Playbill Poll: Top Theatre Experiences of 1997 -- Part 2

News   Playbill Poll: Top Theatre Experiences of 1997 -- Part 2
The season of Top 10 lists is upon us. As in previous years, Playbill On Line invites theatregoers everywhere to write their own Top 10 lists, or Top 5, or even the single most memorable theatre-related experience of the calendar year 1997.

The season of Top 10 lists is upon us. As in previous years, Playbill On Line invites theatregoers everywhere to write their own Top 10 lists, or Top 5, or even the single most memorable theatre-related experience of the calendar year 1997.

Here is the second part of the results. Additional files will be posted daily through New Year's. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write.

From Alan Kornheiser:
Let's keep it simple; A QUESTION OF MERCY, at the New York Theatre Workshop, was the overwhelming theatrical experience of the year. David Rabe, working with (or from) an essay by Dr Richard Selzer, created a simple piece of magic. Impeccably acted and produced, a play whose every twist you knew before hand became an edge of the seat experience. This was tragedy: the end predetermined, the path inevitable but fought over every step. This was catharsis: energy building and building until it burst. This was what we go to the theater for.
Was there other stuff worth seeing? Of course there was other stuff worth seeing. A production of Tom Stoppard's ROUGH CROSSING at the Pearl was hysterical. BAM's production of ELSINORE gave unique insight into why Hamlet is a tragedy and not a story of bad choices. TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, imported from England by the Theatre for a New Audience, reminded us that there are no minor Shakespearean plays. (And why it is dangerous to play any scene with either children or animals on the stage.) David Ives gave us more 1-act chaos than anyone could hope for. But only one play I saw deserved to stand as a lasting monument for what it means to live in the dying days of this millennium; all honor to A QUESTION OF MERCY.

From Lindsay Ribar, New Jersey:
Well, I'll start by stating that the most memorable theatrical experience I've had this year was:
-- The Scarlet Pimpernel. Everything about this show was simply amazing! Baroness Orczy's story, Frank Wildhorn's music, Nan Knighton's lyrics, the sets and costumes, and of course the cast -- especially Douglas Sills. His is the single most amazing performance I have ever seen in my life. I mean, you just sort of felt a little 'something' every time he walked onto the stage -- there's no other way to describe it. (If you don't like mushiness, don't read on.) I literally felt like I was melting every time he sang! It's not too often a voice as powerful as that can be heard on Broadway... the only 'live' performer I've seen who can be compared to him in any way is probably Davis Gaines... which brings me to another very memorable experiences:
-- Whistle Down the Wind at the National Theatre in Washington DC... Andrew Lloyd-Webber's best yet, in my opinion! It obviously needed a bit of technical work, but all in all, it was astounding. You were drawn into the story so much by the actors and the music and everything... I was very surprised that it didn't make it to Broadway this season.
-- Phantom of the Opera... this has been a favourite of mine for a long time, and it still remains #3 on my top ten all-time faves list. When I saw it in May though, I admit I was a little disappointed. Maybe I'd just caught it on a bad day -- two understudies for lead characters (the Raoul wasn't too wonderful, but Rita Harvey was excellent as Christine), the sound system was a bit messed up, and Tom O'Leary was obviously not at his best. It didn't help that I was standing in the back of the orchestra, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I had when I saw it in Dec '95 with Davis Gaines.
-- Jekyll & Hyde... not exactly a very moving piece, but one that definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. Amazing music (although the lyrics could be better) and all-around fantastic performances from all the leads and non-leads -- especially Linda Eder!
-- Cats... this was the 5th time I'd seen it, and like 'that guy' in the commercial, it just gets better every time! The cast is definitely still motivated (yep, after 15 years, still!) and Liz Callaway is a magnificent Grizabella
-- Les Miserables... believe it or not I saw this for my first time in March, 4 days before the 10th anniversary concert. I was not by any means disappointed with the production -- in fact, it was a good deal better than I'd expected! But there were a few members of the cast who could've done more with their roles. Robert Marien as JVJ though was absolutely amazing -- another stellar performance.
-- Miss Saigon... very similar to Les Miz... same composer and everything... same feel to it... I was crying throughout the whole thing almost!
-- Once Upon a Mattress... I'm surprised this show didn't get more attention, because it was wonderful! Nothing was overdone, it was a lovely night of entertainment... and of course Sarah Jessica Parker just stole the show as Princess Winifred
-- Candide... altogether a good show, although it could've been better. Sure, not much beats Leonard Bernstein's music, but the whole show was a bit overdone. The cast (esp. Jim Dale, Jason Danieley, and Andrea Martin) was terrific.
Methinks that was only 9, so I'll add Broadway on Broadway '97! What can ya say?!

