by Mark G. Auerbach
2018 in Review Part III: The Best Performances and Innovators
David Adkins, Alan Squier The Petrified Forest, Berkshire Theatre Group. A veteran actor at Berkshire Theatre Group, Adkins has played classic an contemporary, young and old. As a weary author, Adkins gave The Petrified Forest, a nuanced edge.
Tara Franklin, Ersilia, Naked, Berkshire Theatre Group. Franklin always gives textured performances, and her portrayal of a woman at the edge gave Naked its raison d’etre.
Boyd Gaines, The Old Gentleman, The Age of Innocence, Hartford Stage. The multi Tony Award winner was magnificent as an old man looking back at his life in a stunning production.
Kenneth Galm, Tobias, Sweeney Todd, CT Repertory Theatre Nutmeg Summer Series. This young actor, sandwiched in between brilliant performances by Terrence Mann and Liz Larsen, made “Not While I’m Around” a showstopper.
Julie Halston, Helen Hubbard, Murder on The Orient Express, Hartford Stage. A legendary stage comic, Halston could make a gesture, a look, or a line delivery instensely funny.
Nick LaMeica, Jason/Tyrone, Hand to God, TheaterWorks. Balancing the role of an awkward teen and an outrageous puppet was brilliant. This performance was my personal favorite of the year.
David M. Lutken, Will Rogers The Will Rogers Follies, Goodspeed Musicals. With a homespun “aw shucks” demeanor, Lutkin sang, danced, did rope tricks, and improvised the day’s headlines. Superb!
Debra Jo Rupp, Della, The Cake, Barrington Stage. A deft comedienne, Rupp was tour-de-force as a baker in a quandry as to whether or not bake a cake for a gay wedding.
Jamison Stern, Miss Tracy Mills. The Legend of Georgia McBride, TheaterWorks. As a world-weary drag queen, Stern brought down the house channeling Judy Garland and Bette Davis in some zany song and dance.
Skyler Volpe, Anita, West Side Story, Barrington Stage. A compelling actress and singer, and extraordinary dancer, Volpe was a smoldering “Anita”.
Best Ensemble Performances
The Aliens, Chester Theatre Company. Kudos to James Barry as Jasper. Joel Ripka as KJ, and Paul Pontrelli as Evan in Annie Baker’s play about a group of guys sitting aroun waiting for better times to happen. Daniel Elihu Kramer’s direction helped these three extraordinary actors find balance and nuance.
Christmas on The Rocks, TheaterWorks. Tom Bloom, Jenn Harris, and Randy Harrison plays an assorted number of highly comedic, and seriously dysfunctional characters without cracking up onstage or missing a beat. They’re great, thanks in large part to some steady direction by Rob Ruggiero.
Daniel Elihu Kramer, Artistic Director of The Chester Theatre. Before Kramer assumed the helm of Chester, the theatre seemed moving into a disconnect between artistic vision and the audience. With Kramer, ambitious programming has plenty to say to its adventurous audiencc, and Kramer’s attracting some incredibly talented directors, actors, and designers to tell interesting stories.
Rob Ruggiero, Artistic Director at Theaterworks has turned that theatre into the place people want to be. Innovative programming, superb productions, a soon-to-be-renovated space, and deft marketing, has made TheaterWorks theatregoing so exciting
The Bushnell upped the quantity and quality of its touring Broadway series. Yes, Hamilton is gaining most of the attention, but some tours, like The Play That Goes Wrong and Fiddler on The Roof played Hartford on their first or second tour stops. We’re getting a mix of old–Cats, Rent, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and new, like Come From Away. in the next few months
Wendy Rabinowiz, the renowned Berkshires-based textile artist, died in an automobile accident on December 11. Condolences to her family and husband, Jeffrey Borak, Arts Editor of The Berkshire Eagle.
On The Air
The Capitol Steps perform their annual Politics Takes A Holiday radio show on December 31 and January 1 on many NPR member stations coast-to-coast. If you missed them at Cranwell last summer, or wonder how they’ve adapted the antics of the Midterm election season or current events into their show, tune in. For a list of stations carrying the broadcast: http://www.capsteps.com/radio/
Tanglewood’s celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday with a special concert on August 25 was taped by PBS for airing on Great Performances on December 28. Aura McDonald hosts; the Boston Symphony Orchestra performs led by a quintet of conductors, Andris Nelsons, Christoph Eschenbach, Keith Lockhart, John Williams and Michael Tilson Thomas, and an array of guest stars.. Tune in or stream the following day. For details: pbs.org/gperf
Keep in Mind
Arts Beat Radio airs every Friday at 8AM, on 89.5fm/WSKB. On January 4, Paul Marte previews the winter season at The Bushnell, and Westfield native Nick Burrage talks aboiut life on your in Cats. Start your weekend with ArtsBeat Radio. Tune in live on the airwaves, on Comcast ch. 15, or www.wskb.org And, if you miss an episode,f ind it on YouTube at WSKB Community Radio’s page
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio for 89.5fm/WSKB.