Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flashback: Best of 2003-04

Flashback: Best of 2003-04

As I count down my SOB Best of 2005-06, here’s a flashback to my personal best list for the 2003-04 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 2003-04 includes:

#1 – Assassins (Studio 54, New York, NY) – Definitely ahead of its time, this Joe Mantello-helmed Stephen Sondheim revival was nearly sidelined as a result of 9/11. Thankfully, this tour-de-force morality musical on America’s real and would-be assassins really hit the mark, with excellent performances all around. Standouts included Tony-winner Michael Cerveris (John Wilkes Booth), Denis O’Hare (Charles J. Guiteau) and Jeffrey Kuhn (Giuseppe Zangara). But Neil Patrick Harris’ transformation from Balladeer to Lee Harvey Oswald was especially chilling. It's a pity it came and went so quickly.

#2 – Wicked (Gershwin Theatre, New York, NY) – Seeing Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in their respective Tony-nominated roles of Elphaba and Glinda just two days after Wicked opened, I was positively charmed by the story that took the beloved classic “The Wizard Of Oz” and successfully turned it on its head. Completely mesmerized by Chenoweth in such numbers as “Popular” and Menzel in “Defying Gravity,” I was truly upset that Wicked didn’t earn the Tony for Best Musical, but took solace when Menzel received her well-deserved Best Actress trophy. This show continues to soar, with sit-down productions in New York and Chicago, a touring company (currently in Atlanta and about to fly into Detroit), and the much-anticipated London staging with Menzel returning to work the broom.

#3 – Small Tragedy (Playwrights’ Center, Minneapolis, MN) – With shows like Reckless, Prelude to a Kiss and The Light in the Piazza under his belt, I profess to being a huge fan of Craig Lucas’ twisted storytelling. So when I learned that the world premiere of his Small Tragedy would take place at the tiny Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, I made sure I was in the audience. With Lucas, things are never what they seem, and Small Tragedy points to the real-live monsters living among us, nearly undetected. Despite an unknown cast, this was the most effectively haunting and best small play I saw throughout the year. It later went on to enthrall Off-Broadway audiences and critics alike.

#4 – Dirty Blonde (Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, CA) – Although I missed out on Claudia Shear’s original Broadway production of Dirty Blonde -- a "play with music" about Mae West admirers Jo and Charlie, whose paths cross when paying respects at her tomb -- I was completely wowed by the dynamic and impeccably precise performance delivered by Kathy Najimy as Jo and West herself. The additional bonus was enjoying the talents of Kevin Chamberlin and Bob Stillman reprising their original Broadway roles.

#5 – Pride And Prejudice (Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN) – This magnificent production of the Jane Austen classic featured one of my favorite South African actresses, Bianca Amato, who demonstrated all the spirit and fiery independence fans of this classic tale have come to love. Whoever said classics couldn't be fun?

Honorable Mentions:

A Man of No Importance (Loring Playhouse, Minneapolis, MN) – A delightful, small musical about an ardent aficionado of Oscar Wilde struggling in his quest to be true to himself.

Elaine Stritch At Liberty (State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN) – The living legend took her historical, hysterical show on the road.

Worst of 2001-02:

Harvey (Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Beach, CA) – So frustratingly bad, this Charles Nelson Reilly-helmed revival of the man befriending a large white rabbit never reached its intended destination on Broadway.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Wicked tickets.
Related Stories:
Assassins Loose in Washington for Another Week (May 31, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2004-05 (May 26, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2002-03 (May 24, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2001-02 (May 24, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2000-01 (May 23, 2006)
Approaching One Year, Chicago's Wicked Continues to Captivate (May 23, 2006)
Wicked's West End Witches Update (May 17, 2006)
Worldwide Wicked Casting News (May 5, 2006)
Encore: Spotlight Week Ending April 30, 2006 (April 30, 2006)


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