The best theater of 2014

Larry-Yando-in-King-Lear-Chicago-Shakespeare-Theatre_thumbToday’s Wall Street Journal contains my best-theater-of-the-year column. Here are some of the highlights:

Performer of the year Chicago’s Larry Yando, who appeared in Writers’ Theatre’s Dance of Death and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s King Lear

Best revival of a modern play Ontario’s Shaw Festival production of Edward Bond’s The Sea

Best large-scale revival of a musical John Rando’s Broadway revival of On the Town

To see my other picks, including the best play, director, and company of 2014, go here.

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Gratitude

395646_10150622188517193_1735703835_nOf all the seasonal postings that have appeared on this blog since I launched it, this one, written in 2005, still means the most to me:

I was stretched out on a gurney in the emergency room of Lenox Hill Hospital, where I’d been brought five years before when an undiagnosed case of work-exacerbated pneumonia had reduced me to a similar state of disrepair. By then I knew that what I feared most had come to pass: I’d been stricken with congestive heart failure. My body was full of excess fluid—lungs, legs, the whole shooting match—and had I waited much longer to seek help, I would have drowned in it. Instead, the doctors stuck a nitroglycerine patch on my shoulder, pumped me full of a fluid-expelling diuretic, and handed me a phone on which I made a half-dozen necessary calls: my brother in Missouri, my co-blogger in Chicago, my editor at The Wall Street Journal, the woman with whom I’d planned to have dinner and see Waiting for Godot the following night. To all of them I made my regrets, thinking wryly of a favorite saying: If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan….

The unnamed woman mentioned above and at the end of this posting, by the way, is now Mrs. T.

Read the whole thing here.

* * *

The slow movement from Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra, performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by the composer. This is the first piece of music that I heard after going into the hospital:

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So you want to see a show?

Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.

BROADWAY:
Cabaret (musical, PG-13/R, all performances sold out last week, closes Mar. 29, reviewed here)
The Elephant Man (drama, PG-13, contains partial nudity, virtually all performances sold out last week, closes Feb. 22, reviewed here)• A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (musical, PG-13, nearly all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
Matilda (musical, G, most performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
Les Misérables (musical, G, too long and complicated for young children, reviewed here)
On the Town (musical, G, contains double entendres that will not be intelligible to children, reviewed here)

OFF BROADWAY:
The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)

Angelica Page, Tim Altmeyer & Estelle ParsonsIN WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.:
My Old Lady (drama, PG-13, closes Jan. 11, reviewed here)

CLOSING NEXT WEEK ON BROADWAY:
Once (musical, G/PG-13, closes Jan. 4, reviewed here)
This Is Our Youth (drama, PG-13, closes Jan. 4, reviewed here)

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Lookback: was Johnny Mercer a poet?

LOOKBACKFrom 2004:

Even his most frankly poetic lyrics are best heard in tandem with the melodies that inspired them. Hence they occupy the same equivocal position as, say, Bernard Herrmann’s film scores, which are the products of a collaborative process and cannot be properly evaluated outside the context of that process. It is revealing that Mercer published no poetry, presumably because he felt he had no gift for writing it. Only in the crucible of collaboration did his talents manifest themselves completely….

Read the whole thing here.

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