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 fifth 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 Sandy Lu
Without a doubt, Jekyll & Hyde is the most wonderful theater experience of my life! I have never been so moved before by any performance. This show made me want to learn more about musicals in general. The staging, lighting, costumes, story lines, and music are all very well put-together. The electrifying performance of Robert Cuccioli is so stunning that it shows me how great acting skills and vocal abilities alone can completely transform the character on stage. Christiane Noll's and Linda Eder's beautiful voices also touched my heart dearly. The whole ensemble is terrific. With this show playing on Broadway, I feel so proud to be a New Yorker!
SIDE SHOW - I saw the show the week after it opened and was in awe of the beauty, passion and love that has been put into this show. I left the theatre feeling I had been a part of the twins lives. I was afraid the Original Cast Recording would be a let-down, I am so glad it wasn't. I am reliving every moment of the show from the time the house lights went down and the cast took their place on the bleachers to the stunning moment in the Tunnel of Love and the beautifully staged Private Conversations.
Never have I seen a show and felt that the recording captured the emotion behind the characters like this one. Alice, Emily, Jeff, Hugh and Norm have voices that pierce your heart and reach out to you. The ensemble has a nice tight sound that is controlled and never out of control... When was the last time you understood 95% of the words without looking at the words? I guarantee you this recording is the best produced in a very long time! Go see the show if you haven't already...
From Jonathan Hunt (email@example.com):
1. BETTY BUCKLEY in concert with San Francisco Pops. Second row center seats. Diva Lover's Paradise! After Bernadette, Patti, and now Betty the past three years, who will they get next year?
2. KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN at Theatreworks. What can I say! Francis Jue and company made me like a show I virtually detested on CD.
3. INTO THE WOODS at UVSC. Having experienced the OBC, OLC, and the video, I didn't warm up to this show until seeing this college production while on vacation. Go figure.
4. FACE THE MUSIC and LOUISIANA PURCHASE at 42nd St Moon. Excellent concert productions of a pair of neglected Irving Berlin gems.
5. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, a travelling San Francisco Shakespeare Festival production. Very nicely done.
6. CHITA AND ALL THAT JAZZ at the Golden Gate Theatre. Panned by the critics. Saw the first preview at half price. Worth it to see a living legend even if the show was uneven.
7. LEA SALONGA in concert at the Masonic Auditorium. My BIGGEST disappointment. Filipino choir and chorale performed first act; Lea sang in the second, but all songs were in Tagalog with the exception of three theatre songs (which were heavenly), but THREE songs for fifty dollars . . .
8. AND THE WORLD GOES ROUND at Playhouse West. Kander and Ebb revue done very professionally in tiny theatre.
9. MY FAIR LADY and HAY FEVER. I had a friend in these community theatre productions. Both very good.
10. BABES IN ARMS. Youth theatre. Rare opportunity to see this Rodgers and Hart show.
10. Lypsinka is Harriett Craig- Funny, funny, funny! A wonderful vehicle for Lypsinka and Varla Jean Merman. If you missed it, shame on you. It was a riot!
9. Triumph of Love- This was the most underrated show of the year. It got lots of bad reviews, but the night I went, the audience was having a great time. Susan Egan was wonderful and really got to show her stuff as she kept switching her identities. The costumes and scenery were beautiful, and Betty Buckley stopped the show.
8. The Diary of Anne Frank- This show draws you in before you realize it, and once its got you, you are hooked. Natalie Portman is appropriately giggly and the rest of the cast also shines. The last 10 minutes will keep you from sleeping tonight. It is chilling.
7. Play On!- Why did this close so early? It was so good. Play on was clever and funny, the music was great and the actors were excellent. It deserved a much longer life.
6. The Cider House Rules Parts I&II- I saw this production in Seattle. Each part is four hours and there are about twenty actors playing over 90 characters. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever seen. A moving and stylized dramatization of a wonderful book.
