As a way of looking back and celebrating some great theatre over the past year, I wanted to just highlight some of my favorite live theatre musical moments over the past year. While not all of these moments necessarily happened in musical theatre pieces, they have exemplified the magic of music and live performance, and they've definitely inspired me as a writer and artist.
Here we go:
The final scene in Leslye Headland's AssistanceAssistance was a straight play loosely based on Leslye's experience working as a personal assistant to Harvey Weinstein. If you've ever had a stressful, menial job, this play almost hit too close to home as employees set their hopes and dreams on a faceless boss who they are determined can either make or break their careers. But just when you might be reaching for the Xanax remembering your time getting yelled at for small mistakes or being used as a punching bag, the final scene of this play is a completely unexpected moment of retribution when we enter a fantasy dance sequence that, quite literally, brings the entire house down. It's a stunning theatrical feat-- getting to experience a moment of true catharsis brilliantly carried out through genius set design, music, and a wonderfully executed dance routine.
The Opening number from Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812
Everything about this show was pretty awesome, but the minute the lights went up, the audience was presented with dumplings, and the cast launched into a rousing recap of the story's many characters, we knew we were in for a treat. Creating a spirited environment from the get go, my friend and I were reaching for the vodka and settling in to an exciting night of Dave Malloy's Russian electro pop opera (and who can begrudge that?).
Molly Pope singing a mashup of "We Found Love" and "How to Love" at the final Our Hit ParadeFor anyone who didn't have the pure and strange joy of experiencing Our Hit Parade at Joe's Pub, this monthly cabaret mainstay was a fantastic series where a rotating variety of performers from the music and theatre scene each took a top 10 pop song and reinterpreted it. Their final show played Joe's Pub earlier this week, and it was probably one of the most electric events I have ever been to in New York. We talk a lot about artistic homes, but never was it so potent to be in a room of talented artists and to feel the love from the audience, the hosts, and the venue as everyone was just themselves. While there were a lot of laughs, one moment that utterly destroyed me was hearing Molly Pope, an Our Hit Parade mainstay, sing her interpretation of "We Found Love" and "How to Love." The love of performing coupled with a heavy heart that Our Hit Parade was ending made her performance all the more profound-- and I sat with tears streaming down my face, just as she had on hers. What a gift to be able to experience something so intimate and special.
"Just Like the Sea" in PigPen's The Old Man and The Old Moon
Another moment that managed to get some tears out of Grinch-y old me, PigPen Theatre Co.'s latest fable about an old man who traverses the world to find his wife featured a particularly striking moment that demonstrated a man's loss with only a few lights and some well-crafted shadow puppets, creating a montage of memories that was completely cinematic and emotionally affecting. Above is a video of another song from the show, "Bremen," and you can catch the moment live still, since The Old Man and The Old Moon is playing at The Gym at Judson until Jan 6!
Emerging Musical Theatre, the theme songI couldn't be more thrilled (or slightly embarrassed) to have two wonderful writers sing a song about this little blog. Big thanks to Jeff Luppino-Esposito, Matt Savarese, and Anna McGrady again!
The Hamilton Mixtape at Lincoln Center
Can we all just agree that Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius? Because his American Songbook concert, which primarily featured music from his project The Hamilton Mixtape about the life of Alexander Hamilton, is nothing short of brilliant. With rap battles mixed in with R&B hooks, this project is destined to be a great modern representation of history that makes history.
Giant at The Public Theater
I can't really single out any particular moments from Giant, and I have a good feeling this show is going to go on to a longer life, so I can't say that this production was necessarily definitive. Still, this epic musical that tells a sweeping story as vast as the landscape that it covers is a real winner. With a beautiful score by Michael John LaChiusa and smart book by Sybille Pearson, this restored my faith in the range of musical theatre being made-- and the wonderful people who support it, as well.