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.
The Richard Rodgers Theatre is not The Cotton Club; its performers should not be similarly cowed. As Garrison Keillor sung in his definitive song about Newt Gingrich: “Artists always have the final say.”
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.
We were lucky to get the cast we have, 17 performers, many of whom have carried previous shows on their own…there has never been such a qualified musical cast in Central New York.
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.
On cue, I stepped onto the historic Stanley stage. Butterflies rose up…I could do this. I’d taped a few cheats to my handheld microphone – keywords for lines I tended to mix up. I never looked at them.
Sarah brought a striking reality to her key scenes. She introduced an element of danger, the sense that what was happening on stage had real consequences – something was at stake…I have to think others in the audience shared my sense – before everyone sung Happy Birthday during the bows, there was a subtle gasp from the audience when it was announced that Sarah was celebrating her 16th birthday.
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…
At one point during the show, Sarah crossed through the dividing curtain and bumped into a tall black man. “I just need to go to the other side of the stage,” she said. “OK,” he replied. About that same time, Leon’s manager Bill Dustin reported that rapper 50 Cent had walked by. “Hey,” Bill said. “Hi,” Fiddy said. Leon was furious that Bill hadn’t told everyone sooner. Sarah: “I thought he was a security guard.”
Please, brothers and sisters. Have some self-respect. What message is sent when the stagehands come out to bow? “Oh, there’s the people who couldn’t get into the show. Poor dears. Clap for them, Harold.” It’s embarrassing.