesen and Wayne Wilcox as Cathy and Jamie, respectively. I can honestly say that this was indeed the very best small show I saw over the last five years.

#3 – Dreamgirls (Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA) – Reprising her career-making role as Effie, Jennifer Holliday returned to her theatrical roots one last time and brought the house down with one of the most satisfying, yet gut-wrenching performances of her signature song, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” There was not one dry eye in Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre. And the rest of the production was every bit as excellent.

#4 – Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Plymouth Theatre, New York, NY) – One of the most deservedly acclaimed productions of its year, this Robert Falls-helmed revival of Eugene O’Neill’s seminal, semi-autobiographical classic more than captured his family’s deep descent into hell. Its stellar cast included Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Dennehy at their finest, along with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Sean Leonard.

#5 – Nine (Eugene O’Neill Theatre, New York, NY) – While the sensually seductive Jane Krakowski earned a Tony for this wonderful revival, it was Chita Rivera who literally stopped the show with a breathtaking performance that sealed her legendary status forever. Never before have I seen a standing ovation immediately after a production number, but Miss Rivera more than earned it scoring a "12." On top of everything else, Antonio Banderas was brilliant in this tale of a playboy entering middle age.

Honorable Mentions:

Hairspray (5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle, WA) with Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winoker in the pre-Broadway engagement.

Purple Heart (Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL) with Laurie Metcalf and Christopher Evan Welch.

The Breath of Life (Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, UK) with Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.

All My Sons (Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN) with a virtuoso performance by Peter Michael Goetz.

Worst of 2001-02:

Stones In His Pockets (Ordway Theatre, St. Paul, MN) – This touring production clearly lost something in its translation from the British stage and didn’t help that Americans, including the overacting Bronson Pinchot, had assumed the Irish roles.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Flashback: Best of 2004-05 (May 26, 2006)
Vanessa Redgrave to Make Broadway Return as Joan Didion (May 26, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2003-04 (May 25, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2001-02 (May 24, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2000-01 (May 23, 2006)

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