2008 IN THE REARVIEW
Unforgettable musicals, comedies,
And a visit to 'This Beautiful City'
The number of quality productions attended by Theatertimes in 2008 was higher than usual, which made the 'Rearview' recognition process both easier and more enjoyable.
It was a big year for attending musicals, and they were largely enjoyed. Not surprisingly, the Ahmanson Theatre, with its imported road shows and direct-from-New York reliables, led the field. Because it was the most thrilling and envelop-pushing for me, Spring Awakening (above) gets top honors in the Musical category, but John Doyle's celebrated staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd was as exciting in its way, with actors performing the music on an array of instruments. However, that show had been covered extensively, and Sondheim is such a predictable entry that we salute Awakening's Steven Sater and Duncan Shiek.
The other outstanding musical's do manage a mention in other categories: 9 to 5: the Musical took something that felt fairly unimaginative as a film and ramped up the creativity with Dolly Parton's songs and fine lead performances, all played out on a magnificent multi-location set designed by Scott Pask, who gets the nod in that category.
Up there in the realm of thrilling and groundbreaking was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. It is honored with favorite lighting for Jeff Croiter, which added greatly to the stylish mood of this piece. The Civilians also had a musical debut at Douglas, and with so much to commend their This Beautiful City, we tip the hat to the marvelous ensemble work.
And the final musical to get honored by other means is Open Fist Theatre's revival of Joe's Garage. This was a revival and much more as it took what had only been a theatrical concept presented on a recording by composer Frank Zappa and brought it to life with the cooperation of the controlling, and now late Gail Zappa Credit to adapters Pat Towne and Michael Franco.
For the acting Rearviews, a well-deserved nod to Julie White (right) for her hilariously brazen agent in Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed at the Douglas, the incredible Richard Kind as a hilariously brazen producer in Daniel Goldfarb's Adam Baum and the Jew Movie at the Hayworth Theatre, Tom Fitzpatrick as an unforgettable Fagin in A Noise Within's Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, and the heartbreaking Diana Elizabeth Jordan in Julie Marie Myatt's powerful and important Someday for Cornerstone Theatre (presented at the Bootleg).
And, last but far from least, are the premiere of Paul Oakley Stovall's As Much as You Can at Celebration Theatre. Seven years later, Stovall revisited the script and had a higher-profile production at the Mark Taper Forum, with Immediate Family. But the ingredients were all there, and successfully rendered back in 2008. The directing award goes to Ethan McSweeny for Stephen Drukman's In This Corner at The Old Globe. It just confirmed McSweeny's vision, which we'd seen the previous year at the Glove with A Body of Water and a few years earlier with Noah Haidle's Mr. Marmalade at South Coast Repertory, when I was still on staff. Speaking of which, a deserved nod to that theater's production staff for the imaginative renderings of Angela Balogh Calin's costumes for Doug Cooney's Imagine, one of SCR's Theatre for Young Audiences productions.
PREMIERE: 'AS MUCH AS YOU CAN'
by Paul Oakley Stovall | Celebration Theatre
REVIVIAL: 'JOE'S GARAGE'
by Frank Zappa, Pat Towne, Michael Franco | Open Fist Theatre
MUSICAL: 'SPRING AWAKENING'
by Steven Sater and Duncan Shiek | Ahmanson Theatre
DIRECTOR: ETHAN McSWEENY
In This Corner | The Old Globe
FEMALE LEAD: JULIE WHITE
The Little Dog Laughed | Kirk Douglas Theatre
MALE LEAD: RICHARD KIND
Adam Baum and the Jew Movie | Hayworth Theatre
FEATURED FEMALE: DIANA ELIZABETH JORDAN Someday | Cornerstone Theatre Company
FEATURED MALE: TOM FITZPATRICK Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist | A Noise Within
SET DESIGN: SCOTT PASK
'9 to 5: the Musical' | Ahmanson Theatre
COSTUME DESIGN: ANGELA BALOGH CALIN 'Imagine' | South Coast Repertory
LIGHTING DESIGN: JEFF CROITER
'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' | Kirk Douglas Theatre
SOUND DESIGN: DAVE IWATAKI
'Be Like Water' | East West Players
ENSEMBLE: 'THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY'
The Civilians: Brandon Miller, Brad Heberlee, Alison Weller, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Stephen Plunkett and Emily Ackerman / Kirk Douglas Theatre
9 to 5: The Musical / Ahmanson Theatre
Adam Baum and the Jew Movie / Hayworth Theatre
Alexandros / Laguna Playhouse
The American Plan / Old Globe Theatre (Carter)
As Much as You Can / Celebration Theatre
Be Like Water / East West Players
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson / Kirk Douglas Theatre
Body Politic / Echo Theatre
Brownstone / Laguna Playhouse
Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist / A Noise Within
Culture Clash in AmeriCCA / South Coast Repertory (Argyros)
Don Juan / A Noise WIthin
Don't Talk to the Actors / Laguna Playhouse
The Dying Gaul / The Elephant Theatre
The End of the Tour / The Road Theatre
For All Time / Cornerstone Theatre Company
Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune / International City Theatre
Great Expectations / Odyssey Theatre
Hamlet / A Noise Within
The Heiress / South Coast Repertory
Henry IV, Pt 1 / A Noise Within
The Hiding Place / Attic Theatre Ensemble
Imagine / South Coast Repertory
In This Corner / The Old Globe
An Italian Straw Hat / South Coast Repertory
Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress / Geffen Playhouse/p>
Joe's Garage / Open Fist Theatre
The Lady With All the Answers / Pasadena Playhouse
Leaving Iowa / Laguna Playhouse
The Little Dog Laughed / Kirk Douglas
Mask / Pasadena Playhouse
Memphis / La Jolla Playhouse
The Merry Wives of Windsor / The Old Globe
Nevis Mountain Dew / Towne Street Theatre (Stella Adler Theatre)
No Child / Kirk Douglas Theatre
Orson's Shadow / Pasadena Playhouse
Our Town / Rude Guerrilla
Post Mortem / Insight America
The Rainmaker / A Noise Within
Red Herring / Laguna Playhouse
Sea of Tranquility / The Old Globe
The Seven / La Jolla Playhouse
Some Girl(s) / Kirk Douglas Theatre
Someday / Cornerstone Theatre Company
Some Kind of Love Story / Hayworth Theatre
Spring Awakening / Ahmanson Theatre
Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street / Ahmanson Theatre
Taking Steps / South Coast Repertory (Segerstrom)
This Beautiful City / Kirk Douglas Theatre
Tranced / Laguna Playhouse
Two Unrelated Plays / Kirk Douglas Theatre
Vanities / Pasadena Playhouse
Voices from Okinawa / East West Players
What They Have / South Coast Repertory