Here are some highlights of a contest I held through my New York Theater Twitter account for the best play or musical that opened in New York between 2000 and 2009. The prizes â€“ theater memberships and theater tickets â€“ were given to two contestants at random*. But the choices everybody made were interesting. Here are a few of the favorite shows chosen, listed chronologically according to their initial opening nights, with comments from the theater buffs who selected them
â€œThe Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckettâ€ â€“ its full title is actually “The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in a Dustbin in Paris in an Envelope (Partially Burned) Labeled: Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. Ever! Or I’ll Sue! I’ll Sue From the Grave!!!” â€“ was first produced in New York at the International Fringe Festival in the summer of 2000 and was put on again at Performance Space 122 in 2006. The Complete Lost Works was, as you might have guessed, a series of skits that presented an affectionate spoof of the work of one of the greatest and most enigmatic dramatists of the twentieth century.
Kate Temple-West wrote: â€œNever laughed as hard EVER. Still happy thinking about it. The wheelchairâ€ (I guess the audience is a little enigmatic too).
I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright opened at Playwrights Horizon on May 27, 2003 and transferred to the Lyceum Theater on Broadway on December 3, 2003. It tells the true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, “a German transvestite caught up in the great European dramas of the 20th century. Unlike many contemporaries, von Mahlsdorf survived the Nazi regime and its replacement in East Germany, the Soviet-dominated Communist dictatorship.” Jefferson Mays played von Mahlsdorf and all the other characters. It was the winner of many awards, including the Tony for best play and best actor, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Tamara Winters chose this play as her favorite: â€œBest show since 2000. Doug Wright got it right – that script gets in your head and never lets go.â€
Spring Awakening opened on June 15, 2006, a production of the Atlantic Theater Company, and moved to the Eugene O’Neill Theater on Broadway on December 10, 2006. It is based on an 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind, and tells a tale of teenage angst, sexual longing and tragedy. The Broadway production won eight Tony Awards including best musical, and best choreography by Bill T. Jones, who is currently represented on Broadway by Fela! “Spring Awakening” made a lot of fans for (pictured) Lea Michele, who now stars as Rachel on “Glee,” and Jonathan Groff, who is soon to join her.
Wendy Wallach called the musical “provocative, entertaining, and extremely moving.”
Next to Normal opened on February 13, 2008 at the Second Stage Theater and moved to the Booth Theater on Broadway, where it opened on April 15, 2009. Written by Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (music) and directed by Michael Greif, best-known for his direction of “Rent,” the musical tells of the effect on a family of a mother’s mental illness. Here is my meditation on this show, What is Normal For Human Beings/Musicals?
Among its many attributes is the astonishing fact that its Twitter account has almost a million followers. This helps explains why it was selected by the most New York Theater contest participants: Carli Entin called it “a good story, amazing music, and not a revival nor based on a movie!”
The current revival of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical was first presented as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival summer season at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park on July 22, 2008 and moved to the Al Hirschfeld Theater for a Broadway opening on March 31, 2009.
Now a period piece, the original production opened at the Public Theater on October 17, 1967, the height of the hippies, and became a world-wide phenomenon.
Linda Buchwald, known to fellow theater goers as the blogger of Pataphysical Science, wrote: â€œI’ve always loved the music and finally saw it live with one of the best ensemble casts on Broadway.”
“Ruined” by Lynn Nottage, which opened February 10, 2009 at the Manhattan Theater Club Stage 1, is set in a brothel in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The establishment’s shrewd matriarch, Mama Nadi, both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds between the government soldiers and rebel forces alike.” Among its many awards were the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Nathan Collins wrote that the play “utterly devastated me and reminded me why we go to the theater. Truly beautiful.”
*The award winners were chosen randomly through Random.org, not based on their choice of favorite. Both must claim their prize by direct-mailing me on my Twitter account by midnight Thursday, December 17th, or a new drawing will be held.