In addition to choosing a "Ten Best" for 1996, Newsday critic Jan Stuart also listed "Five People To Watch in 1997." He picked Audra McDonald (Ragtime), Allison Janney (Present Laughter), dancer Adam Cooper (West End's staging of Swan Lake ballet, which he says is due for Broadway in `97), Harolyn Blackwell (Candide), Irene Malloy (Whistle Down The Wind).
Playbill On-Line asked members: Whose career are YOU watching and who do YOU think will be making news in 1997? Please briefly explain the reason for your choice(s).
Playbill On-Line thanks all who took the time to write:
The names in tomorrow's papers will include:
Chicago - Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, and the other women who get hired to replace them on tour.
Once Upon A Mattress - Sarah Jessica Parker, Mary Lou Rosato
V/V - Liza Minelli
Forum - Whoopi Goldberg
Whistle Down the Wind - Davis Gaines, ALW, and Hal Prince. Perhaps Irene Molloy as well.
Steel Pier - Susan Stroman, Karen Ziemba
Candide - Andrea Martin, Jason D. (sorry - forget his last name)
Jekyll & Hyde - Linda Eder
Dream - Wayne Cilento, most of the cast
Play On! - Tonya Pinkins, Carl Anderson, Cheryl Freeman, Mercedes Ellington
The new Les Mis Cast
Martin Short in the Promises, Promises concert
The next Norma, Anna, Pseudolous, and Victoria (should Andrews leave)
Ragtime - Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra MacDonald, Marin Mazzie, Lynnette Perry, Ahrens & Flaherty, Graciela Daniele, Garth Drabinsky, Terrence McNally
Jane Eyre - Anthony Crivello
The mostly male cast of 1776
Natasha Richardson and the rest of Cabaret, should it happen
Martin Short, should Little Me be revived
Rusty Magee, Charles Busch, Alison Fraser, and the rest of MTC's The Green Heart
The cast of Playwrights Horizons' Violet
That list does not necessarily show who I will be watching, just who I think will be making the news. As for straight plays, Dana Ivey, Horton Foote, Shirley Knight, Rip Torn, the future Maria Callas', Wendy Wasserstein, Adam Arkin, Stockard Channing, Frank Langella, Alison Janney, Scott Elliott, and more
Please let this be the year that marks the return of Michael Ball to Broadway! I saw him three times in PASSION in the West End in 1996 and I was astounded by the power of his voice and the level of emotion he brought to the role of Giorgio. I would have loved to have seen him in the show on Broadway with Donna Murphy - perhaps it might still be running. Whether its KING DAVID or some other new musical production worthy of his talent I will be keeping my fingers crossed that this is the year for Mr. Ball to achieve superstardom here in the States!
Without a doubt, before I read any further, I must say that Brian Stokes Mitchell tops my list. I just saw Ragtime on the weekend, and have never been so inspired by a single person's performance in a show. He just filled the entire stage with his vocal perfection and power.
In general, watch out for Ragtime, I wasn't sure what to expect, but with the dreamcast that the show has assembled, I am sure that it will give anything else that is heading to Broadway a run for its money!!!
From Todd Dowd:
1. Davis Gaines & Irene Molloy-These two stars of Whistle Down the Wind are leaving the audience breathess with their gutsy performances. I forsee tony nominations for them both.
2. Ragtime-This show has become one of my favorites. When it arrives in New York, it will be huge. This will make a star of Brian Stokes Mitchell, confirm the stardom of Marin Mazzie, and give another well deserved featured actress Tony to the always spectacular Aundra MacDonald. It will also legitimize one of the best song writing teams around, Lynn Arens & Stephen Flaherty.
3. Candide-It has never had a truly successful production. With Livenet's humongus financial support, the always wonderful work of Harold Prince, and a phenominal cast headed by Jim Dale, Andrea Martin, and Harolyn Blackwell, this new Candide may be THE definative production.
4. Jekyll & Hyde-It has a cult following that rivals and Andrew Lloyd Webber show. The big question will be hwo well does it actually work as a musical.
5. The Tony Awards-Already it looks like it's going to be a tough fight for the nominations. Considering Whistle Down the Wind and Jeckyl And Hyde open thus spring, and three gutsy musical revivals (Candide, Chicago, and Mattress) it's going to be a very interesting horse race for the Tonys.
From Dianne (email@example.com), Owosso, MI:
I think this will be the year that Sam Harris makes himself seen and heard in a big way on Broadway and possibly the pop music scene. I've been following his carreer for over 10 years and have never seen him so popular. I see nothing but growth for him in the new year!
From Ronald S. Tapkas:
#1 The brilliant career of a brilliant performer BETTY BUCKLEY. Will she return to Broadway? Any show the diva decides to accept-will be an instant Tony Award winner.Sorry Elaine...
#2 Nell Carter will "have the joint jumpin'" in the revival of ANNIE.
#3 WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND-another Tony for Andrew!!
