As Judas, Brandon Victor Dixon was simply fantastic. The only capable actor among the principals, Dixon sang beautifully, interpreting the material instead of painting by numbers. He brought unpredictability and riveting vitality to the production, and made it seem effortless. He pulled me to my feet several times, my internal 16 year-old pumping his fist and lip-syncing with the TV.
A high school musical is a kind of miracle. Hundreds of people come together and work furiously for a few weeks to create something that didn’t exist before. Theater kids get it done.
My favorite moments in theater are when I’ve been caught off guard by a performance, or was surprised to love a piece I hadn’t expected to. Director Nick Abounader and company pulled off something close to theatrical alchemy with their recent production at Players of Utica, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: the ensemble was so in sync with the material and each other that the whole thing became gloriously more than its parts.
The single best performance I watched in 2016 was Sarah’s, but don’t tell her. It wasn’t polished, for god’s sake, but it had an immediacy that knocked me, and lots of other people, off our feet.
80s pop music depends on studio embellishment for its sound – the Footloose songs just don’t have the bones of The Who’s Tommy…The band had plenty of talent, but the sound was thin and rhythms awkward, often out of synch with the performers.
Lucas Hnath’s The Christians is a messy, near-masterpiece. Although Syracuse Stage’s production of the work falls short in a few ways, it stirs the audience to discomfort (intellectual pot-stirring being a noble theatrical aspiration.) It’s their best show this season.
Award lists always say more about the writer or the awarding committee than the subjects of the awards themselves. They are always limited – nobody sees everything, and what is seen might have been affected by an off night, a bad seat, a bad mood. None of which means we shouldn’t take a moment to celebrate our favorites. And so…
The piece’s themes are interesting – guilt, revenge, submission, and how all are mixed into lust and love. Although Japanese representations of those can seem kinky/bizarre, they are truer to real human emotional lives than most Western depictions, which value bland propriety above all else (think Hallmark).
It turns out that adapting a dud, winking and nudging the audience the whole time, is a more satisfying recipe than adding music to old TV shows or dumb movie comedies. Sure, it’s a jukebox musical, that artistically dubious form, but the players are in on the joke (with dozens more where that came from.)
Barbara Pratt mesmerized a packed house last night with a tour de force performance of William Luce’s one-woman play The Belle of Amherst.