A Look Back at 2009
Before 2009 ends, let's take a moment to look back at some (though not all) of the great community theatre shows and performances that lit up the stage this past year!
Of course, I wasn't able to see all the shows in the Tri-State this year - I'm only one man, after all - so these are my personal highlights, and you're welcome to send along yours, gentle reader. Either click the comment button at the bottom of this post, or send an email to TheMinskers@aol.com.
My impulse is always to list these as a "Top 10" list, but that's not really fair, since I'm the president of First Stage Theatre and would naturally be inclined to put those shows at the top of the list (or not put them at the top in an attempt at being fair) - so I'll stay away from that impulse. But I will list a best performer of the year - how's that?
Let's tackle them in chronological order. Here goes:
One of the first shows I saw this year was Bitsy, Boots... and Ida, a show staged by the First United Methodist Church in February. Written by Jonathan Joy, it's the latest chapter in a series of stories about two cantankerous sisters, their visiting nephew, his fiancee, and another intrusive family member. It's was a true delight - funny, with lots of local references and clever plot twists. They're working on a new story for this February - I can't wait!
In March I saw First Stage Theatre's Charlotte's Web, a wonderful version of the classic story about a little pig and his friendship with a clever spider. I was so impressed with this production - it was outstanding in every way!
At the end of March was a show I'm totally biased about... because I was the director. Alexander, Who's Not Not Not Not Not Not Going To Move was a funny, fast-moving musical that featured a terrific, talented young cast (most of whom you'll be seeing again in the upcoming Peanuts musicals next March). I also have to give special kudos to our lone adult in the show, Travis McElroy, who played numerous parts, was hilarious in each one, and also served as a great mentor to those young actors. I'm so proud of the great job by the cast and crew!
In April Marshall's Department of Theatre presented Epic Proportions, a very funny play about the 1930s-era production of a big-budget movie in the desert, and the brothers who try to break into show business. It was very funny and featured a fantastic cast, led by Chuck Hearndon, one of the best actors (comic or otherwise) around.
Despite a hectic summer, in August I saw the Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of Rent, the beloved Broadway musical. It was an amazing production with an incredibly talented cast, terrific production values and a great soundtrack. Definitely one of the area's best productions this year. Special kudos to Ryan Hardiman and Nathan Mohebbi - they knocked it out of the park!
October featured two great shows, each at opposite ends of the scale. I Ought To Be In Pictures was presented by ARTS, and featured a small cast telling the funny story of an estranged father and the daughter who tracks him down in Hollywood. Written by Neil Simon, the show was a star turn for the wonderful Alissa Fetherolf as the daughter, Clint McElroy as the grumpy but loveable Dad, and Leann Haines as the Dad's long-suffering girlfriend. A real delight!
The other show that month was a big musical production of the classic Man of La Mancha, which is based on the book Don Quixote. It was an amazing production with stunning performances by Ryan Hardiman in the title role, Marina Jurica as Dulcinea and Mike Murdock as Sancho Panza. A top-flight production all around!
November brought First Stage Theatre's Into the Woods, the beloved Sondheim musical that combines several fairy tales into a modern tale of love and loss. Featuring an all-star cast of First Stage veterans, it was an outstanding show, and one that would also be in the running for the best show of the year (along with Rent and La Mancha) if I were playing that game.
The last show I saw this year was the one-man production of A Christmas Carol, with Jack Cirillo playing the part of Charles Dickens, who is touring the country doing readings of his famous story - but he's lost his copy of the book, so he has to recreate the story from memory, playing all the parts involved. It was an amazing show, and also in the running for the best of the year.
So I saw lots of great shows and lots of great performances. It's tough to single one out - there are so many great ones to choose from! But I have to admit that the one that impressed me the most was... Jack Cirillo's one-man version of A Christmas Carol. It was amazing to watch - masterful, involving, funny, touching - his performance covered all the bases.
Whew! A great year of shows - and those are just the ones I saw. I urge you to get out there and support your community theatre groups in 2010 - they do amazing work, the ticket prices are (relatively) cheap, and you'll see performances you'll never forget!
Oh, one more thing - Happy New Year!