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2016 was a rough year on many levels, but in my frontmezzjunkies world, I am feeling very blessed. Through this blog and all of you who read it, I’ve been able to see more theatre then I think I’ve ever seen before. And had the pleasure to hone my writing skills. So I thank you all because many on this list I would not have had the opportunity to witness the amazing had it not been for your attention.

Theatre is truly an amazing entity when it takes us on an emotional journey whether it be sad, beautiful, joyous or all those mixed together. If theatre can do that, it’s pure magic.

So here’s my list of my top 20 theatrical moments of 2016. Starting with #20 and working my way to my #1. In order to garner suspense!

So to everyone involved in these shows, thank you for moving me and entertaining me. You all deserve my applause.

The Wolves

20- The Wolves

“Sarah DeLappe, the playwright, delivers spectacularly on her debut production…This is where DeLappe’s genius is most apparent: in the details and the differences…It’s captivating watching the teens argue, fight, tease, and commune together, wanting to be a uniformed force, but also striving for personal identity, individualization, acceptance, and accomplishment…The team and the play are the true winners here.”

Eclipsed

19- Eclipsed

“We know it’s not going to be all sunshine and lollipops. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the playful innocence of the writing and the deep maternal care that we are witness to…Danai Gurira writes dialogue between these young adult women that is both fun, flirtatious, and caring…Beautifully directed with unflinching honesty by Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed makes us painfully aware of the history and the terror of these women’s lives.”

18- The Father

“It’s a smart and powerful piece of writing that is both surprising, funny at times, and deeply moving. Langella does a masterful job with this complex and unique role, holding back nothing, and giving it his all…The rest of the cast do a wonderful job…This MTC production is beautifully crafted, designed with great attention to detail and meaning…The direction of this cast by Doug Hughes is perfection…Unforgettable.”

17- A Life

“It’s as if we are turning the pages of a storybook, much like the glorious set design, flipping from the minutiae of one moment to another. It’s wildly engaging and deeply touching. Everyone in the cast gives us the purity of a life being lived. Pierce is simply outstanding pulling us in, as is Heberlee…I give a great deal of credit to the playwright Bock for crafting such a marvelous and unique story, and presenting it to us with such a surprising and creative vantage point.”

16- Radiant Vermin

“It’s a superbly funny abstract comedy…I was blown away with the final birthday party scene, in full amazement of their ability to give us the rapid-fire delivery of all these characters and moments without missing a beat…My heart was racing when, magically, they stop and revert back to asking us directly, ‘What do we value the most? Property or life?’ And then, they ask us our verdict. My verdict was a standing ovation.”

15- Sell/Buy/Date

“Each one of her many multicultural portrayals is brilliantly detailed in mannerisms, accent, and body language, while also being very real and moving in content…But these characterizations are just the tip of the iceberg in regard to where the true artistry lies is this dazzling new work. Her power and genius is based more on what this assortment of characters are saying…Teaching us through storytelling…Enlightening and engaging us while being entertained.”

14- Plenty

“This dense play, exquisitely directed by Leveaux with precision and style, is still a struggle to unlock…Susan’s slow mental deterioration, brilliantly portrayed by the exceptional Rachel Weisz, mirrors the British post-war disillusionment and depression, and is as exciting as it is devastating…’Plenty’ challenges us to lean in and play close attention as it bounces around the ’40’s, ’50s and ’60s. But as we put the puzzle pieces together, we begin to all feel the weight of Susan’s story.”

13- Bright Star

“what a bright and lovely star it is…That compelling yet emotionally deep twang winds its magic throughout this piece, giving it a strong yet sad quality that’s difficult to explain in any other manner. The music has a laziness like a sweet molasses but a compelling rhythm fueled by the banjo and strengthened by the fiddle…Cusack displays a most glorious voice and inhabits both younger and older versions of herself almost magically…every performance touched my heart…I was fully invested and moved to tears by the end.”

12- The Crucible

“I won’t say a word about Ivo van Hove’s dramatic flair, but it’s very apparent he wanted to excite us visually and dramatically. Many may say it is too much, but I think it works here, once again. His direction and creative storytelling kept me thoroughly engaged and as frustrated as Miller expertly intended…This powerful and superlative cast make an impressive argument, and van Hove’s theatrical flair and intense direction drive this idea home.”

11- Noises Off

“This nearly perfect British farce is getting another spectacular revival…This team is perfection, making it all look so easy and seamless. All should be credited with the word, ‘spectacular’…The only complaint I have of this whole shows lies in the portrayal of love and attraction… I can’t say I ever believed in the love or the affairs, I never really saw it, nor felt it…This cast of professionals are spot on perfect, never missing a beat or failing to get the laugh”

A Streetcar Named Desire

10-A Streetcar Named Desire

“Something about this current production from the get-go, directed with perfection by Benedict Andrews, just swings out and knocks us over…Anderson takes us through an emotional journey that is epic, devastating, and deeply affecting…It’s a majestic and heart-wrenching performance, and not to be missed.”

