By Brian Scott Lipton
Even with a shortened Broadway “season” that ran from August to December, I saw more than enough great performances the past few months to justify making this top-10 list! So, here in alphabetical order, are Cititour’s 2021 Broadway All-Stars:
Photo: Clyde's Joan Marcus
Uzo Aduba: Clyde’s
Outfitted in a succession of brilliant, body-enhancing costumes by Jennifer Moeller, Aduba is alternately hilarious and terrifying as the devilish owner of a Pennsylvania truck-stop who makes life hell-on-earth for her terrified employees. Unsurprisingly, the Emmy-winning actress knows how to make an entrance – and an exit!
Photo: The Lehman Trilogy/Julieta Cervantes
Simon Russell Beale: The Lehman Trilogy
Proving once again that he’s one of England’s greatest stage actors – not that he needs to do so – Beale seamlessly transforms from character to character over this magnificent show’s three-plus hours, making us invest in every member of the legendary family he portrays.
Photo: Flying Over Sunset/Joan Marcus
Carmen Cusack: Flying Over Sunset
Even if this ambitious yet problematic musical never quite proves worthy of her talents, Cusack is consistently fascinating as the troubled writer and politician Clare Boothe Luce, struggling to find both love and purpose despite her fame and wealth. If she doesn’t touch your heart, you may not have one!
Photo: Caroline or Change/Joan Marcus
Sharon D. Clarke: Caroline or Change.
As the perpetually angry and disappointed Louisiana maid in Tony Kushner and Jeanine Testori’s brilliant musical, Clarke brings audiences at Studio 54 to their feet night after night with her powerful voice and presence, almost literally raising the roof with her “11 o’clock number,” the extraordinary “Lot’s Wife.”
Photo: Trouble In Mind/Joan Marcus
LaChanze: Trouble in Mind
As the ultimately frustrated African American actress Wiletta Mayer in Alice Childress’ still-relevant 1955 play. LaChanze deftly uses her superb comic timing, unerring dramatic instincts, and even her almost supernatural singing chops to create a truly three-dimensional woman worthy of our time – and any time!
Photo: Company/Matthew Murphy
Patti LuPone: Company
One of the theater world’s greatest performers. LuPone not only perfectly embodies the deliciously acidic, obviously unhappy Joanne in this landmark musical revival, but her brilliantly pointed rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s vodka-stinging diatribe “The Ladies Who Lunch” more than does its job: it absolutely stops the show. We’ll drink to that!
Photo: Mrs. Doubtfire/Joan Marcus
Rob McClure: Mrs. Doubtfire
The ever-inventive McClure fills the late Robin Williams’ daunting shoes and padded outfits in this musical adaptation of the popular film. He does countless impressions and voices with aplomb, throws off the script’s one-liners with perfect timing and interacts touchingly – and often hysterically with everyone around him.
Photo: Dana H./Chad Batka
Deirdre O’Connell: Dana H.
Portraying playwright Lucas Hnath’s mother, Dana Higginbotham, who survived a terrible kidnapping ordeal in 1997, it’s almost impossible to believe O’Connell is actually lip-syncing pre-recorded dialogue in this shattering solo play. Indeed, what O’Connell delivers is one of the most in-the-moment performances I’ve ever witnessed.
Photo: Six/Joan Marcus
Anna Uzele: Six
While she’s totally effective as part of the show’s incredible six-woman ensemble, when Uzele finally gets her star turn as Henry’s last -- and surviving -- wife Catherine Parr, she simply commands the stage like a true queen, proving herself first among equals.
Photo: Girl from North Country/Matthew Murphy
Mare Winningham: Girl from the North Country
As the mentally challenged wife Elizabeth in Conor McPherson’s musical – with songs by the great Bob Dylan -- Winningham is often unbelievably funny, bringing a much-needed levity to the often dour proceedings. Plus, her renditions of two of Dylan’s best-known numbers, “Like a Rollling Stone” and “Forever Young,” sung in a strong pop-country voice, are simply indelible.