Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The Column’s best theater of 2009
This was indeed a treasure chest overflowing with glittery baubles of riches in regards to local theater.
Back in the early years of The Column I would post my yearly picks of what I considered the best in local theater. But then I founded and created The Column Awards, so I personally felt no need to that anymore.
As usual, my faithful Column subscribers have caused me to change my mind. So, so many subscribers have emailed over and over again asking me, "Well, the other theater critics from other publications did their 'Best in DFW Theater,' where is yours?" "We want to know what you thought was the Best this year!" Over the holidays I received so many emails asking those exact questions yet again. Why not do my own "Best of" issue again!?!
Plus this is the first year that The Column has a bountiful staff of theater critics. So finally I thought, "What the hell!" I am a published theater critic (three major national publications and counting). I've been reviewing for close to fifteen years now. So why not bring back my "Best of" issue?
True, I have NOT seen everything around town. But I can bet you a truckload of Diet Coke that none of the other local theater critics around town saw EVERY SINGLE show in the ENTIRE DFW metroplex. It's impossible.
BUT PLEASE NOTE: This is in NO way to influence anyone in regards to the Column Awards and the voting. These are two separate events. These are the choices of some of my chosen critics and myself.
Top Ten lists NEVER do really "influence" anyway when it comes to voting. Just look at how the Oscars and Golden Globes every year. Their final nominations and winners are so drastically different than what the film critics pick as their personal favorites in their yearly round ups. Remember The Dark Knight debacle from last year? It made practically EVERY film critic's top ten lists. And those lists are released weeks before the various awards organizations announce their nominees. The Dark Knight was left off the Oscar, SAG, and Golden Globe ballot for Best Picture. So see?
So PLEASE, PLEASE note I nor my Associate Critics below are trying to influence anyone. Its just I received SO MUCH response from readers asking, "Where is The Column's Best of 2009?" So that's why we are publishing this today!
Another great and unique factor that separates The Column from other publications is that I have a staff of close to fifteen theater critics! So we review the ENTIRE DFW metroplex and each critic has a completely different vision and voice that is unique and fresh! Just take a look at the diversity of choices they made as you read this issue!
I asked several of my theater critics to provide their picks for the Best in Theater for 2009.
This was indeed a treasure chest overflowing with glittery baubles of riches in regards to local theater. Productions took risks, actors excelled, designers dazzled, and so on.
I spent all of December and January going over and over again on my choices, it was very difficult. But in the end, I finally made my selections. Over course I wanted to pick the two productions I worked on as an actor in, but that would be wrong (damn it. LOL). Nonetheless, these were VERY, VERY tough choices. But having seen so much theater all around the metroplex, here are my picks for the best of theater in 2009:
SENIOR CHIEF THEATER CRITIC JOHN GARCIA'S PICKS
BEST PRODUCTIONS OF THE YEAR FOR 2009 (in alphabetical order):
Aida (Plaza Theatre Company): Who would have the guts to do Elton John's pop opera in the round? Plaza took the challenge and came up with a gorgeous production. Everything about it was perfection. Costumes designed and constructed (not rented); sumptuous lighting; inventive staging and direction, and a cast that sang and acted with such commitment and passion that has been lacking in some other musical productions around Dallas. This was a first rate production through and through.
Altar Boyz (Uptown Players): Producers Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch once again prove why they wear the crowns of producing the best in musical productions with this pop confection. A fantastic cast, impeccable choreography by John De Los Santos, and first class direction by Cheryl Denson. They raised the roof at KD Studios, Hallelujah!
The King and I (Lyric Stage): I was a bit surprised how this production has been overlooked from other top ten lists. A riveting production that rivaled Broadway. Exquisite sets and costumes, a huge orchestra that brought the score to lush life, and a set of performances that touched the spirit. Producer Steve Jones indeed knows how to show Broadway that Texas can beat them at their own game with this revival.
The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Park Housewife (Uptown Players): A devastating gut wrenching drama that showed the vivid reality of being in an abusive relationship. Crisp direction and phenomenal performances made for one of the best evenings in theater. This was by far Del Shores best written play.
