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GTFO, 2010: The Best and Worst Theater Things of the Year

Yeah, we said it.  You were great and all, 2010–chock full of hotties, show after show after show, and lots of big performances–but seriously, we’re done with you.  We’re tired of your closing notices and injury reports.  We’re ready for everything 2011 has to offer.  But first, we’ll send you off in style with a quick review of all the reasons we loved and hated you.


Billie Joe Armstrong Becomes a Theater Nerd

First he wrote a musical. Then he went on Theater Talk. And the Tonys. And did talkbacks and 92nd St. Y forums. Then he put aside his rockstar life and starred in the show. In short, he’s what you were at age 14 and you saw Cats for the first time: Smitten. In 2010, Billie Joe Armstrong fell in love with Broadway. The best part? He’s actually pretty good at it.

Oh BTW, Lea Michele is famous. P.S. So is Jonathan Groff.

Sorry to break the news to you, but the talented stars of Spring Awakening are no longer your little secret. Thanks to the juggernaut that is Glee – the top-rated show on Fox in 2010 – musicals are now cool, singing is fun, and Lea Michele is half-naked on the cover of GQ. To complete the overthrow of your universe, Jonathan Groff is gay, out, and starring in a Robert Redford movie, along with nine other things. Oh, how far Melchior and Wendla have come. Your street cred? You cay say you knew them when they were bare-assed on a slab, swinging above a Broadway stage.

There’s room on the Billboard chart for… Gavin Creel?

There’s hardly even a way to describe the moment we realized Gavin Creel had landed himself on the Billboard charts with his new EP, Quiet.  There was some cheering involved.  A bit of shaking.  Maybe some tears.  Most of this inspired by the authentic, (ahem) quiet way Mr. Creel found himself there—by making us feel like he wasn’t just out to make money, but to let us in on the secret of his beautiful life with each gut-wrenchingly honest song.  A top man, experiencing an early flush of much deserved success, setting our Fan Girl hearts ablaze.

The Unsurprising Advent of Alex Timbers

He’s gorgeous. He’s smart. He’s young. Enter Broadway’s brightest, if mostly unseen (except in the fashion magazines, dahling) star. From a downtown comedy troupe to having not one, but two well-reviewed shows on Broadway this year, Alex Timbers’s name is about to become very household. Our prayer? That he doesn’t move to L.A. and direct terrible romantic comedies for eight times the salary that any Broadway show could provide.

Fuck Yeah, Spider-Man on the Front Page of My New York Times

Whether or not this whole Spider-Man thing pans out, we all have this: Broadway Theater is suddenly front page news.  And evening news.  And fodder for late night TV.  You can’t even buy this kind of coverage.  Broadway is relevant again.  As a theater lover, it’s hard to hate on that, at least.

Rent is Cool Again

You want to know how old you are? Try this one on for size: Rent has been around for so long that it’s had ample time to go out of style and come back again. With a high profile concert staging at the Hollywood Bowl directed by Neil Patrick Harris (and starring a somewhat confused-looking Vanessa Hudgens and Aaron Tveit in enormous fake mermaid tattoos), and the announcement that it’s going to be re-staged off-Broadway in 2011 by Michael Grief, we had to wonder: Is it too soon? Or , for those of us who saw the original in 1996, are we just way longer in the tooth than we realized?

And the Pulitzer Goes to… A MUSICAL, Bitches

It’s only happened a few times in the 92 year history of the prize.  You can count all of them on two hands, in fact.  Next to Normal—in addition to making thousands of people cry each week—has become the eighth musical ever to nab the prize.  Its powerful message has not only made a mark on our hearts, it has now officially made its mark on the history books, too.

The Rare and Awesome Triumph of the Tiny Show

Speaking of Next to Normal.  And Scottsboro Boys.  And Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.  Three shows which, despite their closing notices, signaled an awesome trend worth celebrating: small shows storming the gates of the Great White Way.  With small casts, simple staging, and grass-roots marketing, these shows proved that Broadway can (and should) become home to anything.


Hunter Foster Has a Crazy Post-Tonys Meltdown

Remember when Hunter Foster went slightly insane and put up a Facebook page after the Tony’s about how there were too many… not-Broadway people… on Broadway? Except that he couldn’t really explain the difference between a Broadway Person and a Not-Broadway Person? And then we all remembered what it means to have real problems? Or at least fake problems that make sense? Yeah we all remember that. Too bad that all these months later, none of us totally understand what that was all about.

