DIVA TALK: The Best of 2013

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27 Dec 2013

Fantasia Barrino
Fantasia Barrino
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Hello, diva lovers! This week's column offers a backward glance at the year that will soon come to an end. This year's "best of" list includes favorite musicals and/or musical performances on the theatrical and concert stages in Manhattan. I'm thankful I was able to catch so many wonderful performances, and I hope the year to come brings even more memorable ones. Wishing you all much joy and peace in 2014.

THE BEST OF 2013 (in alphabetical order)

Fantasia Barrino in After Midnight
Loyal watchers of "American Idol" know that Fantasia Barrino was a rarity among the show's competitors – a singer who connected deeply to her lyrics; in fact, her teary-eyed rendition of “Summertime” remains one of the standout performances in the history of the FOX TV competition. In the new, critically acclaimed revue After Midnight at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Barrino similarly shines, delivering each of her four numbers superbly: a zesty “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” a passionate but restrained "Stormy Weather," a show-stopping “Zaz Zuh Zaz” and a joyful “Sunny Side of the Street.” I left the theatre hoping Barrino will someday treat us to an entire concert of standards and showtunes.

Betty Buckley in Signature Songs
If Betty Buckley was looking for a new concert act to tour the country, she need look no further. Betty Buckley: Signature Songs, which the Tony-winning actress presented Sept. 30 to a sold-out crowd at Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre, was a perfect evening of song and story. The Texas native needn't change a thing: not one word, sung or spoken. Read the complete review here.

Rachel Bay Jones
photo by Joan Marcus

Rachel Bay Jones in Pippin
Simply put, Rachel Bay Jones’ performance in the Tony-winning revival of Pippin is the kind that keeps me a fan of the musical theatre. There is not one dishonest moment in her entire performance as Catherine, Pippin’s second-act love interest. Jones is quirky, funny, charming, disarmingly real and wholly touching. My only complaint: I wish she had the chance to deliver all of “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man” – the verse she does get to sing is one of the gems of this thrilling revival. PS: I had the chance to recently revisit the Diane Paulus-directed production, and Jones was even more sublime the second time.

Judy Kuhn
How great it was to have Judy Kuhn back this season in not one, but two terrific productions: Classic Stage Company’s revival of Passion and the Public Theater’s staging of the new Jeanine Tesori-Lisa Kron musical Fun Home, a coming-of-age story concerning a young girl who realizes both she and her father are gay. Kuhn brought dimension and her rich, throbbing tones to the role of the ill-fated Fosca, and in Fun Home she was equally compelling, delivering the evening's most melodic tune, “Days and Days and Days,” with such honesty; in fact, when she tells her daughter Alison to not waste her days as she did, it may have been the musical's most moving moment.


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