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

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21 Dec 2012

Leslie Uggams and Laura Osnes in Pipe Dream.
Photo by Ari Mintz

KENNETH JONES, Playbill.com Managing Editor

Amy Herzog's The Great God Pan opened at Playwrights Horizons Off-Broadway Dec. 18, making it the last great play of 2012 (or the first great one of 2013?). In it, a thirtysomething journalist named Jamie (played by an appropriately distant Jeremy Strong) unspools when struck by newly dislodged repressed memories of possibly being the victim of sexual abuse at age five. A beautiful play about wading through the murk of your childhood in order to find clarity in your adulthood. The sensitive direction is by Carolyn Cantor. I suspect the title will be a Pulitzer Prize nominee in 2013.

Laura Osnes holding a pristine, little-known Rodgers & Hammerstein gem called "Everybody's Got a Home But Me" up to the light in the Encores! concert revival of the sub-par 1950s musical Pipe Dream. (Osnes is headed to Broadway as R&H's Cinderella in 2013.) The yearning number, preserved on a live Encores! concert cast album (visit PlaybillStore.com), is a reminder that simpler is often better in songwriting, and that even in a swamp of a show, there could be gorgeous lilies.

The entire first season of "Smash," the NBC hourlong soap-with-music created by Theresa Rebeck, with original songs by Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, was must-watch TV for its arresting musical numbers (choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, who won an Emmy for his work), its hot-mess storytelling and its sheer love of musical theatre. Though it was inconsistently plotted and filled with head-scratching dialogue and gaps in logic, you could not look away from this backstage drama, which featured an A-list cast including Christian Borle, Debra Messing. Anjelica Houston, Megan Hilty, Jack Davenport, Katharine McPhee, Brian d'Arcy James, Will Chase, Michael Cristofer and more. The first season is available on DVD soon, and a second season begins Feb. 5 (and promises to be smarter, thanks to a new story "showrunner"). Read up on Playbill's episode-by-episode recap with commentary, "The Smash Report," starting with the season-one finale.



Kate Baldwin, Katie Thompson and Mary Bacon playing Texas wives dishing — in two songs and a monologue — about middle-age blues, men, marriage and mortality in an unforgettable Act Two sequence in the restless Michael John LaChiusa-Sybille Pearson musical Giant, which closed Dec. 16 at The Public Theater. A cast album will preserve the work of the ambitious show based on Edna Ferber's sprawling novel about a married couple struggling to connect in a time of change in the Lone Star State.

Cynthia Harris in Lost in Yonkers.
photo by Stephen Kunken

Also Excellent: David Cromer's immersive staging of Nina Raine's Tribes, about a deaf son leaving the insular world of his quirky bohemian family, at Barrow Street Theatre…The gorgeous new three-venue home of Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company, the Pershing Square Signature Center on West 42nd Street...TACT/The Actors Company Theatre's Off-Broadway, Drama Desk-nominated revival of Lost in Yonkers, directed by Jenn Thompson…Clybourne Park and Porgy and Bess on Broadway (both won Tony Awards)...Anything that Anne L. Nathan is doing, but especially playing the frisky, passionate, accordion-playing Czech mama in Broadway's Once (shame on the Tony nominators for not paying better attention)…Marya Grandy, expressing heartache, sass and joy (and a crystalline voice) in the Off-Broadway revival of Closer Than Ever…The site-specific, two-character Civil War drama Amelia, set in a 19th-century gunpowder magazine on historic Governors Island (why isn't every theatre with a second-stage booking this?)…Annie Baker's translation of Uncle Vanya, brimming with modernity in a close-quarters production directed by Sam Gold at Soho Rep…Septuagenarian Tony winner Len Cariou singing Sondheim's "The Barber and His Wife," "You Must Meet My Wife" and "Pretty Women" (also Lerner and Strouse's "There's Always One You Can't Forget") in his cabaret act at 54 Below…Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, a dysfunctional-family drama about not having all the answers, by Roundabout Theatre Company Off-Broadway...Kathleen McNenny as the tender, strident, worried, supportive woman married to An Enemy of the People on Broadway...Douglas Hodge's noisy entrance in Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway, announcing himself by crashing through the 43rd Street house-right exit door of the American Airlines Theatre...Atlantic Theater Company's renovated new mainstage home Off-Broadway...Sally Wilfert, one of theatre's pure voices, at 54 Below...The deliciously acidic, pitch-pefect evening of downtown cabaret featuring Tori Scott, who (with co-conceiver Adam Hetrick) mixed wickedly funny personal adventures with affecting original songs and thematically appropriate pop tunes (more, please!)...Every moment of the glittering Golden Boy, directed by Bartlett Sher, now at the Belasco Theatre.

Continued...

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