The Memory of All That: Contributors Choose Unforgettable Experiences of 2011

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30 Dec 2011

Euan Morton in <i>Parade</i>.
Euan Morton in Parade.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The Playbill staff takes a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2011.

Matt Blank, Photo Editor

Follies at the Kennedy Center. I had never seen a fully-staged professional production of the show and, with that dream cast signed up, I wasn't about to miss this chance. A Broadway transfer was still wishful thinking at that point, so it was well worth the trip to see such an emotionally powerful staging executed by an all-star roster of talent. I've been back to see it at the Marquis more times than I care to admit.

Mark Rylance's powerhouse turn in Jerusalem. I didn't think it would be possible to top his 20-minute La Bete monologue, but 3.5 hours of Johnny "Rooster" Byron accomplished exactly that. The man is a force of nature. I can't wait to see what he gives us next.

Lillias White's (literally) show-stopping performances of "The Oldest Profession" from The Life, for which she won a Tony Award. I was lucky enough to see her deliver the song twice this year: as part of the Cy Coleman revue The Best Is Yet to Come and at Town Hall's Broadway Musicals of 1997 concert. The audience erupted into a seemingly endless mid-act standing ovation both times.

A bit of regional love for a standout Guys and Dolls at Long Island's Engeman Theatre. I'm a sucker for this show to begin with and will happily travel for a good production. It was a thrilling, colorful staging in a gorgeous venue not too far a train ride from Manhattan, with spot-on perfect leading lady performances by Jessica Grové and Andréa Burns. Musical comedy gold.

The Book of Mormon. Seems an "easy" choice but it really is such a joyful, naughty, original piece of work that is very difficult not to embrace. I went in determined not to get swept up in the hype, and I failed miserably. Laughed harder than any time I can recall, and that music is still stuck in my head.

Euan Morton's breathtaking "Leo Frank" in The Ford's Theatre production of Parade. It was a treat to see the show up onstage (with post-Donmar revisions in place) and to hear Jason Robert Brown's glorious score in person. Morton was flawless both in voice and character. His Act One solo "It's Hard to Speak My Heart" stands out in particular.

Jennifer Lim and Gary Wilmes in Chinglish.
photo by Michael McCabe

Andrew Gans, Senior Editor

Chinglish: This latest offering from David Henry Hwang is part comedy, part drama, part love story and part mystery, but all wonderful. I was particularly taken with the performance of Broadway newcomer Jennifer Lim and loved the highly theatrical touches peppered throughout Leigh Silverman's production.

Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells in The Book of Mormon: I'm not sure which of these actors was funnier in The Book of Mormon, but thankfully audiences didn't have to choose. We got to see both of these actors triumph in one of the most hilarious and outrageous musical comedies in years. In fact, it's the one new production I wanted to see again as soon as the curtain came down.

Frances McDormand in Good People: The Oscar-winning "Fargo" star once again proved how wonderful she can be on stage, bringing the working class Margaret to full life, making audiences feel deeply for her plight to save her job, her daughter and, ultimately, herself.

The Normal Heart: From the moment Larry Kramer's drama began through its heart-stopping conclusion, I was completely absorbed by each and every moment on stage. In fact, it would have been hard to imagine a better ensemble of actors to bring to life this harrowing tale of the dawn of the AIDS epidemic in New York City.

Other Desert Cities: Both Off-Broadway and on.

War Horse: I had the most visceral reaction to this visually stunning work, barely able to watch the conclusion of Joey's epic journey.

For Gans' 2011 Diva picks click here.


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