From Peteshen:
My top pick... In other words, In my humble opinion I think Jekyll & HYDE was excellent. Robert [Cuccioli] was absolutely fabulous in his role as Jekyll/Hyde and Linda Eder (my all-time favorite singer) was spectacular in her role as Lucy.
Robert's voice is extremely vibrant and alive. He makes you feel all his words shudder throughout your body as if the song were really a physical sensation rather than music.
Linda's singing is... I guess the best way to describe it is spine-tingling. Her words are an experience in themselves. Her magnanimously powerful voice echoes thru the hearts and souls of all those who call themselves "Jekkies."

From Jettison Christopher:
I couldn't help but to respond to your invitation to write about a show I saw this year.
It was a show I saw today at the Saenger in New Orleans. It was a show I saw only this afternoon.
What I saw today spoke not just to my mind and my heart. It spoke to my soul. I did not just SEE this show. I FELT it.
From my seat in the balcony, the world became confined to the actors on your stage. The rest of the world disappeared. The Phantom of the Opera spoke to my heart and called me to cry tears into the darkness, shout Thank You for the brilliance, hang my head & breathe deeply for the tragedy, and be humbled by the professional perfection in it's delivery.
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA spoke so deeply to me that I feel transformed by the experience. Within minutes of its start and for nearly an hour thereafter, such an emotion came over me that I didn't at times think I would or could remain composed. And in the moment it brought tears, it would put them away with a touch of laughter.
For a moment I trusted THE PHANTOM and its players with my emotions.
Before the next moment could be accounted for, THE PHANTOM HAD FOUND MY EMOTIONS.
Turned and Returned my emotions;
Having kept only some of my breath.
And with a breath that it took, a little from each of us, THE PHANTOM came alive and lived transcendent of the actors, stage, props and audience. THE PHANTOM did talk walk, and sing. THE PHANTOM did scream shout and cry.
I will never forget it. I will never forget what I felt. I can not. Today we breathed life into one another. Today I became part of the life of THE PHANTOM...and THE PHANTOM became part of the life in me.
Thank You For A LifeTime

From Yagqueen:
1) Far and above anything else, I did the overnight b-way Chicago 20 dollar line for ann reinking's last show. After a terrifying night of being threatened by scalpers, my two friends and I received the last three front row seats. Never have I had a more amazing theatrical experience, the highlight of which being Reinking joining Bebe in I Can't Do It Alone. Also, it was the first b-way show my friends had seen besides Rent.
2) This summer I saw a small production of The Last Session at the Currican theater during which I laughed and cried more than any other show I have seen. The show has since moved to the 47th street theater with a few rewrites and is even better now than it was before. This was proof beyond proof that most of the better productions occur off-broadway, rather than on =).
3)I was in San Diego this summer and besides seeing Ragtime, I did the famous 'Rent line' in La Jolla. It surprised me because the entire staff of the theater seemed to loved these kids sleeping out overnight. The entire cast was wonderful, both on stage and off. I finally totally realized what the message of the show really was, despite seeing it many times in NYC. Jonathan's soul really shone through the material rather than being fully dependent on a good cast to perform it.
4) During previews for the Life, I randomly got a first row cancellation seat in the morning for a matinee show. Getting to see the ultimate diva, Lilias White, up close and personal was something I'll never forget, having already seen her in Once on this Island, Cats, and H2$.
5) Finally a good friend of mine was cast in a professional production - in the ensemble for Children of Eden at the Paper Mill Playhouse (which I incidentally saw three times) and she will also be on the cast album. For anyone who saw it, she was the female unicorn.

