2016 Critics’ Picks

  • Tulis McCall
    Look, the theatre is a temple.  It is a living breathing entity that grabs you like no other art form.  You do not sit idly by and observe.  It requires you to breath in concert with the performers.  And when it all works, it is little short of a communion. Oh, Hello – these two make me laugh when there is nothing to laugh about outside the theatre. Sweat – opening on Broadway March 4th – this is who we are.  Who we really, really are. Bright Colors and Bold Patterns now playing!  Dead Poets Society – a brilliant recreation of this mythical tale that speaks to personal honor and freedom – the kind that is in short supply these days.
    Read the full reviews: Oh, Hello     Sweat    Bright Colors and Bold Patterns     Dead Poets Society

 

  • Stanford Friedman
    Families, brought together and torn apart, are what my top 3 picks have in common. Troilus and Cressida at Shakespeare in the Park, gave us the Trojan brothers Hector (Bill Heck) and Troilus (Andrew Burnap), fighting the good fight, and John Glover as a pandering Pandarus, dealing out his own neice. The New Group’s vivid staging of Buried Child brought us a dark, absurdist family and their dirty little secret out in the back yard. And Fiddler on the Roof returned to Broadway with its ageless message never more timely.
    Read the full reviews:  Troilus and Cressida      Buried Child      Fiddler on the Roof

 

 

 

  • Casey Curtis
    2016’s most notable news story was the shocking — to liberals — victory by Donald Trump. The year’s most compelling theatrical events are the shows that connect us, however obliquely, to that anxiety-provoking political inflection point. Judy Collins, who sang magnificently at Cafe Carlyle, is the social activist and older woman that one would expect Trump to denigrate. Mike Birbiglia  is the comedian who places the sanctity of jokes far above simply “winning” career points and future financial gain. And Ana Gasteyer is a former cast member of Saturday Night Live, a show that draws Trump’s ire because it has the temerity to lampoon him.  These performers displayed unconventional beauty, evoked laughter, and demonstrated integrity. Each of these artists served us a tasty meal of creative ingredients but more importantly left breadcrumbs on the road. Breadcrumbs, so that we may soon find our way back home.
    Read the full reviews:  Judy Collins     Mike Birbiglia     Ana Gasteyer

 

 

 

 

  • Margret Echeverria
    That last week of December and first week of January are a time of lists of accomplishments and failures followed by resolutions and hopes for the New Year. Some of the best time spent this year was at the theatre; I have been so honored to review for The Front Row Center during 2016.  Here are my top three picks from the shows I saw this year: Washer Dryer: Nandita Shenoy wrote and performed in this piece – a double undertaking most people can only do half right.  The writing was tight, so the humor came bursting forth.  Career Suicide:  Written and performed by Chris Gethard,  This show has been extended through January 8th at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. Gethard talks the straight dope on mental illness, contemplating ending his life, risking everything for his career (New Jersey style; not Hollywood glam style). Dear Evan Hansen:  This reviewer does NOT like musicals and this one tickled me all over to the point of tears and popping out a kidney with laughter.  This show will be a long-running hit, I should bet; be the kool one at your office who has seen it. And one more thing to leave you with:  I still can’t get Sam Given out of my mind.  He was a scream in Daddy Issues by Marshall Goldberg, which closed in April at the Davenport Theatre.
    Read the full reviews:  Washer Dryer     Career Suicide     Dear Evan Hansen     Daddy Issues

 

 

 

 

 

  • Donna Herman
    I love the theater and I go often – my top 3 theater picks for 2016 all have surprised me, changed my mind about something I thought I understood, defied my expectations, and did it well.  How to Keep An Alien: Presented as part of Origins 1st Irish Festival this fall, Sonya Kelly’s one-woman show chronicles her relationship with her partner and their struggles to prove it to the Irish government. The Underground Railroad Game: Developed by the two actors who perform the piece, Scott Sheppard & Jennifer Kidwell, this play about teaching the history of slavery in school winds up being about so much more. The Band’s Visit: A world premiere musical at The Atlantic Theater Company which has been extended through January 8th, 2017, is completely unexpected. No need to steel yourself for the worst in this ripped from the movies tale about an Egyptian ceremonial police band that winds up stranded in a small Israeli town.
    Read the full reviews:  How to Keep An Alien      The Underground Railroad Game      The Band’s Visit

 

  • Michael Hillyer
    Hands-down, the best show I saw on Broadway this year was an absolutely perfect She Loves Me. Off-Broadway’s highlight was F. Murray Abraham in a delightful production of Nathan The WiseFor cabaret, this past year I made three separate visits to the beautiful Café Carlyle; to see Steven Page, Herb Alpert and Steve Tyrell, any one of which would qualify for this list in the Best Night Out category: but Herb Alpert gets the nod.
    Read the full reviews: Nathan The Wise     Peer Gynt     Herb Alpert

 

  • Elise Marenson
    The Way West; Photo by Monique CarboniFrom the US West to England to Ireland, the spectrum of plays I covered was large in subject matter and style. I included a 5-star, 4-star, and 3-star review among my favorites of 2016. Why is a 3-star review among them? Although there may be flaws in a script or a production, the play nevertheless enlightened me on a historical period, a social issue, or enriched my understanding of the human condition.

Read the full reviews:  The Way West       Hero’s Welcome      The Clearing 

 

 

  • Constance Rodgers 

  • His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley
    was my favorite because it portrayed values I applaud and featured music I adore – American be-bop. It introduced me to the path blazing comedian Lord Buckley whose work I have now begun reading.
    Read the full review:   His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley
  • Ann Firestone Ungar
    Chosen for their humane resonances and outstanding stage craft, here are my top 3 FAVs for 2016. Signature Theatre’s “Master Harold” and the boys, superbly written and directed by Athol Fugard, offered a realistic, moving and intimate story about apartheid rearing its ugly head among old friends, stunningly acted. The Pearl Theatre Company’s production of The DingDong, a Feydeau sex farce adapted by Mark Shanahan and reset in 1938, was a hilarious, dazzlingly acted production about pure social decadence, oblivious to the noxious political cataclysm about to engulf France, i.e., World War II (something I didn’t mention in my review, but am happy to be able to add here).  At the Public Theater in Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North, a haunting throat singer reacted to the iconic anthropological film Nanook of the North. Congratulations to these, and of course to others, in this fine, now past season of theater in New York City.
    Read the full reviews: “Master Harold” and the boys     The DingDong     Tanya Tagaq in Concert with Nanook of the North         

Author: Stanford Friedman

With an MLS in Library Science from Rutgers and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia, Stan’s published works range from the technical to the abstract. He has written cover stories and reportage for Library Journal, obituaries for The Times of London, over 200 cookbook reviews for Publishers Weekly, and dozens of TV and theater reviews for New York Press. Prior to his current career, he worked a variety of theatrical odd jobs ranging from clerk at the Drama Book Shop to a roving Renaissance festival bloodletter to Special Effects Technician for the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. Follow him on Twitter: @BroadwayCrit and Show-Score.

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