We asked members of the CT Critics Circle to talk what production of a play or musical they remember best..” Below are the edited responses
Karen Isaacs: So many to choose from. High on the list would be the original cast of Camelot and The Boy From Oz with Hugh Jackman – the show isn’t great BUT his performance was and the energy was electric. The City Center’s Encores production of Chicago, which went to Broadway was another amazing show. Plus, Come from Away. In Connecticut, high on the list would be A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at Hartford Stage. Plays are even harder, Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons, Brian Dennehy’s performance in A Death of a Salesman, and the production of Skylight with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan.
Tom Holehan: Both on Broadway, the original production A Chorus Line will always stay with me but Lily Tomlin’s one-woman show, The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe, simply blew me away with its artistry, in both the writing and performance, along with a magnificent sound design.
Stuart Brown: Unfair question. I will cheat and give you a list. The one unifying reason each of these shows made my list is because they were mesmerizing, whether in their dramatic execution or comedic hijinks, their perfect casting, melodious score, memorable performances or razz-ma-tazz, show stopping production numbers. My Top 5, in alphabetical order: Plays – Deathtrap, God of Carnage, Sleuth, Stepping Out, War Horse. Musicals – Anything Goes (1987 Lincoln Center production), Come From Away, Enter Laughing (original 2008 York Theatre production), Grease (original 1972 production), and The Producers.
Frank Rizzo: A Chorus Line when it opened at the off-Broadway intimate Public Theater. The show was so innovative, fresh and raw. It stunned because for years so many Broadway musicals were about the underdog who triumphs — played by a big box office star. Suddenly, audiences’ perspectives were changed and the show forced us to look at the seemingly anonymous people behind the star, who had stories to tell, too, and were “stars” in their own right. It was the ultimate democratic musical, which slipped the American musical to its essence. After I was over I couldn’t; leave my seat. I just sat there with tears in my eyes, knowing that I had just seemed theater history.
Bessy Reyna: Hard to pick one but Quixote Nuevo at Hartford Stage in the Fall of 2019 was something so brilliantly created and acted it’s hard to forget. I tried to buy tickets to see it again but every show was sold out
Nancy Sasso Janis: I loved the tour of The Play That Goes Wrong because it was so very funny and the technical aspects. It’s like Noises Off on steroids and proves Murphy’s Law, the facetious proposition that if something can go wrong, it will, often at the worst time. I enjoyed every minute of the two acts and did not stop laughing. I suppose it qualifies as a classic murder mystery, but it is delightfully overshadowed by theatrical mishaps and madcap mania that a non-stop and hysterical. A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream I will NEVER forget this musical. It was at Newtown High School by 1214 Foundation, composed especially for this cast by the talented Eric Svejcar (Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. published by MTI.) The book and the lyrics remain William Shakespeare’s words that were adapted and added to by Mr. Unger. Co producer was the Broadway producer of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Big Fish, Van Dean.
Bonnie K. Goldberg: Hartford Stage has the dubious distinction of offering up my favorite musical Anastasia and one of the worst shows I have ever had the misfortune to attend Pearls for Pigs. Fortunately Anastasia was spun sugar magic, spinning the tale of a Russian princess whose family is murdered and her journey to discover her true identity. The costumes, music, actors, and scenery with outstanding projections were all tied up in a beautiful bow of delight and it went on to Broadway. Crowns and tiaras off to this fairy tale of a show.
Tim Leininger: The play I remember best is probably Hartford Stage’s A Christmas Carol, because I was a part of the stage crew twice. I know most of the show inside and out. It’s an unfair advantage, I know, but having watched the show from the wings probably 70 odd times at least, it sticks with you. The musical I remember best is Chicago on Broadway, because I’ve seen it so many times. It was a show that my employer in New York got free tickets to frequently, and I also did a short stint as a volunteer chaperoning school groups for special school performances and seminars that took students to see the show as well. Neither of these are memorable because they were any more special than other theater that I’ve seen. It’s more of a matter of frequency than quality, though both shows are wonderful.
Zander Opper: The most incredible night I ever spent in the theater was when I saw Sweet Charity—In Concert at Lincoln Center in New York in the Spring of 1998. It was a one-night-only event that brought together five different actresses who had played Charity: Gwen Verdon (of course, the original), Chita Rivera, Debbie Allen, Donna McKechnie, and Bebe Neuwirth. All of the original Bob Fosse choreography was recreated for the concert and it featured an all-star cast, including the hilarious Whoopi Goldberg as the perfect hostess/narrator.
After the Overture, there was the entrance of Charity, posed upstage in a silhouette. As the lights came up, the audience gasped as they realized it was Chita Rivera, looking sensational. She performed the opening choreography flawlessly and started the show off on quite a high.
What followed was a full staging of the musical, with the five leading ladies acting as a sort of “tag-team” as Charity, with each of them taking turns performing the role.
The most moment in the show was Gwen Verdon performing the “closet” scene halfway through the first act. It was amazing to watch her recreate her original role.
The whole evening was unforgettable and I’ve never seen any other play or musical that compared to it. To watch those five star ladies all taking turns as Sweet Charity was breathtaking. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience.
Participants include: Stuart Brown – Dolly Curtis – Marlene G –Tom Holehan – Stratford Town Crier, WPKN-fm; Karen Isaacs – berkshiresfinearts.com, Shore Publications, 2ontheaisle.wordpress.com; Bonnie K. Goldberg -Middletown Press; Nancy Sasso Janis -onstageblog.com, Naugatuck Patch; Tim Leininger -Journal Inquirer, One Man’s Opinion; Zander Opper – www.talkinbroadway.com; Bessye Reyna Frank Rizzo – Variety, ShowRiz.com;