5. As Bees in Honey Drown- Wonderfully constructed! J. Smith Cameron is fabulous. This play really confronts the question, What is the price of fame? The supporting cast is great. Also, directed by Mark Brokaw.
4. The Lion King- To quote the papers, it really was unlike anything I had ever seen. Although I thought that the book and lyrics left a lot to be desired, the chorus wonderful, and the staging and costumes were unbelievable.
3. How I Learned to Drive- I saw the original cast, and was blown away. The play deals with some very difficult issues and never lets up. I know several people who had to leave during the performance. Paula Vogel has crafted a magnetic "Lolita"ish story and Mark Brokaw is my new favorite director.
2. The Life- I went into the life and expected to be disappointed, but I found myself cheering the performers, and drawn into the story. Lilias White and Pamela Isaacs are two of the most talented women on Broadway right now.
1. Neat by Charlayne Woodard- I saw this production twice in Seattle, and it was thrilling. Charlayne held a packed house of over 800 on the edge of our seats for over two hours. She is a fabulous actress and amazing storyteller. Neat was simply the best.
My vote for 1997 Best of the Year, goes to The Life. Every aspect of this production, from the Cy Coleman score to the performance of the original cast made this a must see. Of the many shows I saw in 1997, The Life was number one on my list.
From Stacey Mac Kinnon:
1. "Jackie" - I literally laughed for the entire two and a half hours. The script was UN-believable!! I loved how they (casts, playwright, etc..) were able to make a comedy centered around the former first lady, yet still let the character keep her dignity. Margaret Colin in the role is a gem - very well- cast!! Her timing, grace, humor, inflection, and "look" is just perfect for the part. Ms. Colin is just one of my favorite people, and I was just about to melt watching her perform. I met her after the show, and it was the best ten minutes of my life!!
2. Seeing "Chicago" from the front row - such an amazing show! The dancing is wonderful, and it has a great energy. I was one of the few people who saw Ann Reinking and then saw Marilu and actually gave the girl her due - she IS a great performer, and looks like she is having a blast on stage, which is very important for the audience to recognize.
3. "The Diary of Anne Frank" - what a talented young girl Natalie Portman is! It was so emotional and sad, but I was VERY impressed.
4. A community production of "The Musical Comedy Murders of the 1940s." The cast was the most animated that I have ever seen. The antics and farcical elements of the show were consistent throughout, and the lighting and set was impressive.
5. I got to see my Dramatic Technique professor perform in a comedy act called "Faust U" which was made up of scenes that parodied different aspects of life...and Florida, believe it or not (performed there).
My top 5 list is as follows because I don't live in NYC and haven't seen 10 shows this year. Anyway here goes:
1. Jekyll and Hyde
2. Side Show
5. Forbidden Broadway
I have lots of reasons why I like these shows but I will try to condense my thoughts. First and foremost, Jekyll and Hyde is my favorite simply because as soon as it was over I wanted to turn right back around and go back into the theater and see it again. Everything about it was phenomenal, however, Robert Cuccioli was simply too great for words. Also, Linda Eder is fantastic. I loved Side Show for three reasons, Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley ( they sing beautifully together) and Norm Lewis (WHAT A TALENT!!!). Chicago was great because it's classic Broadway musical theater to me. Great script, great songs, and great dancing. Barrymore goes without saying. The opportunity to see Christopher Plummer was beyond belief. And finally, because I love to laugh, I choose Forbidden Broadway. The performers in that show are talented and it was hysterical. I really don't think I stopped laughing except for the intermission.
My top five are:
1-Titanic. This show deserved EVERY Tony is got in June. It's incredible, I can't describe how much I enjoyed it. Honorable mentions: a-The Queen Victoria Clark who played Alice Beane and is the nicest lady on the GWW. She is the best Smitty and rocks the world! b-Brian d'Arcy James, whose voice is just awesome. c-Michael Cerveris, who is the best ship's architect. d-Melissa Bell as the bellboy. She was FUNNIER than Mara Stephens ( sorry Mara! ). e-Martin Moran--dit dit da dit dot dit, no one can play Harold Bride like him. f-Clark Thorell as the hot Jim Farrell, he's absolutely gorgeous!