From: Michael A. Son:
Number One: watching the last preview of titanic (April 20, 1997)
I hated the show. I always told my relatives that the show was not worth it and it was only for adults who would appreciate such a typical and traditional musical. Well, at the night of June 1, I ate my words and was surprised over the success of Titanic.
Number Two: watching the 1997 Tony Awards
I love Bernadette Peters and I actually saw her! It was my dream come true!!!

From DotSeurat1:
The revival of 1776 had to be the best production I've seen- not just this year, but in years! I had such a wonderful experience as an audience member- I actually felt as if I was a part of the show. It was so involving. I was sitting on the edge of my seat with suspense!! I rarely have experiences like that in the theater, where I get so wrapped up in it and actually find myself wanting to intervene somehow! I think in one word I would call it '"rousing."
The music just boomed and the performances were so memorable. When I walk out of a theater feeling so...high (for lack of a better, truly descriptive and fitting word), I know that I've seen what theater is meant to be. You should walk out of that building changed in some way. And that's what happened to me. I was never a fan of the show, but the entire production just grabbed me from the second it started and changed my mind completely. It was absolutely exciting!

From Jeremy M. Boegel:
I do not have favorite musicals of just one year. My top 10 last the past 15 years. Take a look:
10) THE WHO"S TOMMY-1993-The Who's fantastic rock opera is brought to the stage.
9) VICTOR/VICTORIA-1995-Academy Award winner Julie Andrews reprises her screen role in one of the sexiest and hilarious musicals ever to hit B'way.
8) BEAUTY & THE BEAST-1994-Disney hits B'way for the first time with their Academy Award winning flick remade for the stage.
7) JEROME ROBBINS' BROADWAY-1989-Tony-winning Director/Choreographer Jerome Robbins brings back all of his dance hits from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, WEST SIDE STORY, THE KING AND I, and many more.
6) CHICAGO-Revival 1996-Kander & Ebb's fabulous musical revived fantastically with Tony-winners Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, and James Naughton.
5) CATS-1982-Andrew Lloyd Webber sets T.S. Eliot poetry to music with an purr- fect cast.
4) MISS SAIGON-1991-Filipino newcomer Lea Salonga wins a Tony for her heartwarming portrayal of a Vietnamese girl searching for her long lost love.
3) RENT-1995-The late Jonathan Larson makes a modern day turn on the great opera LA BOHEME.
2) THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA-1988-Andrew Lloyd Webber makes a musical statement about love in an Opera House.
1) LES MISERABLES-1987-Victor Hugo's epic novel is turned into a stunning epic musical.

From Gotz2Dance:
#1 My best theatre production that I was in was my High School production of "Anything Goes" I got the part of Bonnie Latour the flirty assistant to Moonface Martin. Not only did the whole cast become a big family.....but a lot of people we never talked to before became our best friends....we worked together and the production was an encore presentation and was voted the best production our HIgh school has done!
#2 Another great experience was in 6th grade our class took a trip to see CATS on Broadway. I had always wanted to see a broadway play and this was my chance. I could not wait to go. The first time I saw a cat I was in awe. Not only did I love the music, but as a dancer it was great to see professional dancers. I will never forget the felling that came over me.

From Pollydg:
The Scarlet Pimpernel, playing at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway is fabulous. My family and I enjoyed the show for many reasons.
The casts voices are awesome along with Frank Wildhorn's music. There is a wide variety of music in The Scarlet Pimpernel, enhancing your interest in the show. You will leave the show humming and singing the music for quite some time after.
Douglas Sills, Terrence Mann and Christine Andreas are the three leads in the show and all are very well suited to their roles. Mr. Sills will keep you in stitches for most of the show along with straight MANN who always keeps his cool. And for the romance, Ms. Andreas. The entire cast is incredible. You can tell that everyone gives it their best with each performance.
The show has comedy, drama, suspense and most of all a great cast and crew. When you leave the theatre, you are feeling good. The show is definitely worth seeing and definitely worth a spot in the TOP 10!