From Brad Baker:
Who should we watch in 1997?! DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA! Unfortunately, it won't be on a theatrical stage. Having just signed with the hitmaker that "discovered" and launched such recording artists as Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, and Jewel... our country's next pop diva is definitely Ms. Rubin-Vega.
And she deserves it! What an amazing talent! A voice to die for, in a physical package that is stunning. How can she miss?
Best of luck Daphne. Your inevitable success is the theatre's loss!
From Herb Simpson (firstname.lastname@example.org):
1- Brian Stokes Mitchell will win all available awards as Coalhouse Walker in "Ragtime."
2- The combination of director/designer Julie Taymor and choreographer Garth Fagan will elevate "The Lion King" beyond the blockbuster film into art. Expect awards and much comment.
3- Edward Albee, constantly working on new plays, will release one or two as the London version of his "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" hits Broadway.
From Pamm Stadt:
1996 proved to be a year in theatre like no other. Shows such as "Rent" and "Bring In Da Noise...." have changed theatre as we know it. As for me, the one to watch for me is Daphne Rubin-Vega, who as we all know is stunning audiences as Mimi Marquez in "Rent". Although I have not yet seen the show, I have the soundtrack and listen to it constantly. The emotions that she has put into this fabulous character is absolutely overwhelming. She is just simply incredible. She makes Mimi jump out of the pages of the libretto and come to life, as if the character is a real human being. I honestly feel with her. Her deep need to find this unconditional love that the character seeks speaks to all. Ms. Rubin-Vega is all that and a bag of chips.
From Johnny Woodnal (email@example.com):
One person I would keep my eye on is Simone, currently playing Mimi in the Boston production of RENT. She is absolutely amazing to watch on stage and as an usher for the show I love watching her every night. She's exhilarating and I think she is definitely going places. She played Aida for the workshop of AIDA for Disney and also Nolla in their LION KING workshop and we all know that if Disney likes you, you're bound to make it big!
From Richard Daring (RDARING@cahners.com>) Chicago, IL:
My predictions for '97 are that shining Broadway star Lou Diamond Phillips will make the news for leaving his successful stage role in The King & I to make a disappointing and forgettable return to films, then disappear into the obscurity of straight to video movies.
On the other hand, Chicago stage star Rikki Lee Travolta (Tony n' Tina's Wedding, Noises Off) will enter the national spot light by finally deciding to make the leap to films Or, if he sticks to theater, at least he'll move on to Broadway.
Also from Chicago: while Gary Sinese is a wonderful actor, I think he'll prove too scrawny to pull off A Streetcar Named Desire for Steppenwolf Theater, and it will not move to Broadway in the tradition of Steppenwolf's Grapes of Wrath (starring Sinese) and Buried Child (directed by Sinese).
In the music field, I think New York's Adrenaline Sky is destined to be a hit. The forthcoming opera version of Streetcar Named Desire will be a critical wash, but a commercial success - bringing in new audiences to opera.
Tony Danza has been yearning to do theater for years, and keeps popping up doing song and dance numbers on awards shows. With no TV sit-com in the works, expect him to headline a tour of something light like The Goodbye Girl. Of course, if that's the case they'll have to change Elliot's name to Tony since Danza only plays characters named Tony (dating back to his "Taxi" debut when the producers changed his character's name to Tony days before the show started because he couldn't remember to react when people called him by his character's name).
Finally, James Earl Jones in the all black cast of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof will be the toast of Broadway and will run away with the Best Actor Tony.
I'll continue to keep track of Elaine Paige because I think she has the best voice I've heard in musical theatre. It is so full, rich and crisp and her range is unbelievable. Will she ever do a tour of the US?
From: George Walker:
My sleeper pick for 1997 is Kate Jennings Grant - a "newcomer" in the now-closed Applause! She was extraordinary. I look forward to seeing where she ends up next.
From Samuel Levin:
Linda Eder will take Broadway by storm in Jekyll and Hyde. her acting ability which is coupled with a powerful voice will make her a real star.
From whistle26, Brooklyn, NY:
I will be once again watching Davis Gaines. He was the Phantom but went unnoticed by many. I feel that now he's unmasked he'll shine in the spotlight and soar to new heights [in Whistle Down the Wind]. He'll finally get the recognition he deserves.
From Shevhan Brenneman (firstname.lastname@example.org), Old Greenwich, CT:
I think one of the top theater people to watch in 1997 is Brad Little, currently playing the Phantom of the Opera in the 3rd national company. Not only does Brad have the most resonant baritone I've ever heard and an incredibly flexible vocal range, but his acting talents are exceptional. In the parts of Raoul and Phantom understudy on Broadway, he was magnificent and I know a lot of people were sad to see him leave NYC. Now he is setting the tone as the definitive Phantom for fans across the U.S. in the role he was put on this earth to play. Hopefully he'll be back on Broadway in 1997 or even originating a role in 1998. This man deserves a Tony!