2- Side Show. This show is awesome!!! Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner ROCK as Daisy and Violet. They both have the awesomest voices ( Emily wins over Alice in my book, even though Alice is the only Betty Schaefer ) and are incredible actresses. Ken Jennings made me cower in my seat as the ringmaster.
3- Scarlet Pimpernel- Guillotines, guys with swords in weirdo costumes, these are the highlights of this awesome musical that replaced the closed Sunset Blvd. I loved Scarlet, full of action and wonderful songs. I will like to mention the following: a-Terrence Mann as Chauvlein. He is absolutely fabulous! A true villain. b-Gilles Chiasson as Armand St. Just. He's just too awesome.
4- Steel Pier. This show was so short lived, but it was so awesome. I love these sorts of stories, that's the first thing. Second thing, the music was wonderful, and Karen Ziemba rocked as Rita Racine.
5- The Last Night of Ballyhoo. I'm only a young 'un, but I loved this show all the same. It's dramatic, it's funny, it's a must see. It deserved the Tony for best play--Dana Ivey and Celia Weston deserved it too. They were great!
From TW in NYC:
My absolute favorite performances of 1997: 1. Side Show - Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner are absolutely astounding!! I think it's devastating that most of the public is missing this one completely because of the bad PR work. The music and the performances are unbeatable, despite the mediocre lyric work on some songs.
2. Triumph of Love - with Michele Pawk as standby for BB. I'm sorry for those die hard Betty fans, but Michele is the best Broadway performer I've ever seen! I hope she gets something worthy of her talents soon.
3. Chicago (Okay, it's '96) - but it's still sharp and classy.
From Erin L. Haines, Pittsburgh, PA:
5. Seeing my first opera, Carmen, at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh.
4. That moment when the entire B'way cast of Chicago stops during "All That Jazz" and they simply twirl their right index fingers. (Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton were sublime in the show I saw, even though I was in the very back row up in the balcony)
3. Robert Cuccioli during the Confrontation in Jekyll & Hyde. You had a picture of it up on the front page. His talent is beyond comparison.
2. Being able to see the OBC of RENT in June minus Idina Menzel (didn't matter, Kristen Lee Kelly was excellent) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (sorry, Marcy don't cut the butter). I had agreed to come with a friend, and had no expectations whatsoever. I knew it had won a Tony and would be nice to see. I was (and still am) in awe. During intermission I couldn't move, I was breathless and couldn't wait for the curtain to go up (OK, there's no curtain, but I couldn't think of a better expression).
1. Since June becoming a bona-fide RENThead. It's simple messages have changed the way I live. It sounds stupid, and that's what I thought when a friend of mine told me Forrest Gump brought her out of a depression. There are just certain works of art that celebrate life and the human condition in a way that make you believe. I have since seen the Angel tour three times, twice in the front row, once SRO (second to last performance in DC). I'm planning a trek to Toronto in three weeks, and I will continue to feed my little addiction until RENT is gone from the touring circuit all together. Of course, by the then the movie will be out, and I can feed my habit everyday for a lifetime.
1- Neil Simon's Proposals (Neil Simon's comical and poignant look at adolescence, love, family and the tribulations of finding your true self. Neil Simon always comes out with a winner, this play for example, is no exception. Great sets, superb acting. Honorable mention: L. Scott Caldwell, Reg Rogers, Peter Rini, Matt Letscher, Dick Latessa, Katie Finneran, Mel Winkler, Kelly Bishop, Suzanne Cryer....Forgive me, that's the entire cast!)
2- Side Show - (The lives of vaudevillian acts, Daisy and Violet Hilton - Score by Henry Krieger is beyond undescribable. Acting by Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley, Hugh Panaro, Jeff McCarthy and Norm Lewis are heart- wrenching. The show takes several emotion twists and turns....But it's message of being content with who you are, could not have been presented in a more unique and effective fashion.
