Three-time Tony nominee Marc Kudisch is back on Broadway in Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society, Schenkkan’s companion piece to the Tony-winning All the Way. Kudisch, who plays Richard R. Daley in the production at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, is a three-time Tony nominee for his performances in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and 9 to 5, and his other Broadway credits include Finding Neverland, Hand to God, The Apple Tree, Assassins (Drama Desk nomination), Bells Are Ringing, the Public Theater production of The Wild Party, The Scarlet Pimpernel, High Society, Beauty and the Beast, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
We recently asked Kudisch to pen a list of his most memorable theatregoing experiences. Kudisch explained, “Gotta say, it’s not usually individual actors for me, it’s more the whole experience. The ensemble.”
The Janet McTeer-Owen Teale 1997 revival of A Doll’s House, co-starring a radiant Jan Maxwell. The entire cast, clearly under the direction of Anthony Page, delivered the most authentically felt Doll’s House I’d ever seen. It was mesmerizing and completely alive from word one to word done.
It destroyed me, again from word one. Again, a stunning performance by the ensemble troupe, stunning direction by Rebecca Taichman, a beautiful and simple design. It epitomized the power of what we do as theatre artists, the thing film and television cannot; it brought a community together to celebrate and to grieve.
La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera
Willy Decker’s German expressionist La Traviata at the Met Opera two seasons ago. As much as I love Verdi, I’ve never been a great fan of this particular piece, until this glorious and visceral production. And the acting was magnificent, in both sung and spoken phrases. Having an abstract environment gave the actors extra power for their emotional realism. It was honestly one of the best ensemble performances I’ve ever experienced.
Into the Woods Tour
The full, original touring company of Into the Woods. Saw it in Ft. Lauderdale, where I’m from, the first Broadway-caliber show I ever saw. Many members had been original cast members on Broadway, including my friend Chuck Wagner as Cinderella’s Prince, and I was amazed. It was a lesson in tag-team witticism. At the end of the show, James Lapine and Sondheim walked out onstage to thank the audience for helping launch the tour. It made me want to move to NYC and do theatre like that. With people like that.
1989. A total of 16 performances before closing. Directed and created by the brilliant Graciela Daniele, I was one of the lucky few to see this incredible ensemble of dancing actors in a remarkable duet of dance plays. It made me aware of how important, how powerful, how intimate physical language can be, both on the stage and in life.
Was at the final dress. The opening sequence alone was enough to win over the entire Broadway community. Julie Taymor’s stunning use of puppetry and Garth Hagan’s staging and movement through the audience to the stage was thoroughly tear-jerking. They had me at “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba.”
Graciela Daniele’s opening was a show in itself. The musical staging of the opening was a lesson in how the use of body language is as much storytelling as any words, and when words, choreography, and music are put together in the right way, you can teach a hundred years of history in five minutes. And, that cast was one of the best to ever walk the stage together.
One of the best partnerships I’ve ever had the chance to see onstage was the Steve Martin/Robin Williams Waiting for Godot at Lincoln Center. A limited run, one of the first shows I saw when I moved to NYC. Their energies were so different; Williams manic and Martin subdued and aloof. And they were brilliant together. Two comic geniuses playing in the ultimate sandbox of existentialism, under the direction of Mike Nichols. And the rest of the cast—Bill Irwin, Lukas Haas, and F. Murray Abraham...depression was never so inspiring...
Cirque du Soleil’s O
Perhaps the greatest stage show I’ve ever seen, the one show that truly inspired me more than any other, was Cirque du Soleil’s O in Las Vegas. The beauty of the acrobats, the technical wonder of the use of water, and most importantly the storyline threaded by the silent Russian clowns....not a word spoken, and yet some of the most powerful moments I’ve ever witnessed on a stage.
Lastly, as for a specific performance, I’ve been lucky to experience the talents of so many from the audience, from onstage and from in the wings. That said, the one actor that continues to inspire me is Shannon Lewis. As a featured dancer in almost a dozen Broadway shows, she was unparalleled; when in movement, the best actor I’ve seen, the most focused and specific. And now, as a choreographer, even more so. Not that I’m biased...