From Gary Mathias (email@example.com), Brooklyn, NY:
I predict that Linda Eder, who will be starring in Jekyll & Hyde will make a big splash with her performance on Broadway. Everyone who has seen her becomes an instant fan. I have seen her perform in cabaret at Westbank Cafe in New York, on tour with Jekyll and Hyde three times, and her concert tour last summer. She has an incredible voice and will win many new converts when they see her. She also has a new CD due out very soon on the Atlantic Theatre label to add to her other two solo CD's. Look out for it! Hopefully this will be Linda's year to get the recognition she has so deserved for such a long time!
From: PhunqE@aol.co I've got my money on an underdog. Someone you've probably never heard of but will be ready for the bigtime sometime this year, Ethan Kent. I've seen him around and if the right people see him, look out. Happy New Year, I really love this site.
From Kenny Holcomb (Kholcom@bssb.com), Nashville TN:
I will be watching the career of Betty Buckley, anything that woman is associated with is golden!
I will also be watching the career of Linda Eder and the show Jekyll and Hyde. I have been a fan of Ms. Eder's since the "Star Search" days and a fan of Jekyll and Hyde since hearing the original concept recording in 1990 with Ms. Eder and Colm Wilkinson. It's so exciting to see it finally hit the Broadway stage.
On the "cabaret" scene, I will watching the career of the late Nancy Lamott continue to grow. She possesses one of the most magnificent musical instruments that was ever given to a person. Also, her ability for song interpretation was spectacular. If you don't know of Nancy, take my word, it would be the best thing you could do in 1997.
Pam Wilt (firstname.lastname@example.org) Orefield, PA:
Hmmm, this isn't so much a WHO as sort of a WHAT - I wonder if the Jekyll and Hyde CLUB will host the cast of Jekyll and Hyde on their opening night! Maybe they'll do a reservations/ticket package as well. (This is wishful thinking as we've never been able to make it INTO the place!)
Please forgive if this is old news - the drums beat slowly to Allentown.
From Aly (email@example.com) Stratford, CT:
My choices for the most "News Makers" of 1997 are as follows: (in NO order)
-Sarah Jessica Parker and her starring role in "Once Upon A Mattress"
-Whoopi Goldberg coming into Broadway In "....Forum" -Andrew Lloyd Webber and the entire cast of "Whistle Down the Wind"
-that lady who is filing a lawsuit against Jonathan Larson and...
-The amazing cast of "Rent" who will always be making headlines for me!!! They're awesome. Who could have enough of them?
In my opinion, newsmakers on Broadway in 1997 will be the following, listed in order from most fame to less.
1. Whistle Down The Wind- Lord Andrew's first musical to open [first] in the US since Jesus Christ Superstar.
2. Liza Minnelli in Victor/Victoria.
3. Cats becoming the longest running musical in B'way history. (June 1997)
From Joe Bravaco, Roseland, NJ:
Michael Cumpsty gave four terrific performances in the last two theater seasons. He began in '95 with TRANSLATIONS and then moved into the cast of THE HEIRESS, improving it with his presence. Then,in '96, he appeared in RACING DEMON, and TIMON OF ATHENS. This guy can play the hero and the villain with equal ease, and better yet, he can make a MINOR LEAGUE Shakespearean play not only understandable, but engrossing!
Why isn't he a household name? Probably because there is so little dramatic fare on Broadway these days. Hopefully, this terrific actor is working on stage somewhere and is not waiting tables between jobs. Hope to see more of him in NYC before the Hollywood's TV moguls sweep him up for some silly sit-com.
I think that we should keep an eye on Linda Eder who is starring as Lucy in the soon-to-open musical thriller Jekyll & Hyde. The music in this show is fantastic and Eder does a great job in her role. Her reviews from the J & H touring company and her own singing tour were astounding. I think she, along with the show itself, will turn a lot of heads in 1997.
From Jennifer Ikeda:
British actor Toby Stephens gets my vote. He's already electrified the British stage in last year's Coriolanus. And now it appears that he's doing the same opposite Jessica Lange in the London production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I have yet to see him perform live, but have seen him in film and tv productions. He's young, he's great looking and has a wonderful screen presence. I can only imagine what he's like on stage.
From Susan Vogt, Oceanside, CA:
I think that Jan Stuart is correct in predicting that Irene Malloy [star of Whistle Down the Wind] will be someone to watch for this year to make news. She is an unknown, opening in a new ALW musical, of course she will make news. But I predict that Davis Gaines will be the one to shine from this show. He's come a long way, and as a fan, it will be wonderful to see Davis open in a role that he gets to originate himself.
I think Bebe Neuwirth is going to make news in 1997 because she is wonderfully enthusiastic and entertaining. She is also a fine singer and dancer and has much acting ability and talent.
From Jane A. Merrill:
Tim Shew. Watch him when "Whistle Down the Wind" hits Broadway!