(I am pressed for time, so without further adieu, I must list the other 8, with no summary...)
3- Last Night of Ballyhoo (again)
6- The Old Neighborhood
8- Lion King
9- Always....Patsy Cline
10- Chicago (again)
From Francois Trudel:
Even if I live in Montreal Canada, I travel to New York every three months for a weekend of Broadway shows. Of the 10+ shows I have seen this year, my top three are as follows:
3) SIDE SHOW: this surprise hit was extremely powerful, especially because of the two leading ladies. It is unfortunate that the show will be closing soon.
2) THE LIFE: Cy Coleman's musical about the life in 1980's Times Square. The performers were very strong and I truly enjoyed the signing and dancing.
1) Finally, my #1 show this year is JEKYLL and HYDE. This moving piece of theatre had a strong score (I have been listening to the CD for three months now) and a stellar cast lead by Robert C. and Linda Eder. The song 'This is the moment' is my best time at the theatre this year. I am happy the show is a hit even though the critics did not like it.
One deception: TRIUMPH OF LOVE, maybe because Betty Buckley was NOT there that evening.
One thing I had to see regardless of the cost: LIZA MINNELLI replacing Julie Andrews in V/V last January. The excitement in the audience was worth the price of the airplane ticket.
My first shows of 1998 will be THE CAPEMAN and THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD.
Best Shows of the Year:
1.- THE LION KING -- Technically it is the best production I have ever seen. The score is one of the best and of course the opening number "Circle of life" is just breathtaking. Although I would have liked better vocals, it deserves number one.
2.- Titanic -- These people have managed to take a very popular part of history and transformed it to a very beautifully made musical masterpiece with a very involving story. This one has to be one the list.
3.- Chicago -- Great dancing, very pleasant music and a story that is very intriguing as well (although illogical at parts). Great back up singers.
4.- Cats -- The best choreography ever made in a musical in my opinion. Outstanding cast and a scenery to explore. I hope this one never goes the Heaviside Layer.
5.- Rent -- Where do they get so many talented young actors? I saw it for the first time in March and i have gone twice since then. Awesome score and a story that makes you feel as a close friend to any one of the characters. Number five!
Worst Shows of the Year:
2.- The Life -- One of the worst things I have ever seen. The music is very inappropriate and very interesting. All there is a few good performances, other then that, nothing. If you are thinking of seeing this one, go see the Phantom. Hey it's been on for so many years for a reason.
3.- Beauty and the Beast -- Nice costumes, nothing more.
4.- The Scarlet Pimpernel -- (yawn). . . . . . . . . . . oh! This was a Broadway production?
10. The airing of CINDERELLA on T.V. Although the production was flawed in many ways it proved that there is still hope in bringing quality musical theater pieces to those who do not have the Broadway circuit at their finger tips. It also yielded some inspired performances (in my opinion) especially by Bernadette Peters and Veanne Cox. It was great seeing these New York actresses on television.
9. ....Which brings me to EVITA ( the movie). I choose this for the same reasons as above. I am a great admirer of the film and applaud the creative team for having the balls to put this up. I hope it has open the window for Producers to bring us more movie Musicals.
8. CHICAGO. I was blown away and completely enthralled with this revival. It goes down as one of the best productions I have ever seen. I really have nothing to say but "Bravo".
7. I had the opportunity to go to THE GYPSY OF THE YEAR awards ceremony for the first time this year. It was an amazing event to raise money for BC/EFA. It was great to be among the Broadway community in such a giving open atmosphere. It was a moving experience.
6. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. I list this as one of the most moving pieces of theater I have ever seen. I was in love with the production and casting of this great play. Natalie Portman won me over and I found myself in tears at the end of the production.
5. A DOLL'S HOUSE. Easily ranked among my All Time Top Five theatrical Experiences of all time (along with "The Heiress", "An Inspector Calls", "Angels in America" and "Rent"). Janet McTeer....all said.
