Broadway always brings me to gratitude, for being present, for access, for art, for live theater. Some of the most memorable experiences I have had in that rarified environment have been from witnessing an incredible, mountain-moving performance. I am talking about the melding of actor and material such that the chemistry between the two is palpable and undeniable. In this season of thanks, here are 5 performances from 2017 for which I am particularly grateful.
1 Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen
Platt’s run as Evan Hansen just ended this past Sunday but the impression of his soul-stirring performance is still fresh in the minds of all who were lucky enough to witness it. He was a young man turned inside out on the stage in a show about an anxious teen both desperate for connection and afraid to speak. Platt laid his soul bare in a performance for the ages.
2 Hailey Kilgore in Once on this Island
From one star turn to another, Hailey Kilgore is about to explode onto the scene as Ti Moune in this stellar, immersive production. Standing on the top of an overturned boat, making a case for her self-possession and independence, Kilgore’s intensity echoed that of the young Heather Headley in Aida. She commands attention and burns as bright as her fiery red dress. Like LaChanze before her, Kilgore will be taking Broadway by storm.
3 The cast of Come From Away
This show, about the true story of passengers stranded and welcomed in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, creates a sense of community with the audience that mirrors the sense of connection onstage among the characters. It is truly an ensemble piece, with nary a stand-out moment in favor of a tapestry of performances woven together by a outstanding core of actors. In such divisive, unsure times, this ensemble celebrates the material and creates a salve for what ails us.
4 Daniel Breaker in Hamilton: An American Musical
Speaking of blessings, I am been fortunate enough to have recently visited this epic piece of theater for the 4th time. I knew the music, I knew the lines, I had seen most of the current cast previously in the show. But I was not prepared for the greatness of Daniel Breaker, a recent addition to the show as Aaron Burr. Watching him steel his resolve to “wait for it” and bring down the house during “The Room Where It Happens” blew my mind. He is an absolute revelation in the role. (There is no video of him as Aaron Burr, so here is a taste of him performing.)
5 Katrina Lenk in The Band’s Visit
This is the breakthrough performance of the season. In a beautifully nuanced and quietly brilliant show about a band of Egyptian musicians stranded overnight in a small Israeli town, Lenk’s voice makes the audience feel that they are levitating during the melodic “Omar Sharif”. I dare you to witness and not be spellbound.
To all of the performers who share their emotions on stage and allow the audience moments of catharsis, to you who have touched people by leaving it laid bare, I thank you.