by Mark G. Auerbach, Arts Beat contributor
The Arts Year in Review: 2017: Part III
Outstanding Performances of The Year
Darnell Abraham, Coalhouse Walker, Ragtime, Barrington Stage sent goosebumps down my spine when he sang “Wheels of A Dream”. Mr. Abraham is now in the cast of the national tour of The Color Purple.
Gabriel Aronson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Million Dollar Quartet, Berkshire Theatre Group. He acts. He sings. He plays a mean keyboard. His performance was an overload of sizzle, and he made it look so easy.
Ellen Harvey, Joanne, Company, Barrington Stage brought an undercurrent of tragic vulnerability to the role made famous by hard-as-nails Elaine Stritch, and turned the showstopping “Ladies Who Lunch” into something unforgettable.
Samantha Massell, Rebecca, Rags, Goodspeed played a headstrong mom with son, who was destined to make a better life in New York. She stopped the show twice, once performing the sultry “Blame It On A Summer Night” and again with “Children of The Wind”
Christiane Noll, Diana, Next to Normal, TheaterWorks, brought a vulnerability to a mom who is bi-polar, yet trying to keep her family intact. She reprises the role in New York on February 1 for a benefit for the JED Foundation. Her rendition of “I Miss The Mountains” is pure rapture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAcQ0XMo_D8
Mia Dillon, Erzsike, Seder, Hartford Stage, gave a polished performance as an anguished mother, and herself as a young woman forced to make difficult choices to feed her children in Hungary during the Communist regime. She get extra credit or jumping into Hartford Stage’s production of Cloud Nine hours before the first preview, when a leading actress was injured and couldn’t go on.
Mark H. Dold, Mr. Manningham, Gaslight, Barrington Stage. Dold, a resident artist at Barrington Stage, has displayed his versatility in numerous performances over the years. As the suave, sinister, and cunning husband who manipulates his wife into believing she’s mentally ill, he was frightening and masterful.
James Lecesne,The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey at Hartford Stage, played multiple characters in his one-man play, from flamboyant gay teen, to gruff detective on a mission to solve a murder, to a beauty stylist, to an opinionated neighbor. I’ve never seen a solo performance this exciting
Paul Pontrelli, Anthony, I and You, Chester Theatre. A remarkable portrayal of a sometimes cocky, sometimes vulnerable teen in a well-balanced performance.
Lauren Ridloff, Sarah Norman, Children of a Lesser God, Berkshire Theatre Group. Joshua Jackson may have been the headliner in this Broadway-bound show, but Ridloff, a deaf actor playing a deaf woman, spoke volumes in comedy and intensity by gesture, and lightning-fast signing. Polish up the Tony Award I hope she gets next June..
Best Ensemble Performance-Play
Rachel Caplan, Carolyn Cutillo, Olivia Hoffman, Dea Julien, Shannon Keegan, Karla Gallegos, Emily Murphy, Claire Saunders, Caitlin Zoz, and Megan Byrne in The Wolves. TheaterWorks. This extraordinary cast were put through rigorous paces by director Eric Ort and soccer coach Lexi Maynard. Their sense of timing and teamwork was impeccable.
Best Ensemble Performance-Musical
Gabriel Aronson as Jerry Lee Lewis, Christy Coco as Dyanne, Nathan Yates Douglass as Brother Jay, Brycen Katolinsky as Elvis Presley, David W. Lincoln as Fluke Holland, Ben Nordstrom as Sam Phillips, Bill Sheets as Johnny Cash, and Colin Summers as Carl Perkins. in Million Dollar Quartet, Berkshire Theatre Group. Director James Barry whipped these actor/musicians into one tour-de-force hard core rock and roll performance. As soloists, they shined. As a group, they smoldered.
David Harris, one of Australia’s brightest musical theatre stars, has settled in the USA, and he’s a regular on New England stages, from TheaterWorks’ Next To Normal to Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Les Miserables, plus Ragtime at Barrington Stage and Anything Goes and Rags at Goodspeed. He returns to Australia to co-star with Tony Sheldon in the revial of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert, which opens on January 21 in Melbourne, before touring to Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane.
Gabriel Aronson, mentioned above for his performance in Berkshire Theatre Group’s Million Dollar Quartet, is starring in the new musical Blue Suede Shoes through April 1 at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota.
Adam Schoenberg, WMass born and raised classical composer, received two Grammy nominations or his album, recorded with the Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern conducting. The album is nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and Best Engineered Album-Classical. For details: http://adamschoenberg.com/
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 on 89.5fm/WSKB.