4. SIDE SHOW. This very flawed piece took my heart right away and I have developed such a fondness for it. (Perhaps because of it's recent troubles.) I feel that it holds one of the best scores of recent history. It is beautifully acted (In a period where acting has taken a back seat to vocal power) and is directed with much class. I hope it can pull through. It will truly become a great Theatrical tragedy should it close.
3. I was able to attend THE TONY AWARDS this year for the first time. I was so happy I actually cried while I was there. Enough said?
2. I had the opportunity to audition for The Public Theater/ NY Shakespeare Festival Production of ON THE TOWN. I actually got to meet one of my "all time"mentors, George C. Wolfe. I had to audition for him 4 times. The last time I had to read and sing for Betty Comden and Adolph Green. After shaking their hands I thought, "OK, even if I don't get this, I've met these amazing people.....Nothing can take that away."
1. My top Theatrical Experience? I got the role of "Chip" in ON THE TOWN and DID get the opportunity to continue the relationship with these and many other phenomenal performers.
#1 Seeing Deborah Gibson (My favorite) as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast"
#2 Hearing Linda Eder and Christiane Noll sing "In His Eye's" in Jekyll and Hyde"
#3 Hearing Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner sing ANYTHING in "Side Show"
#4 Alix Korey in "Triumph of Love"
WORST SHOW OF THE SEASON- "Titanic"
10. Seeing RENT for the fourth time. Hugging a complete stranger sitting next to me during "Will I?"
9. Meeting dance God Savion Glover following a performance of NOISE/FUNK... then learning about his tragic battle with drugs later that week.
8. The first 1/2 of the Tony Awards!
7. The LES MIZ "let's fire the entire cast" fiasco. Why LES MIZ? The most stagnant show on Broadway is MISS SAIGON...
6. The Roundabout's delicious production of 1776. Has anyone ever sung "Mama Look Sharp" or "Molasses to Rum" better than in this production?
5. Playbill On-Line picking up Peter Filichia and Ken Mandelbaum after the untimely collapse of TheatreWeek.
4. Julie Taymor!
3. Every single interview on Charlie Rose.
2. Collin County Community College's Quad C Theatre! This amazing two-year college produces some of the most exciting theatre in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Brilliant revivals of such challenging scripts as THE HEIRESS, BURIED CHILD, Emily Mann's docu drama STILL LIFE, along with crowd-pleasers like YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU. Hey, Dallas theatre-goers... the Quad C Theatre rocks! Call the box office at 972.881.5809 for information about the exciting 1998 theatre season! (Ok, OK, enough of the shameless self-promotion...!)
1. Losing my good friend Rick Farwick to AIDS on 5 May 1997. God bless you, Rick.
From Erin Leder:
Hello, my name is Erin Leder. I am 17...and an aspiring actress. I love everything having to do with theatre; there's nothing like it in the world. I have here my top 10 list of live theatre shows: I hope you enjoy!
1.) "Chicago" on Broadway. WOW!!! What can I say...pure brilliance. Bebe Neuwirth is THE most talented performer I have ever had the pleasure of viewing first hand. She has so many facets (is that spelled right? hmmm...). There's nothing she not capable of doing. She was the highlight of the show for me. But that's not saying that the other performers weren't spectacular as well...because they were. The combination of music dancing and singing awed me...and I was shaking so much after the performance, I had to sit for a bit. (Shaking means the show really affected me...and that it was sooooooooooooooooooooo good). My dream is to be up there entertaining people one day. I'm hoping that "one day" isn't too far away. I'd like it to be tomorrow...awwww, a girl can wish can't she?
2.) "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philly, PA. Not only is this play hysterical, the production itself was amazing! When I went, I was having a really bad day...a little depressed and all that good stuff. I laughed my way through the whole play. What an afternoon. I would literally give my right arm just to go and see that same show with those same people again.