Ramin Setoodeh talks shit about Jonathan Groff, and we were all like, OH HELL NO.

Newsweek columnist Ramin Setoodeh wrote a really hateful article slamming the performances of several gay actors—including The Groff—who were playing straight men. With his bigoted, narrow-minded article, Seetodeh incited copious amounts of anger in the theater community.  Because really, who the fuck is this guy to tell us what we find believable, attractive and/or fuckable, whether we’re straight, gay, or just willing to try anything.  We’ll probably never forgive him.

Memphis Succeeds, Despite Sucking

When we saw Memphis in the weeks before the Tony Awards, the audience was half-empty. These days, thanks to its Best Musical win, it’s flirting with a million bucks in ticket sales each week. This is fine except that the show is still really bad. Word on the street is that it won for its potential on the road, and for its middle-of-the-road appeal. In other words, for the most depressing reasons ever, and for reasons that insult audiences. You want to know why really great shows are closing? Because after the Tonys, it became clear that their own industry does a poor-ass job of supporting them.

Glee Decides to Be Terrible

What did Glee do after it became the most talked-about, highest rated show on TV? It instantly jumped the shark. Bogged down by a cavalcade of useless costars (Meat Loaf? Gwyneth Paltrow?) and fixated on “theme shows” that grabbed ratings at the expense of story arc and great characters, Glee became utterly unwatchable in 2010. The only thing worse? The show’s delusional fans that insist it’s still good.

Kristen Chenoweth Returns to Broadway! And It’s Totally Lackluster!

Cheno is one of Broadway’s most important leading ladies. So why was her star turn in Promises, Promises so dull? Everything about the performance, from her ill-fitting costumes to her awkward attempt at playing “depressed” was so wrong that it allowed her costars, Sean Hayes and Katie Finneran, to solidly steal the show from her. That’s not the girl we know. Nor is it the Broadway we like to watch.

Sondheim on Sondheim is so bad that it makes us kind of hate Sondheim

No. Seriously. After seeing the painfully lackluster Sondheim on Sondheim, it was hard to tell if it was the performances or the material that made us so deeply unhappy.  You know things are going south when you find yourself watching a projection screen showing a YouTube montage in a Broadway Theater.  So far south, in fact, that even the inimitable Barbara Cook can’t save them.  Ouch.

Patrick Wilson Returns to Broadway. For .005 seconds.

You know that recurring (wet)dream you have at least once a week where Patrick Wilson is back on the Broadway stage every night?  And how sad you are every time you wake up and realize it’s been nearly two years since that was real life?  For the blink of an eye Patrick was back on Broadway this fall—in a reading of The Normal Heart—and it was awesome.  And then it was over.  And Patrick was gone again, like usual, leaving us feeling well…unsatisfied.

Elaine Stritch is like, LINE.

Only Elaine Stritch could give one of the best performances on Broadway while simultaneously forgetting/flubbing half her lines. Her delightful turn as Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music had audiences roaring with laughter—and wondering who was actually senile, the Madame or Elaine. It made for a surreal night at the theater, sure, but thank goodness for a whiff of dimension in Trevor Nunn’s mostly paint-by-numbers production. There was no confusion about that.

Jackson is a… Loser.

The talk of the town when it played off-Broadway last season—seriously, Isherwood and Brantley both put it on their ‘Shoulda Won 2010 Tonys’ lists—Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson made our sexypants loving dreams come true when the curtain went up in the Jacobs Theater this fall.  Sadly, this inspiring, challenging, vivid work of art didn’t get a chance to find its footing, and it will close after only 120 performances on January 2nd 2011.  Lamesauce.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Jbomb December 30, 2010, 5:38 pm

    “Glee Decides to Be Terrible”

    Just an outstanding title for an outstanding post on an outstanding website.

  • Kate F. December 31, 2010, 3:32 pm

    Come on, Lucky! You can say you knew them when they were bare-assed, swinging on a platform above the stage at Jazz @ Lincoln Center! (I still can’t believe you were seated, like, one row in front of us that night.)

  • Marnie G. June 25, 2011, 9:20 pm

    LAME-O OVER-RATED show? Thrilled it closed early!

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