West Side Story (Artisan Center Theater): Now this is how the Jerome Robbins classic should be done! Taking this classic story of racism, love, and violence and put it in the round? Are they crazy? But for 95% of the evening it was a resounding piece of musical theater. ACT earned a big fat gold star for succeeding here. A massive cast of young, energetic, & talented teens who were so committed to the dancing, singing, and acting-all achieved with deeply moving results. Superb direction & choreography completed this terrific production from beginning to end.
Woody Guthrie's American Song -- Songs & Writings by Woody Guthrie (Theatre Too): A totally, unexpected treat for me. I had no clue whatsoever what this "musical" was about. But I left the theater full of song and hope. Sweet harmonies, solid performances & direction made this one of the unexpected treats of the year. Sherry Etzel, Christina Harpine, Doug Jackson, N. Wilson King, Arianna Movassagh, Alexander Ross, Daniel Svoboda, and Willy Welch were all phenomenal in this tender, heart tugging piece of American folklore.
BEST NATIONAL TOURS OF 2009:
A Chorus Line (Dallas Summer Musicals): From beginning to end it was another fantastic journey with those fifteen dancers on the line. Plus to see Michael Bennett's original choreography danced by the best, well, what else can you ask for!?!
Rent (Dallas Summer Musicals): Original stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal headlined this tour. I was so fortunate enough to see the entire original Broadway cast in 1996. So to see Rapp and Pascal (who have NOT aged a bit ... the bastards) bring new depth and emotion was a revelation to observe.
PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR (in alphabetical order):
Christine Atwell (Eliza Doolittle) -- My Fair Lady (Artisan Theater Center)
Feleceia Benton (Aida) -- Aida (Plaza Theatre Company)
David Cook (Radames) -- Aida (Plaza Theatre Company)
Drew Davis (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) -- My Fair Lady (Artisan Theater Center)
Sarah Dickerson (Maria) -- West Side Story (Artisan Theater Center)
Stan Graner (Professor Henry Higgins) My Fair Lady (Artisan Theater Center)
Gina Gwozdz (Anita) -- West Side Story (Artisan Theater Center)
Drew Kelly (Mark) -- Altar Boyz (Uptown Players)
Cindee Mayfield (WillaDean) -- The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Park Housewife (Uptown Players)
Joe Nemmers (The King) -- The King and I (Lyric Stage)
Evan Ramos (Tony) -- West Side Story (Artisan Center Theater)
Rachel Joy Robertson (Polly Baker) -- Crazy for You (Music Theatre of Denton)
Alexander Ross (Matthew) -- Altar Boyz (Uptown Players)
Courtney Sikora (Anmeris) -- Aida (Plaza Theatre Company)
T. A. Taylor (JD) -- The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Park Housewife (Uptown Players)
Angel Velasco (Juan) -- Altar Boyz (Uptown Players)
***And now here is what some of the critics on my staff picked as their selections for BEST IN THEATER FOR 2009:
ASSOCIATE THEATER CRITIC MARY CLARK`S PICKS
PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR:
Jill Abramovitz -- Road to Qatar (Lyric Stage)
Dennis Canwright -- The Forgotten Carols (Artisan Center Theater)
Carter Frost -- Duck Hunter Shoots Angel (ONSTAGE in Bedford)
Best Costumes -- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Theatre Three)
Best Actress, Play: Sue Loncar -- Chapter Two (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas)
Best Actor, Musical: Dennis Canwright -- Ruthless! (Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre)
Best Actress, Musical: Marianne Galloway -- Sanders Family Christmas (One Thirty Productions)
Best Director: Charles Ballinger -- A Bench in the Sun (One Thirty Productions)
Best Set Design: Larry Randolph -- A Bench in the Sun (One Thirty Productions)
Play: Chad Spear -- A Lie of the Mind (Second Thought Theatre)
Musical: Ashlie Kirkpatrick -- Into the Woods (Richardson Theatre Centre)
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR:
Shane Strawbridge -- Into the Woods (Richardson Theatre Centre)
Diana Sheehan -- Grey Gardens (WaterTower Theatre)
BEST OUTRE' THEATRE COMPANY: Level Ground Arts
BEST DFW THEATRE RENAISSANCE MAN: Bruce Coleman
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