2015 Theatre in Review

I made it. It was looking bleak for a while, but I managed to get to the theatre a quartet of occasions this year. You see, that’s my annual goal…four. Pretty modest, I think, especially considering my younger days when I would visit a dozen, or more. But I turned 50 this past October, and I’ve been a father for nearly eleven years, plus I’ve reviewed film for a national radio program for over 15 months. Times have changed for me, and scheduling of new theatre is tough. But I finally got to Broadway on August 15th, at the urging of a friend, who had a particular show in mind. It ended up being one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen. One down. In, late October, as a birthday present to myself, I attended the Broadway debut of one of my favorite film actresses. Halfway there…and then I was determined. Why not make life a little easier, and give some regional theatre a try? Pre-Thanksgiving, a short 15-minute drive from my home…and I’m one away. A suddenly available December date, for a quick trip to Union Square for an Off-Broadway staple…and fruition is reached. So, I pulled it off. I expect it to be easier this coming year, but 2015 was a bit of a struggle. Figured I had to inform you that it took some doing. So now, the breakdown:

Hamilton on Broadway, are there any superlatives left, regarding this classic example of American Musical theatre? It slayed them Off-Broadway early in the year. It moved to the big stage by summer. It has a boatload of awards already, plus it’s expected to continue that success at the 2016 Tonys, and it may even grab the Pulitzer Prize for Drama before that. Lin-Manuel Miranda is the genius behind this masterwork, and the critics and the audiences adore it. As tough as it is to get tickets for this giant, I intend to revisit it in the coming year. One of my three favorite musicals EVER.

Therese Raquin on Broadway was a dark ride, and a difficult one. But I ate it up. Sex, obsession, murder, betrayal…and a freaking river RIGHT ON THE STAGE. Yup, real water, and three of the show’s lead actors end up in the drink. Necessary? Maybe not. But what a visual. And the Broadway debut of the beautiful and talented Keira Knightley was so exciting for one patron at the first preview, that he had to be restrained and led out by security, after loudly proposing to the actress when the show began, and trying to give her a bundle of flowers. Welcome to New York, Keira.

39 Steps Off-Broadway is a show that has pleased audiences on both sides of the Atlantic for nearly a decade. It played on the Great White Way years back, then mounted a successful Off-Broadway revival this year. It’s fun and it’s frantic, and is a rousing spoof of one of the best British Hitchcock films–perhaps the best. 4 terrific actors playing over 100 speaking roles, with two men in particular carrying the bulk of the work. I did find the timing to be slightly off at the performance I attended, but the show still worked. Try to catch it soon, before it goes dark next month.

Annapurna at the Radburn Players of Fairlawn, was my experiment. It’s community theatre, so you know there’s not much of a production budget. The space used has a myriad of limitations. Plus, there were plenty of other things I could nitpick too. But I refuse to do that. I enjoyed my evening. It was only 15 dollars for the show, I admired the hard work of the actors, and I even ran into an old acting colleague that I hadn’t seen in 30 years. You see, I’m a former actor myself. I cut my teeth in regional shows just like this one. These things can’t match the Big Apple. But there can still be some magic, right down the street from your home.

So, there you go, a little taste of 2015 theatre. 2016 seems promising too, with Saoirse Ronan making HER Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, and a possible revisit to “Hamilton”. I’ve even had a talk with my 2011 “Sleep No More” partner, suggesting another go at it, five years since the initial encounter. Yes, that planned six-week run is coming up on half a decade. Of course, you can find ALL full reviews of the shows mentioned right here on the blog, as well as a cast album review for “Hamilton”. It’ll be ALL movies talked about here for the next two months, but, as of now, a reminder that theatre has always been a part of this too. See you on the boards in 2016!



2 comments on “2015 Theatre in Review

  1. A terrific quartet of shows Mark, with Hamilton as the jewel in the crown.
    Keep an eye on the shows presented at Paper Mill Playhouse – a slice of Broadway in your home state.
    Eagerly anticipating your coverage of Oscar movies in the coming weeks.
    Happy New Year!

    • I’m pretty certain I’ve never been to the Paper Mill Playhouse, Simon! Can you believe it? MAYBE as a kid. And I’ve lived in New Jersey my entire life! Crazy. Oscar coverage on the way! And thank you for your consistent support. Looking forward to your fortnight in 2016!


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