We recently asked Forbidden creator-writer-director Alessandrini, who is the recipient of a Drama League Lifetime Achievement Award and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre, to pen a list of his most memorable theatregoing experiences. His choices follow.
Glynis Johns in A Little Night Music
Christopher Plummer in Cyrano (1973 musical)
Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! (1994 revival)
Kenneth Branagh in Henry V
Cherry Jones in Doubt
Nora Mae Lyng in Forbidden Broadway
Nora Mae Lyng was a true comic genius in every sense. She had a singular mixture of glamour and crassness that was startling and hysterical. Perfect for parody. I have never seen or encountered an actress with better comic timing. She also had a forceful and incredibly high belt voice that even surpassed Ethel Merman! Don’t forget, her unique star qualities launched Forbidden Broadway into being the longest-running revue of all time. It was her talent and persona that inspired me to create and write FB, and even today I think of her talents when I am writing a new number.
Brian Stokes Mitchell in Ragtime
His star quality, dramatic acting skill, and beautiful voice made Coalhouse Walker Jr. come to life with a tremendous force and unsurpassed power. In Ragtime, he had formidable stage presence and dignity. He also has a great humanity that comes through in all his work, but most beautifully in the fine musical version of Ragtime. He was magnificent and emotionally moving.
Brian Bedford in The School for Wives
In the 1970’s, Brian Bedford made quite a stir with his Molière performances. His School for Wives was joyfully funny and miraculously witty. Mr. Bedford’s impish and mischievous quality was perfect for the smooth, foxy story and perfect for this Richard Wilbur translation of Molière. In fact, Mr. Wilbur’s rhyming couplets made my lyric-writing heart rejoice. But it was Mr. Bedford’s perfect and ingenious performance that made it all so memorable.
Charles Busch in The Divine Sister
Charles is not only a great comedian but has the heart, mind, and talent equal to any of the greatest female stars of the 20th century. In The Divine Sister, his wit and fabulous writing was unbelievably funny, yet when he incorporated into this show the recognition scene from the play Anastasia, he was more touching and brilliant than Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar-winning performance! I hear his next upcoming role is even better. Also, Julie Halston’s brilliant performance in this and everything else is a great “best,” too!
Bernadette Peters in Follies
When Ms. Peters took on the role of Sally in the last Broadway revival of Follies, it clarified so much for me about the role as it’s written. She seemed to be truly “Losing Her Mind.” It was a courageous choice, and that is what a great performance is all about, isn’t it? Daring and thrilling choices! Ms. Peters’ voice also sublimely fit Sondheim’s great songs for Sally, performed with abandon and great depth. It was the best thing I’ve ever seen her do…and that’s impressive!
Five great performances that would be on the above list if I had seen them…
Angela Lansbury as Mame
Richard Burton in Camelot
Pearl Bailey in Hello, Dolly!
Alfred Drake in Kismet
Ethel Merman in Gypsy