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A CurtainUp End of Year Feature
2008 Shows You May Have Missed
to Consider Putting on Your Holiday Theater Going List
By Elyse Sommer
This is a time when critics look back through their calendars to pick the best shows, moments and overall performances throughout the year. With the economy hastening the closings of so many good shows, I decided instead to limit my year-end ponderings to recommended shows you can still see rather than read about -- albeit often for just a week or so longer.
Dramas: Going, going gone.
Here are two well worth seeing Broadway plays that opened in 2008 but won't be around by the time President-Elect Obama finally becomes President Obama:
All My Sons, closing 1/15/09. A fine cast of an enduring Arthur Miller play, despite a somewhat too highly stylized and filmic staging
Dividing the Estate, closing 1/04/09. Actually this was a transfer from its earlier production at Primary Stages' 59E59 home. Elizabeth Ashley, the woman loathe to divide up the Texas estate of the title, will be moving on to the still playing Pulitzer prize winning drama about an Oklahoma family, August: Osage County-- Guy Boyd, the long-suffering husband of the soon-to-close Gypsy's Mama Rose is already a cast member
The Cripple of Inishmaan. This terrific new production of Martin McDonagh's tragi-comedy may well have the legs to transfer to Broadway from it's current Off-Broadway launch, but given the current economic climate, don't count on it. Buy a ticket before it closes at the Atlantic Theater 2/01/09:
Women Beware Women , Thomas Middleton's Jacobean comedy-drama is also off-Broadway but with a stellar cast (many with Broadway credentials) and a much more lavish production than usual for young, companies putting on shows in modestly sized theaters. Good reviews have extended it, but only to 1/18/08
2008 Broadway Musicals With Lots of Show Biz Pizazz
Billy Elliot. This one gets my vote for the most all-around satisfying new musical to have landed on Broadway in a long time. It will be around long enough for plenty of young dancer/actors to wow audiences with their charm and talent, but why not catch one of the three charmers who debuted the show.
Pal Joey. This new-old version of John O'Hara's musicalized short stories landed at Studio 54 on the heels of a lot of backstage drama about the departure of the originally cast leading man. While Matthew Risch, for whom every understudy's dream came true, is tall, dark, handsome and a good hoofer, didn't quite live up to the star is born myth, the show has plenty of assets to make it sizzle-- notably Martha Plimpton and Stockard Channing, an astutely written new book by playwright Richard Greenberg, eye-popping stagecraft and, of course, wonderful show tunes like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."
South Pacific. Lincoln Center's gorgeous production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is hands down 2008's most gorgeous production. Truly a case of "they don't make them like that any more." If you can nab a ticket, it's a perfect holiday treat.
Dying shows often make a festive last stand.
I can't think of a more festive finale to make the long running Hairspray a worthy candidate for your holiday viewing—not with the original stars Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein back on stage until the 1/04/09 closing
Another finale for a musical favorite can be found in a tiny Off-Broadway Theater where the the last (and one of the best) editions of Forbidden Broadway has been deservedly well enough received to delay it's scheduled 1/15/09 closing to 3/01/09
Lest we forget, and in case you didn't see, Spring Awakening will bite the dust before the inauguration. Its 1/18/09 will be preceded by l Spamalot and Gypsy, both of which close on 1/11/09.
Strictly Holiday Fare.
For something different from the endless annual productions of A Christmas Carol, consider the Keen Company's Beasley's Christmas Party based on a Booth Tarkington story. Closing 1/03/09.
For a unique theatrical experience, there's Martha Clarke's remarkable theater dance piece Garden of Earthly Delights