BWW Features: Editor Picks - Best of DC in 2013
In 2013, there was no shortage of DC theatre and performing arts wonders to behold and the BroadwayWorld DC writing team was there to cover much of it. Looking back on the year, given the depth of the DC theatre company and the fact that there's certainly not a lack of national tours and other events that pass through our area, putting together a "Best Of" list is no small feat. Nonetheless, here's our attempt. I asked the DC writing staff to give me their picks and added a few of my own. Whether massive festivals, unique productions, or simply an amazing take on a classic we all know well, the DC arts community rose to the challenge this year and offered something pretty great for everyone.
From Jennifer Perry:
In 2013 alone, I reviewed - for one website or another - over 120 productions, and saw probably closer to 150 additional productions. That's a lot of theatre and concerts! For one reason or another, the following events stood out to me as being the most memorable.
Nordic Cool and American Voices Festivals at Kennedy Center: I have to tip my hat to the Kennedy Center for putting together two simply unforgettable festivals this season.
As your resident international affairs junkie, the mere thought of getting to see some imported productions from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland as part of the Nordic Cool Festival in February 2013 was enough to get me very excited. However, once I saw many of the productions - first and foremost Finland's Tampere Workers' Theatre production of The Warmblooded - I was astounded at the array of talent at play and how each production provided insight on the human condition at a global level, while also drawing attention to characteristics that may be unique to that region of the world.
Yet, my music-loving soul was also elated over the ambitious November 2013 American Voices Festival, hosted by Renée Fleming. There's something rather unique about having the opportunity to experience the eclectic nature of American music in a matter of three days. The festival showcased the best of American music talent in genres as diverse as musical theatre, classical music/opera, country, jazz, pop/rock, and gospel in a concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra. It also offered a glimpse at upcoming artists in master sessions taught by leading artists, and allowed those in the business and those that follow it to address issues of contemporary importance in a series of moderated discussion sessions. It lived up to the hype and the concert, in particular, featured top-notch performances by Broadway artists like Sutton Foster and Norm Lewis, opera diva Renée Fleming, and the musician's musician Ben Folds. The most memorable moments, however, came when Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles took the stage to give an inspiring and thoroughly original take on Elton John's classic "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Please Kennedy Center, do this again (and give Ms. Bareilles her own concert)!
Showboat and The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me at Washington National Opera: The Washington National Opera (WNO), under the artistic direction by Francesca Zambello, can never be accused of not thinking outside of the box. While it certainly offers your traditional offerings from Mozart, Verdi, and others, this year it convincingly made the claim about the compatible relationship between musical theatre and opera.
There's probably no question that any production of Show Boat will draw in the musical theatre-loving crowd. Yet, Zambello's production made a good case for the idea that this work - if done properly - can defy the labels and simply be viewed as a powerful artistic masterpiece. Featuring stunning visual pictures and memorable vocal performances by Andriana Chuchman (Magnolia Hawks), Angela Renée Simpson (Queenie), Alyson Cambridge (Julie LaVerne), and Morris Robinson (Joe) among others, the production fundamentally reminded us all why this show has endured for so long.