From Jack Sugrue:
Please consider my experience on seeing (or trying to see) "Chicago" as part of your postings for the most memorable experiences of the year.
For a birthday gift, I purchased my partner tickets to see Chicago not long after it opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. I went to the box office during a December, 1996 business trip to NYC and asked for the best seats on a Sunday matinee during the month of January, and the box office attendant sold me three tickets for the last Sunday in the month.
I gave the tickets to David, and he was insightful enough to give one of his tickets to me, and asked another friend to join us. We went to New York on the day of the show (we live in Philadelphia) and after a wonderful brunch, we went to the theater to discover an angry mob had gathered about the box office. The troop of "Chicago" was in Washington to perform for the President's Inauguration, we were told, and therefore there would be no performance that day. And since the production was moving to the Shubert in a few weeks, replacement tickets could not be purchased. Refunds were being granted at the box office.
Well, David took the incident with a mixture of good humor and grace, however I was both angry and disappointed. I contacted the Chicago Limited Partnership by letter, and explained what had happened and how disappointed we all were by what had happened. Imagine my surprise when I received a return letter, saying that they were embarrassed by the error and gave me a number to call to secure house seats for any matinee performance in March or April for the same price I had paid for the canceled show.
I quickly called, and made plans to see "Chicago" in mid-March. The tickets, I was told, would be at the "will-call" window. The day before the show, I called to confirm the seats, and I was assured that everything was in place.
Of COURSE, when I arrived at the box office at 12:30PM (for the 2:00 performance), the tickets were no where to be seen. And, that performance had been sold out for weeks. Bill, the box office attendant, made several phone calls and finally gave me a phone number to call. It was the office of NAMCO. The woman who answered the phone, Angela, agreed that the error was theirs -- the tickets should have been at the box office -- but they could do nothing to get us into the 2:00 PM show.
But, she said, they could get us seats for that evening's performance. She invited us to have lunch in New York, dinner in New York and do whatever we wanted while we were in the city -- but keep the receipts! When we had had our day in New York, I returned to the box office to meet theater manager Michael Gill, who reimbursed us for ALL our expenses and handed us comp tickets for sixth row center!
The show was, of course, spectacular. But the real razzle-dazzle was provided by a very responsive and responsible staff at NAMCO and the Shubert Theatre staff.
While it took a while to get to "Chicago", the trip was definitely worth it!

From: Christina D'Angelo:
The top ten that I saw in 1997 are;
Gross Indecency
The Lion King
The Life
Side Show
The Diary of Anne Frank Bunny Bunny
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Cyrano De Bergerac Always...Patsy Cline

From Jonathan:
Elaine Paige as Norma Desmond: The reason a person goes to theatre ...Glenn who? Betty who? Petula what?
Jekyll & Hyde: Vocal and acting kudos all 'round
Stonewall Jackson's House: It was like looking in a mirror and being forced to see all the nasty little truths about ourselves. One the most original and thought-provoking theatre experiences of my life.
Discovering that Off-Broadway often surpasses Broadway in originality and talent
1)Robert Cuccioli losing a Tony Award to James Naughton (in addition to the Jekyll/Hyde snub ) - do the nominators and voters even go to these shows?
2) Seeing The Life (a bad musical version of Huggie Bear meets Boogie Nights) and Steel Pier (marginally better, musically even more of a snooze and wasted talent - did these people ever see Carousel or They Shoot Horses?) in the same week
3) Going to see Chicago and having Bebe and Anne out sick, only to buy a second set of tickets only to have them out again plus struggling to get front row seats NOT knowing the orchestra was on stage, and therefore not being able to see anything but dancers crotches (which I suppose could be worse).
4) Most painful eardrum experience: The barker in Side Show. Most unanswered or acknowledged curiosity: Side Show - How did they go to the bathroom (did they side by side toilets or did one have to sit on air while the other went to the bathroom?)? What did they do when they wanted to be alone or fought? What were their sexual experiences like? Was separation ever an option? Did they have to sleep at the same time? When one was in physical pain, did the other one feel it? If one was an over-eater would the other get fat as well? ..and many other questions that people really wanted answers to...
5) Buying two front row tickets to the 10 year anniversary of Phantom based on the date typed in New York Magazine...only to find it was the wrong date....(now I'm stuck seeing the show for the 17th time with no good reason/excuse...
6)Being screwed out of my Theatre Week subscription...
7) and easily the worse experience by far was having to accept the fact that Sunset Boulevard was closing
Ahhh, I feel much better.

