Looking back, there were plenty of excellent plays and musicals that were produced during 2014. But that’s not what this list is for. This list exists to remember the awesome, funny, weird and wonderful moments that happened onstage, the moments that — months later — still resonate.
Best Sister Act: Stephanie Felton and Kim Borge
Though the U.S. premiere of London musical Soho Cinders didn’t catch fire like Uptown Players hoped it would, it did gift us with two of the most outrageous, crass and hilarious characters to grace a DFW stage this year: Dana and Clodagh, played with bold abandon by Felton and Borge.
These two pranced, jiggled and cracked jokes in Cockney accents straight out of Ab Fab, and nothing was off-limits when it came to their handsy audience interaction. Happily, Christmas Our Way brought the pair back for a raunchy rendition of “A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing” from Promises, Promises. Whether you wanted to admit it or not, it’s what we all ready wanted for Christmas.
Best Tuba: Seth Magill
The front man for Home By Hovercraft didn’t seem complete in On The Eve until he slid down the slide, tuba in hand, near the show’s finale at Theatre Three. Fans of the band, which scored the original musical, cheered when the instrument made its appearance.
Twelve months later, Magill played Scrooge’s nephew in Dallas Theater Center’s A Christmas Carol and the tuba reappeared, as musical director Shawn Magill (also of HBH) had every single actor playing at least one instrument. It may be an unusual accessory for a rock band, but that tuba definitely has its fans.
Best Time Travel: The Echo Room
In February, Echo Theatre transformed the Bath House Cultural Center into a 1930s supper club for Her Song, a revue of tunes penned by female composers from the 1900s to 1940s.
Intimate cocktail tables, debonair crooners, free wine from the onstage bar and cheek-to-cheek dancing with your sweetheart — it made for one memorable Valentine’s Day theatrical experience. It was so popular in fact, that Echo is bringing back the show with its original cast and the Matt Tolentino Quartet from February 10-21.
Best Bevel, Pivot & Wave: Pageant, Uptown Players
The contestants in the crowd-pleaser Pageant know how to work an evening gown, heels and even a swimsuit. They also have bigger muscles and better legs than I ever will, because they are fit men dressed as women. (A few of the performers from this production often perform in drag at other venues around town.)
As fetching as these gentlemen looked, they were even funnier at creating characters that straddled stereotypical and real, pathetic and admirable. There were some, ahem, real balls behind those performances.
Best Existential Kids: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Fun House Theatre and Film
Noted director-about-town Rene Moreno ventured up to Plano to tackle an intricate Tom Stoppard classic, and the results were sharp and thought-provoking. Oh, and it was performed by kids. Just another example of how Fun House treats its young performers as the intelligent and professional actors they’re learning to become.
Best Wig Out: The Passing Show, Ochre House
This Matthew Posey original introduced audiences to Lord Buckley (Ben Bryant), a beat poet and comic who gained notoriety in the 1950s for his unique stage performances. It also had Buckley’s acting out King Lear, pulling down wigs suspended by bungee cords from the ceiling as he moved from character to character.
It was a dizzying spectacle, a memorable feat that surely gave Bryant a mental and physical workout.
Best Audience Participation: Shear Madness, Theatre Three
Every good beauty shop invites you to feel right at home while you curl up and dye, but Theatre Three managed to create that atmosphere from the get-go. With Tony’s (B.J. Cleveland) gossiping and shampooing, Barbara’s (Sherry Hopkins) snapping gum and flipping through tabloids, it was like hanging out with friends … until the murder happens.
When Bradley Campbell’s investigator began questioning the audience right along with the characters, it opened the door to some hilarious improv and sassy comebacks. So hilarious, in fact, that the show extended four months past its original closing date.
Best Heartbreak: Titanic, Lyric Stage
Everything about Titanic is big, from the doomed ocean liner’s legend to Maury Yeston’s sweeping score. Yet director Drew Scott Harris kept the scale of this production delightfully modest, focusing instead on drawing compelling — and ultimately heartbreaking — performances from his large cast rather than overbearing sets or special effects.
Jay Dias predictably kept the music lush, and there was such excitement in the grand group numbers. That was matched only by the chilling songs as the boat was sinking, giving humanity to one of history’s most famous tragedies.
Best Poultry: Year of the Rooster, Upstart Theater
Upstart Theater’s production — part of the Elevator Project at the Wyly Theatre — had plenty going for it, from Joey Folsom’s fierce rooster to Brian Witkowicz’s achingly pathetic loser.
It also had Steph Garrett, a riot as Witkowicz’s aggressive coworker and downright loopy as the chicken brought in to soothe Folsom’s fighting spirit. Watching this weird, wild love story play out was one of those “Is this really happening?” moments that make live theater so memorable.
Best Sandbox: Teotl: The Sand Show, Cara Mia Theatre Co. and Prism Co.
More than 20 cubic yards of sand overflowed in a warehouse in Trinity Groves, providing a play space for Cara Mia and Prism Co. to wordlessly tell a tale of ancient gods.
The evocative choreography by Katy Tye, expressive masks created by Frida Espinosa-Müller and astonishing special effects from Trigg Watson furthered the feeling of being in a dream. If you wanted to jump in and begin flinging around the sand with the performers, well, we wouldn’t have blamed you.