3.) "Arsenic and Old Lace" at the Edward T. O'Malley Auditorium at Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown, NJ. I attend this school and I was in this production. I played the part of Abby Brewster...what fun! The play is great, and I believe that we put on an excellent show. We all got laughs...and that's theeeee best thrill. I feel that the stage is my home; I'm so comfortable there. For my part, I had to put white powder in my hair and put some wrinkles on my face...I even bought some knee-high pantyhose and wore one up and pushed the other down towards my ankle. Heehee...
4.) "Titanic" on Broadway. I was really surprised by this show. I didn't expect it to be much of anything actually. The entire show was very well done. The set was amazing and the acting very, very good. And, the most surprising was the music. It was very emotional and very inspiring. I liked how it really made you feel...my opinion is that if you can't feel for the story or the characters in it, there's no point in you being there. I know a show is good when I can feel my heart pouring out to the people on stage...and if I'm shaking at the end (as I said before).
5.) "The Heidi Chronicles" at the Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ. This show was really very good for a school. All the people in it were superbly cast. I just really got into the whole story and was very impressed by the talent and obvious dedication and work everyone involved put into the entire thing.
Weeeeell...I could continue this list, but i have a problem with coming up with enough with the right adjectives to describe things. There's half my list though. I hope that you were enjoyed. In another opinion of mine, I think that anyone with the guts to perform or write or direct deserves great credit for their achievement...because that in itself is one.
10. Side Show. A show I'm hoping will not close, the two girls who play the twins are unbelievable.
9. Triumph of Love. I love Susan Egan's voice and was so happy to see her in a new musical. Betty Buckley is just awesome.
8.Beauty and the Beast. It's great to see that many of the original people are still in my favorite show. Deborah Gibson was also a great addition.
7.Steel Pier. I was a little upset at the closing of the show. I thought the dancing was great and the actors and actresses did a great job.
6. Lion King. Great job by director, writer and costume designer. What a great job. It's a great addition to Broadway.
5.Scarlet Pimpernel. Two words: Terrence Mann. My fave actor is doing a great job portraying Chauvelin. The show is great
4. Jekyll and Hyde. How does Robert Cucciolli do it day after day? It's a great performance. Exhausting too.
3. Titanic. I haven't seen it yet, but I LOVE the music. I was one of those people who was hoping it wouldn't close before the Tony's.
2. Chicago. Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking made the show. Along with James Naughton and Joel Gray. Unbelievable revival. Marilu Henner is also doing a great job but is no Ann Reinking.
1. Terrence Mann. I got the pleasure of meeting Terrence Mann on December 13, 1997. It had to be one of the greatest days of my life. I am very excited. And I will never forget it.
From Diane Terrusa:
For me my most memorable theatre experience this year was seeing TITANIC at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. I, like most theatre goers was very suspicious about how good a musical about a sinking ship could be. I was in shock half way through the first act when i realized how much i was loving this show. The performances were some of the best I have ever seen on B'way and the music was amazingly beautiful! It is by far this years best musical.
A close second would have to be the revival of CHICAGO at The Shubert Theatre. amazing performances were turned in by all cast members and the staging was wonderful!
From J. Andrew Jones:
8. King David (but only because of Judy Kuhn's incredible performance - she needs a show to call her own)
7. Jekyll and Hyde
6. The Life
5. Les Miserables (I like the show, but was VERY disappointed in the "New" cast replacements in March)
4. Phantom of the Opera - Thomas O'Leary was great and Adrienne McEwan (Christine on Mon, Tues and Thurs) is far better than any Christine since Rebecca Luker, Patti Cohenour and Sarah Brightman
3. Chicago - the score is GREAT!
2. Chicago - The Dancing/Choreography is phenomenal
1. Chicago - Bebe Neuwirth ROCKS and brings the House down.
1. State Fair (National Tour)
2. The Diary Of Anne Frank
4. 42nd Street
5. Annie (Pre-Broadway Run)
7. Annie Get Your Gun
8. Crazy For You
9. A Christmas Carol
10. Makin' Whoopee!
Log in Jan. 1 for more Top Ten's from Playbill On-Line members!