9-Waitress

“From the first note sung of this beautiful new musical, we know we are in for a mystical and creative piece of musical deliciousness…It’s a beautiful piece of non-classic Broadway songwriting, that floats and swirls like an wonderful aroma. The harmonies and the melodies are just plain delectable…When that timer rang that this inventive pie of a show was done, I can only tell you how delicious it all was.”

8- Notes from the Field

“The detail and depth of this dissertation is epic and powerful. To whittle this piece down to a few sentences feels like a disservice to her, and to us…The expanse and detail of the topic is mind blowing and emotional…These powerful messages Smith serves will stay with you long after leaving the theatre. She wakes us up and preaches to us in a way that is subtle and stimulating. Tears will come.”

7- Ride the Cyclone

“I loved every minute of it, and will tell everyone I meet to go see this exciting, crazy musical…Directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell with a sharp witty sense of fun and dark sincerity, it’s a marvelously clever set-up, rich in ghoulish bravado and weirdness…This show is a macabre amusement park ride masking as a brilliant musical, one that I hope will find its way to Broadway.”

6-Othello 

“Craig gives a wonderfully engaging performance, worthy of the hype and the movie star excitement surrounding this production. The rest of the casting is fascinating and diverse, heaving with masculinity and intensity…In Gold’s creation, this ‘Othello’ powers through, as if on a military charge against the enemy. Its energy is exhilarating. The power lies in the snippets of humanity that weaves their way through.”

5- Sunday in the Park with George

“Gyllenhaal was spectacular in the role. Devastatingly good right from the beginning. Such an impressive performance especially knowing how little rehearsal time they all had, and who knew his voice had that power and range?…Ashford took a bit more convincing at the beginning…But quickly, I was forced to give in to her…Musically gorgeous thanks to Music Director Chris Fenwick, this production succeeds marvelously, even in its simple staging.”

4- Heisenberg

“Stephens is doing what appears to be the thing he is most brilliant at: creating two characters, flawed and difficult, engaging (but sometimes disengaging) in a one-on-one dialogue that is as complex in its emotionality as it is in its simplicity of words…Parker is exceptional in making Georgie so layered that we are instantly taken. And Arndt shows a quiet yet powerful dignity in his depiction of this surprising man…Both Parker and Arndt fit perfectly into the skins of their characters.”

3- She Loves Me

“There is a whole lotta love to be found at Studio 54 these days in the absolutely charming revival of ‘She Loves Me‘…Directed by Ellis is an impeccable supporting cast of pros. There isn’t a sour note in the lot…It’s a beautifully crafted and written show, a bit old-fashioned, but with some surprisingly modern twists and turns…The show reminds us what it is like to fall in love, but beyond that, it reminds me of the beginning of my love affair with theatre in general. ”

Unreachable

Amanda Drew (Anastasia), Jonjo O’Neill (The Brute) and Richard Pyros (Carl) in Unreachable, written and directed by Anthony Neilson @ Royal Court tristram@tristramkenton.com

2- Unreachable

” It’s like a hilarious slap in the face, and in many ways, that is the best description one could give Unreachable, the new play by experimental writer and director Anthony Nielson, starring Dr Who’s Matt Smith…. It was like watching one of those segments from the Carol Burnett Show when Tim Conway could and did crack everyone else up with his improved stories (https://youtu.be/3qqE_WmagjY). O’Neill is on fire, and the rest of the cast tries to keep up with the craziness, and it’s a joy to behold…The play feels like it’s under construction, and in a constant state of flux (and I mean that as a compliment)…what a night of theatre it is. And I wouldn’t want to change a thing, unless he can rewrite it and make it better”

1- Dear Evan Hansen

“‘Dear Evan Hansen‘ has not lost any of its power and tension. It soars with an intense beauty that still captures our hearts and plays havoc with it all at the same time…Not much has changed with ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ beyond a tightening of its components. Visually it’s as perfect and awe-inspiring as it was Off-Broadway. Maybe even more so…I’m not sure if I will ever feel completely content with the final moments, but all in all, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ delivers us a deeply felt rich story.”

So there you have it, my top 20. Share with me yours, or the ones you think I missed.

And here’s to what 2017 will bring. In the first week I’ll be seeing The Present with Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh, which was my #1 on the shows I’m most excited to see –

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

Stephen Schwartz To Be Inducted into The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame

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Legendary Award Winning Broadway and Movie Music Composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) will be inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) on Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 at 7pm.

There will also be concert emceed by Musician Paul Shaffer (from the David Letterman Show) who worked with Schwartz early in his career.

Schwartz has won 4 Grammys and 3 Oscars among other awards in his career that spans over 50 years both on Broadway and on the silver screen. Additionally, Schwartz has contributed music and lyrics to several movies such as “Pocahontas” (1995), “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), “The Prince of Egypt” (1998), and “Enchanted” (2007).He was also involved with the upcoming feature film adaptation of Wicked to be released in the fall.

