One of the reasons I always knew I’d end up in NYC is because I love theater. I was a drama club geek since grade school. I do get the performing bug every once and a while, but unfortunately for me, community theater tryouts aren’t easy to come by in a city where even the amateurs are professionals. I am very spoiled as an audience member though. I’ve seen so many incredible shows in New York.
Recently I was organizing my Playbills and programs and reminiscing about all the shows I’ve seen in the past decade or so. It was hard to narrow it down to 10 but, here are some of the show’s I’ve seen since moving to New York that have stuck with me all these years.
Where: New York Theater Workshop
Why: My sister and I went to see this my first winter in NYC. I had studied Beckett a bit in college, mostly his more well-known shows like Waiting for Godot and Endgame. This was a performance of four shorter works by Beckett, two of them without any dialogue. The unsettling score was by Philip Glass, but what made this show unforgettable was Mikhail Baryshnikov. The four roles he played demanded such extremes in physicality from complete stillness to frantic flight. What he can express through his face and body transcends language.
Where: New York Philharmonic
Why: This is one of my soundtracks and a show I’ve always identified with. In my 20’s I related to the character Amy who was terrified of getting married. In my 30’s I connected to the protagonist Bobby the token single in his circle of friends who at times wants to be in a relationship but always finds himself afraid of fully committing to someone else. I’m sure in ten years I’ll connect to Joanne. The cast was incredible lead by Neil Patrick Harris. This was supposed to be a blocked concert but everyone was off book. This is a rare case where if you weren’t able to see one of the four live productions the one weekend it was performed you can stream or watch it on DVD.
Where: Eugene O’Neil Theatre
Why: Even if I love a show I rarely see something more than once since Broadway tickets aren’t cheap. I did see this one twice though because it was so powerful. It was adapted from a 19th-century German play and featured a rock score by my junior high crush Ducan Sheik. The angst and discovery of self-identity and sexuality that everyone goes through in adolescence were explored by an incredible cast of young actors who would go on to achieve fame in theater, film, and television including Jonathan Groff (Mindhunter), Lea Michele (Glee), and John Gallager Jr. (American Idiot).
Where: Lincoln Center Theater at The Vivian Beaumont
Why: Rogers and Hammerstein were my gateway drug to musical theater. I’ve had the opportunity to see a number of their shows on stage, but this production was my favorite. It also introduced me to Opera singer Paulo Szot who I’ve seen now in Carmen at the Met and performing his cabaret act.
Where: Manhattan Theater Club
Why: This was a drama about a couple dealing with the aftermath of covering the Iraq War. James played by Brain D’arcy James is dealing with repressed PTSD and Sarah played by Laura Linney is dealing with a physical injury sustained by a roadside bomb but also questioning her professional and personal life as she adjusts to moving back into her old life. Subtle acting is the hardest to pull of and Laura Linney is simply brilliant.
Where: New York City Center
Why: Another Sondheim, but unlike Company, Merrily We Roll Along wasn’t a hit when it premiered. City Center’s Encores is a fun series where every year they revive former Broadway shows some hits and some flops for two weekends only. I’ve seen a number of great productions there including Damn Yankees with Sean Hayes, Band Wagon with Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Bells Are Ringing with Kelli O’Hara. This was my favorite City Center show though and featured Lin Manuel Miranda as Charley.
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Why: This was a show made for musical theater fans. Writers and stars Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell entered the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004 which this show about writing a musical to submit to the competition. It eventually went Off-Broadway to the Vineyard Theater in 2006 and then to the Great White Way two years later. The show expanded on their journey during each incarnation. Co-stars Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell were hilarious. This was one of the most fun shows I had ever seen.
Where: Music Box Theatre
Why: This was a revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s play about a young woman whose journey happens to coincide with the second and third wave feminist movements. Elizabeth Moss played the titular character and although the play originally debuted in 1988, the monologue Heidi delivers towards the end of the show is still timely.
Where: Playwrights Realm at The Duke
Why: Playwrights Realm is an Off-Broadway theater that produces two shows from up and coming playwrights every year. I’ve seen some fantastic shows there over the years including The Wolves, The Rape of The Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias, and The Moors. This play by Mfoniso Udofia though really stuck with me. It’s about a young Nigerian couple who have immigrated to Houston, TX in the 1970s. The author is writing this as a series of plays about the various characters in this play and their children. I had the opportunity to see one of her other plays in this series this year, Her Portmontau at New York Theatre Workshop.
Where: Broadhurst Theatre
Why: This show received mediocre reviews, but I don’t really let critics’ opinions impact my own. I really enjoyed this show which Nora Ephron had written shortly before she passes away. It was the story of journalist Mike McAlary and the ups and downs of his career before his death. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I really enjoyed that this was a story about an average working class person who faced the various high notes and low points that we all do. It featured a great ensemble cast which included Tom Hanks, Courtney B. Vance, and Maura Tierney.