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Theater & Dance

The Best in Theater 2005


If you're going to be a drama queen, the best place to do that is on stage. Three of our writers share their favorite shows from New York and beyond. Think they missed one? Fill out a comment and tell us!

Brendan Lemon's Top 10 Theater for 2005

10) The Color Purple
Yeah, it's too long (especially in the second act) and its score isn't exactly memorable, but a tip-top cast lead by LaChanze more than made up for the deficiencies of this Alice Walker'based musical that, because of its lead producers, some people are calling 'Oprah-homa.'

9) The Pillowman
Martin McDonagh's genre-bending play about a writer in a totalitarian state was the occasion for Billy Crudup's return to Broadway, although Michael Stuhlbarg, playing Crudup's brother, gave the standout performance.

8) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Some people complained about the tinny nature of the score, but this show based on a 1988 movie about con men on the Riviera showcased genuine star turns by John Lithgow, Sherie Rene Scott, and (especially) Norbert Leo Butz.

7) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin took a subject loaded with cutesy-pie pitfalls'a kid's spelling contest'and made it the warmest show on Broadway.

6) Jersey Boys
This Broadway musical about '60s pop guy group the Four Seasons, which began life at California's La Jolla Playhouse, was almost as much fun as Altar Boyz (see below).

5) Light in the Piazza
Adam Guettel's music-theater piece about an American girl and her mother in early '60s Italy was exquisitely realized in a Lincoln Center production that followed engagements at Seattle's Intiman and Chicago's Goodman.

4) Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life
It wasn't just a retread of this Broadway Baby's greatest roles over the past 50 years; it was a hilarious and moving whirl through the perils and pleasures of live performance.

3) Altar Boyz
Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker's musical about a Christian boy band featured a sensational performance by Tyler Maynard and sly songs like 'Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait' and 'Jesus Called on My Cell Phone.' Wonderful, synthetic fun.

2) Orson's Shadow
Austin Pendleton's play about fame and failure in show biz, replete with real-life Brit characters like critic Kenneth Tynan and the Oliviers, as well as American titan Orson Welles, was the year's most engaging new play off-Broadway.

1) Doubt
For once the Tony award for Best Play was deserved. This drama, set in 1960s New York, about a Catholic priest suspected of pedophilia, featured a tough performance by out actress Cherry Jones as a nun wrestling with her beliefs.

Eddie Shapiro's Top 10 Theater of 2005

10) The Drowsy Chaperone
After a pre-Broadway run in L.A., this spoof of/valentine to the musical theatre genre features the show-tune queen as the lead! Take that, all you pretty boy baritones!

9) Measure For Measure
The traditional (read: boys as girls) Globe Theatre production which toured the States in the second half of '05, led by the sublime, departing artistic director, Mark Rylance, finally shed some new light on this quagmire of a play.

8) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin electrified Broadway for all too short a stint in this stunning revival of the Edward Albee classic.

7) Elaine Stritch at Home at the Carlyle
The self-described existential problem in tights returned with more honesty, more grit, and more soul-baring pathos than any other performer this year.

6) The Play Without Words
Matthew Bourne's dance play of 1960s repressed sexuality (both gay and straight) bursting at the seams was among the most unsual theatrical evenings to be found in this or any year.

5) The Color Purple
OK, yes, it's not perfect, but name the last commercial Broadway musical to dramatize a full-on lesbian love affair. Yeah, after Falsettos, you're stumped, aren't you?

4) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Not just a perfectly cast, delightfully scored, fresh improvement on a mediocre film, but a truly hysterical riot with a large helping of that endangered Broadway commodity: wit!

3) Glengarry Glen Ross
The all-star revival of David Mamet's classic took hold of its audience and never let go. It also helped Alan Alda achieve a triptych of nominations with his Tony nod for this sandwiched between his nods from Oscar (The Aviator) and Emmy (The West Wing).

2) Sweeney Todd
Just when you thought you never needed to see another Sweeney along comes this stunning, gripping, and downright scary chamber version to prove you wrong. The sight of Patti LuPone on tuba is enough to justify the admission price.

1) Doubt
Yes, we know we're cheating since it premiered off-Broadway in 2004, but the Tony-winning Broadway run opened in '05 with the entire original cast staying as fresh as ever and the play, even after multiple viewings, still managing emotional wreckage.

Honorable Mention: In My Life
We've waited for more than 15 years for something to unseat Carrie as the benchmark by which to measure truly horrific, vile, detestable, and laugh-out-loud-abysmal shows, and now we've got one, complete with a flying drag queen!

Mekado Murphy's Top 10 Theater of 2005

10) Modern Orthodox
Molly Ringwald was pretty in pink and a few other colors when she returned to the stage to pair up with Jason Biggs for this charming, insightful comedy about modern Jewish life.

9) Dr. Sex
Alfred Kinsey, everyone's favorite sex researcher, put on his dancing shoes for this offbeat, vaudeville-style musical.

8) The Glass Menagerie
Christian Slater and Jessica Lange made for a tragic mother and son in this smart Tennessee Williams revival.

7) Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy
What could make a send-up of the over-the-top thriller Fatal Attraction even more fun on stage? Why, casting Corey Feldman as the Michael Douglas lead, of course.

6) Joy
Dude, you're gettin' a boyfriend! Dell dude Ben Curtis used his perpetually good looks and aloof sensibilities to steal the show in this light gay romp.

5) The Color Purple
Celie really gets to be a lesbian in this lively musical retelling of Alice Walker's novel. Felicia P. Fields belts it out with gusto as the strong-willed Sofia.

4) seduction'
This modern retelling of La Ronde played at last summer's Fringe Festival and heated up the stage. Deception, manipulation, and plenty of man-on-man action made for a sexy, sinister combination.

3) Sweeney Todd
Patti LuPone makes beautiful music (and not so beautiful pies) in this scaled-down revival of one of Sondheim's best.

2) Altar Boyz
Backstreet Boys meets passion play with hilarious results and showstopping numbers. Praise God for camp.

1) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, this awesome musical depicts all the mania, tension, and sexual politics that a local spelling bee can offer.

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