It’s list time: end of the year, top 10, best of and all the rest. In all the theatrical performances I have seen this fall, there were inarguably a few moments that simply refused to leave my brain. Because I’m not physically able to see every production, there may be some I missed. But these are my favorite onstage moments from this past year.
Most Realistic Smackdown: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
This Dallas Theater Center show tackled a lot of heavy, serious themes through satire, but most of the play’s fun came from watching the actors tackle each other. Intense fight choreography by Christian Litke meant that we heard every thud, crack and crash — when we weren’t too busy gasping and groaning at the drop-kicks and body-slams.
Quickest Quick Change: The Mystery of Irma Vep
Irma Vep has eight characters but only two actors. Ergo, Regan Adair and Bryan T. Donovan worked just as hard offstage at WaterTower Theatre as they did on, scrambling to switch from one character to another. The speed at which both their clothes and characters changed was lightning-quick, which in turn made the Gothic farce even more madcap and hilarious.
Most Exhausting Performance: An Iliad
I honestly don’t know how Bruce DuBose did it. He transported Undermain Theatre audiences back to the Trojan War in An Iliad with only a handful of props, some neat sound design and musician Paul Semrad to accompany him. For 96 minutes, DuBose wailed, trembled, lectured, roared, wept and sang his way through this update of Homer’s epic poem, laying bare his soul. And then he went on to do it all over again the next night.
Criminally Under-Attended Opening Night: Side Show
There were only five of us in the audience at Pfamily Arts in Plano. By the middle of the opening number, I felt truly sorry for everyone who was missing out on Side Show, the cult Broadway musical about Depression-era conjoined twins who became superstars on the carnival and vaudeville circuits. It may have had its rough points, but musically this production was thrilling. Watching Mallory Michaellann and Jad Saxton sing “Leave Me Alone,” a hilarious examination of the frustrating concept of privacy, especially drove home the passion these performers possessed.
Best Hair: 1776
A period piece like 1776 promises one thing: awesome wigs. Phillip Plowman outfitted the large cast with intricately curled, styled and pony-tailed locks, making the men behind the Declaration of Independence some of the most well-coifed to strut the stage all year. The two women in the cast also benefited from the elaborate hairpieces, with their towering curls making the intricate costumes by Drenda Lewis even more splendid and era appropriate.
Most Life-Like Performance: Avenue Q
It may have been a show mainly about puppets, but Theatre Too’s Avenue Q boasted some of the most realistic performances of the year — from both its flesh and felt contingents. At the close of act I, Megan Kelly Bates and her puppet counterpart Kate Monster belted the heck out of “It’s a Fine, Fine Line,” one of the most heart-wrenching breakup songs in musical theater. Rumor has it that Theatre Too will be remounting the production with the same cast in the spring, so Avenue Q can become one of your most memorable theater moments of 2013 if you missed it the first time around.
Most Shiver-Inducing Opening: Oklahoma!
When I reviewed Lyric Stage’s Oklahoma! I led with the magical first moments of Bryant Martin singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Months later, it’s still my favorite opening moment of the year, thanks to his lush voice and the support of Jay Dias’ full orchestra. The anticipation of those first few offstage notes was palpable, and the show only got better from there.
Most Disgusting Surprise: God of Carnage
If you didn’t catch Dallas Theater Center’s God of Carnage, you might want to skip this one, lest we ruin the play’s biggest shocker for you. But for those who did see it, I hope you weren’t in Sally Nystuen-Vahle’s splash zone. The tense — and often hilariously ridiculous — take on the innately savage nature of supposedly sophisticated humans required its cast to toss pillows and various other props, but hardly anyone was prepared for the moment when cookies were tossed too.
Most Welcome Monster: The Addams Family
No way around it, The Addams Family was a Halloween dud at Dallas Summer Musicals. But there was a tiny moment when Morticia (Broadway goddess Sara Gettelfinger) was comforting her son Pugsley (refreshingly non-annoying child actor Patrick D. Kennedy) about something I already blocked out, and the bed they were sitting on began to creep across the stage. Turns out the monster under the bed was not only real; he wanted to escape this production as quickly as possible. It was a weird, random and genuinely giggle-worthy moment, one of precious few in the entire show.
Best Use of Rollerblades: Santa Claus vs. the Martians
Campy and low-budget, Santa Claus vs. the Martians at Level Ground Arts worked best when it was at its most random. And it didn’t get more random than Michael B. Moore, all glammed up as a sexy Mrs. Claus, sailing across the stage like a deranged roller derby queen. His entrances never failed to induce an avalanche of laughter, even if sometimes all he did was fling fake snow in the faces of his castmates.