From Shannon
Let me just start out by saying that my first trip to NYC was in April, and I was able to experience my FIRST Broadway show.....CHICAGO!!!!!! I loved it.. My favorite number was the "Cell Block Tango" the dancing was amazing....granted, the "stars" were fantastic, but there was just something about those chorus numbers that kept my eyes glued.
I just can't describe how I felt sitting in that theatre...I wanted to be up on that stage...Who knows...maybe someday I will..
I also got to see a WONDERFUL play....."STANLEY". The acting in this was just spectacular....It is really interesting to watch British actors. Not saying that American actors aren't just as good.....definitely NOT implying that...It was just that every performance was just so SOLID & so FOCUSED..not to mention that the script itself was phenomenal.
I don't know, I could go on and on about both of these shows...But I guess the point I am trying to make is what a great experience it was to finally go to NYC, and see a Broadway show..It just makes me happy when I see such amazing talent (both the actors and the writing), and it's being RECOGNIZED!!!!
I JUST LOVE THE THEATRE!!!!!!!!!!!!! smile

From DYDirect:
1. Alice Ripley's performance in Side Show
2. Emily Skinner's performance in Side Show
3. Jeff McCarthy, Hugh Panaro, and Norm Lewis performances in Side Show
4. Gregory Jbara in Chicago
5. Titanic
6. Titanic winning so many Tony's
7. Triumph of Love closing
8. Rachel York in Victor/Victoria
9. Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back!
10. Did I mention Side Show?

From Michael Mackey:
My best theatrical experience during 1997 came just last week when I had the opportunity to see the Cleveland Playhouse Production of "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE." I have always been a big fan of the movie and was thrilled when I found out that the Playhouse in Cleveland was going to be putting on a musical production of the show. I really enjoyed the show. It stayed true to the movie and the songs were both touching and humorous. The show made me laugh and cry, but the emotions that the show was able to trigger is not solely what made this night at the theater more memorable than any other night I had spent in a theater throughout 1997. It was my great fortune that on the night that I saw, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE," Sheldon Harnick the writer of the books and lyrics to this show was in the theater to watch the performance. I became a fan of Sheldon Harnick about three years when I got to play the part of Motel in a production of "FIDDLER ON THE ROOF" which he wrote the lyrics to, so I was quite surprised when I looked to the right and saw him sitting eleven seats away from me. After the show he was standing alone by the door to the theater and I was able meet him and able to shake the hand of one of my heros. He is truly a nice man, and he gave me a night that I will never forget. Of all the nights I have spent in a theater thus far and of all the nights to come that I will spend in a theater, the night I met Sheldon Harnick while watching one of his shows will no doubt continue to stand out from the rest.
2. TITANIC: The first show I saw on Broadway
3. RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL ROCKETTES: Those girls can really kick their legs
4. CAROUSEL: One of my favourite shows
5. HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING: Kept me laughing all night, and I just want to see them perform the song BROTHERHOOD OF MAN over and over again.
6. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: A dream of mine came true while watching the show.

From RDye103426:
1. The Phantom of the Opera**********:) smile Best musical in the history of theatre!!
2. Rent**********:)
3. Les Mis********
4. Chicago******
5. Jekyll and Hyde******
6. The Life
7. Cats
8. Miss Saigon :(
9. Titanic (Don't really care for it at all!! :(
10. Beauty and the Beast :(

My list of memorable shows for 1997: "Steel Pier", "1776", "Side Show", "The Scarlet Pimpernel", "When Pigs Fly", "Titanic", "Scapin", "Triumph of Love", "Jekyll & Hyde", "Ragtime" (L.A.).

From Harper Strom:
1.The Life-Ethyl Barrymore Theatre{NYC}
2.Chicago:The Musical-Shubert Theatre{NYC}
3.Rent-Nederlander Theatre{NYC}
4.Show Boat-Atlanta Civic Center{Touring Cast #3}
5.Chicago:The Musical-Fox Theatre{Atlanta-Touring Cast}
6.The Phantom of the Opera-Fox Theatre{Atlanta-Touring Cast}
7.Beauty and the Beast-Palace Theatre{NYC}
8.Cirque du Soleil-Santimbanco{PBS}
I hope to add "The Lion King"(on B-way) and "Cabaret"(at the Club Expo) to this list next year!

Log in Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 1 for more Top Ten's from Playbill On-Line members!

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