PLAYBILL PICKS: The Memory of All That! Playbill Contributors Choose Unforgettable Experiences of 2012

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21 Dec 2012

James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors.
Photo by Joan Marcus

BLAKE ROSS, Playbill Magazine Editor

Death of a Salesman: Director Mike Nichols was 18 in 1949 when he saw Elia Kazan's original production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. The event, he says, is credited with pointing him toward a life in the theatre. Over a half-century later, Nichols returned to the masterwork for a celebrated revival this past spring starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Linda Emond, Andrew Garfield and Finn Wittrock as the Family Loman. Nichols went on record saying the revival paid homage to Kazan's vision: recreating Alex North's original compositions for the haunting incidental music, designer Jo Mielziner's sets, and even some of Kazan's staging. When I saw it in March 2012 at the Barrymore it was almost like going decades back in time to the Morosco Theatre and witnessing theatrical history. In those first few moments when Hoffman shuffles toward the Loman house — in a rumpled suit, cases in hand, shoulders collapsed forward — I immediately recognized the iconic image from the '49 Playbill cover. Was is it a coincidence or was it Nichols' meticulous direction? I'd like to believe the latter.

Water, Water Everywhere: If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, by Roundabout Theatre Company Off-Broadway, was one of those rare productions where the design concept made the entire play. Sure, I liked Nick Payne's script. And the cast led by Annie Funke and Jake Gyllenhaal was smashing. But it was scenic designer Beowulf Boritt's unbelievable use of water and a literal pool of sorrow in front of the stage that left me in awe of the production. I still can't figure out how the heck that crew cleaned up the stage every night!

Mike Daisey
photo by Stan Barouh

Daisey-Gate 2012: Mike Daisey and his now infamous fudging of facts in his critically acclaimed show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs provided weeks of fascinating debate about truth in documentary theatre. Did Daisey do a horrible disservice by making up facts? Should artistic license protect Daisey? Did the end (i.e. people caring about working conditions at a factory in China) justify the means (i.e. lying)? Either way, it created a national discourse about a piece of theatre — a rare thing nowadays.

James Corden in Broadway's One Man, Two Guvnors: My night at One Man, Two, Guvnors was one of the most delightful evenings I've had at the theatre in a long time. The entire London-based cast, including Oliver Chris, Jemima Rooper and Tony nominee Tom Edden, were wonderful! But it was James Corden's loveable loon Francis Henshall that stole the whole show — and eventually the Tony Award for Best Actor away from "sure bet" Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A Return to The Lion King: It had been over a decade since I had last seen The Lion King. I definitely felt like a kid again when I got the chance to return to the show as an adult last month. I was reminded that Julie Taymor created one of the finest opening numbers in Broadway history!


Bank your 2012 memories — and Playbill covers from your lifetime of theatregoing — at And share your favorite memories on the Playbill Facebook page and by following us on Twitter.

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