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Broadway

Ani DiFranco and Lola Tung Join Hadestown

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The Tony and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical Hadestown is currently stars Grammy Award winner Ani DiFranco as Persephone singing “Our Lady Of The Underground”.

 Lola Tung (“The Summer I Turned Pretty”) as Eurydice, Jordan Fisher (Dear Evan Hansen, Grease: Live,) as Orpheus here singing “All I’ve Ever Known”.

Grammy Award nominee Phillip Boykin as Hades, and Tony Award winner Lillias White as Hermes.

They are joined by Belén Moyano, Kay Trinidad, and Brit West as the Fates. The chorus of Workers is played by Emily Afton, Malcolm Armwood, Chibueze Ihuoma, Alex Puette, and Grace Yoo. The cast includes swings Sojourner Brown, Brandon Cameron, Tara Jackson, Max Kumangai, Alex Lugo, and Tanner Ray Wilson.

Hadestown originated as Anaïs Mitchell’s indie theater project that toured Vermont which she then turned into an acclaimed album. With Rachel Chavkin, her artistic collaborator, Hadestown has been transformed into a genre-defying new musical that blends modern American folk music with New Orleans-inspired jazz to reimagine a sweeping ancient tale.

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Broadway

Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents Goes Live With Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane

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Photo of Bonnie Comley, Stewart F. Lane and Suzanna Bowling

“Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is a new show that is filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. We will run the video on our site every Thursday and then it moves onto the podcast networks.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Broadway royalty and longtime married couple Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane. We talk about the Palace Theatre, Broadway HD and so much more.

We were also so excited because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

I am so grateful to my guests Bonnie and Stewart for joining me. Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Edison Hotel for their kindness and hospitality.

We hope to see you there on February 21st for our guests the creator of Times Square and Hampton Fashion Week Dee Rivera, Celebrity hairstylist Samantha Smoker and Fashion Designer Shani Grosz.

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Book Reviews

Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley

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I am so pleased to announce our guests for Valentine’s Day are Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, the founders of BroadwayHD.com, an online streaming service on a mission to promote and preserve live theatre, extending the reach of Broadway and Broadway-caliber shows to anyone, anywhere. BroadwayHD currently has a catalog of over 300 full-length stage plays and musicals available for streaming on demand, so when you can’t get to Broadway, go to BroadwayHD on your tv, phone, or tablet!

Mr. Lane and Ms. Comley have collectively produced over 40 films and 45 Broadway shows, garnering nine Tony Awards and another 14 Tony nominations. They have also won Olivier Awards, Drama Desk, Drama
League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for their stage productions. Lane has co-owned Broadway’s famous Palace Theater for almost 40 years.

The theater community has honored the couple for their philanthropic work, including The Actors Fund Medal of Honor, The Drama League Special Contribution to the Theater Award, The Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons, and The Theater Museum Distinguished Service Award. The stage at Boston University’s new theater center is named in their honor, as is the Music Theater Program. The Musical Theater Society Room bears their name at Emerson College, and the 500-seat theater at the University
of Massachusetts Lowell is known as the Comley Lane Theater. Lane is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award at Boston University, and Comley is Distinguished Alumni of both Emerson College and UMass Lowell.

Mr. Lane is a theater historian and playwright and has written the critically acclaimed “Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way” (Square One Publishers), “Jews on Broadway” (McFarland Publishers), “Let’s Put on a Show” (Working Arts Library), and the plays “In The Wings (published in spring 2008 by Hal Leonard), “If It Was Easy” (published by Performing Books and nominated for Best New Play by the American Theatre Critics Association), and the musical “Back Home Again” (with music
and lyrics by John Denver) which he was awarded The 2011 John Denver Spirit Award for his work.

“Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is a new show that will be filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here.

Originally our guest was Maury Yeston, but he had to reschedule. He will be our guest at a later date, however Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, our guests for Valentine’s Day could not be more perfect. They are the epitome or Love and Broadway.

See you at The Edison Hotel.

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Broadway

Chita Will Be Honored As Lights Dim

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Broadway will dim its marquee lights to honor the two-time Tony-winning star of the original West Side Story Chita Rivera. This iconic star died January 30 at the age of 91.

The dimming of Broadway marquees will occur for the traditional one minute on Saturday, February 17 at 7:45 p.m./ET.

“Chita Rivera was Broadway royalty, and we will miss her with all our hearts,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League. “For nearly seven decades she enthralled generations of audiences with her spellbinding performances and iconic roles. The triple threat actor, singer, and dancer leaves behind an incredible legacy of work for which she was honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.”

Rivera’s Broadway career began in 1950 with Guys and Dolls. Her signature role came in 1957 when she played the original “Anita” in West Side Story. Other Broadway credits include Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, The Visit and The Rink. She was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning for The Rink in 1984 and Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993. She received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.

We give you the talented Ken Fallin’s drawing of Chita in The Visit.

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