Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
As 2014 comes to a close, Emertainment Monthly has decided to countdown the top ten Broadway performances of 2014. It was a big year for Broadway. Whether it was a play or a musical this past season was exceptional. From revivals to new musicals, Broadway ushered in a brand new era of musicals. This past season, some big name stars returned or made their Broadway debuts while newcomers strutted their stuff and left their marks. After much deliberation, here are the top ten Broadway performances of this past year.
10. Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance took Broadway by storm earlier this year when he was part of Twelfth Night and Richard III at the Belasco Theatre. The show originated from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and took Broadway by storm. The plays were exceptional considering the entire cast was male. Rylance’s stellar performance in Twelfth Night earned him a 2014 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play. His work as the female character Olivia was exceptional and considered one of the best performances in a play all year. Here’s hoping Rylance and his gang make it back over to the United States soon.
9. Celia Keenan-Bolger – The Glass Menagerie
Celia Keenan-Bolger is no stranger to the Broadway stage. She has been attached to some incredible projects such as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Peter and the Starcatcher. This past year she took her incredible talent to the Broadway stage in the revival of The Glass Menagerie opposite Zachary Quinto. Her performance as Laura Wingfield was exquisite. This role started at American Repertory Theatre in 2013 and transformed into a major Broadway production that earned her a 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play and a 2014 Tony Award nomination. Although the play was short lived, Keenan-Bolger’s performance was legendary and helped introduce the amazing play to a new generation.
8. Kelli O’Hara – The Bridges of Madison County
Not many Broadway actresses can move an entire audience to tears simply by singing; Kelli O’Hara is the exception. This past year, Jason Robert Brown’s exquisite new musical The Bridges of Madison County showed everyone the power of simplistic musicals containing incredible opera-influenced music. O’Hara’s performance as Francesca Johnson, an Italian immigrant and Iowa housewife that falls in love with a National Geographic photographer, was nothing short of extraordinary. Her operatic voice boomed throughout the Schoenfeld Theatre night after night as she told a story of love and loss. Her stunning performance alongside a storied role by Steven Pasquale earned her a 2014 Tony Award nomination. Although The Bridges of Madison County only had a very short run, it touched the lives of millions of theatre fans, and this performance by O’Hara might be her best one to date.
7. James Monroe Iglehart – Aladdin
You ain’t never had a friend like James Monroe Iglehart. His exceptional take on the classic Disney character, Genie in Aladdin this past season was amazing. The most memorable moment of Aladdin comes during Iglehart’s upbeat performance of “Friend Like Me.” He tap dances, disappears and sings during this huge Broadway number. Iglehart takes a song, popularized in the animated film by the great Robin Williams, and puts his own hilarious spin on it. Night after night audience members at the New Amsterdam Theatre give him and the ensemble a standing ovation right in the middle of the number. How often do you see a standing ovation in the first act? The answer is not often. His love of Disney and the Genie shines through as you watch him zip around the stage. His performance earned him a much-deserved 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical as well as a Tony for the same category. Iglehart steals the show with his humor, dancing, and all around spirit.
6. Bryan Cranston – All the Way
Coming off of his exceptional portrayal of Walter White in AMC’s Emmy Award winning drama Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston decided to take over Broadway this year and boy did he deliver. His portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way blew audiences away night after night. His work with the show started earlier this year at A.R.T and quickly migrated to Broadway. Cranston is one of those actors that can easily transform into any character if given the opportunity. Considering this play came right after audiences bid farewell to his incredible work on Breaking Bad, Cranston had no issue shedding that persona and giving audiences a stellar performance. His role in All the Way earned him 2014 Outer Critics, Drama Desk and Tony Awards. Cranston may be off Broadway for now, but let’s hope he comes back soon. If you missed his Tony Award winning performance, HBO is scheduled to produce All the Way for TV with Cranston reprising his role as Johnson.
5. Lena Hall – Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Lena Hall’s exceptional work this season in Hedwig and the Angry Inch will go down in Broadway history. Her portrayal of Yitzhak is one for the ages. Hall has transformed into Yitzhak, Hedwig’s cross-dressing band mate and husband. Yitzhak acts as Hedwig’s roady however, he yearns to dress as a woman and perform on stage. It’s hard to recognize Hall after she transforms into Yitzhak. Her work in the show is spectacular and she helps elevate the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch to new and improved heights. Hall’s transformation earned her a well-deserved 2014 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.
4. Jefferson Mays – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Not many people get to play nine different roles on stage night after night but Jefferson Mays is the exception. In the 2014 Tony Award winning production A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Mays plays the entire D’Ysquith family. His work is phenomenal as he seamlessly changes into each character, sometimes right in front of the audiences’ eyes. His work with the show has been a labor of love; he is the only person who has ever played this role, which means he knows it inside and out. Mays has been attached to the project since it’s early days. The role earned him a 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and a 2014 Tony Award nomination. His passion for the project comes across on stage night after night as he sings, struts and transforms.
3. Jessie Mueller – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Jessie Mueller took on Broadway this season when she effortlessly transformed into Carole King. She was able to portray Ms. King’s strength and vulnerability during her songwriting and eventual singing career. As you sit in the audience, you truly believe Mueller is Ms. King. Mueller’s voice perfectly fits the 1960s song genre. Mueller takes over the keys causing the audience to be in awe. Her exceptional work earned her 2014 Drama Desk and Tony Awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, one of the closest competitions this past season. Mueller is making her mark on Broadway and this is hopefully the start to a long and prosperous career. She will end her Tony Award winning run in March 2015 however, the young actress already has another high profiled gig lined up. Mueller can next be seen in A.R.T’s musical adaptation of the movie, Waitress with music/lyrics by Sara Bareilles.
2. Audra McDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
For Broadway enthusiasts she is known simply as “The Queen.” Audra McDonald has conquered Broadway one musical at a time and this season she added another one to her list with the play Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill, a play about Billie Holiday. This one-woman show could not have been done with anyone else but McDonald. The way McDonald moved, spoke, and sang embodied the late Holiday, which was truly incredible. She completely transformed into Holiday and embodied her every movement and thought. This season McDonald also shattered a Tony Award’s record when she took home her sixth Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She became the only person to win an acting award in each category. If you missed her Tony Award winning performance, HBO is scheduled to produce Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill for TV with McDonald reprising her role as Billie Holiday.
1. Neil Patrick Harris – Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Neil Patrick Harris solidified his rank as one of the great Broadway actors of this generation in 2014 with his performance as transgender rocker, Hedwig, in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. His comedic timing was flawless as he interacted with the audience. Coming off a legendary run as infamous NYC playboy, Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, Harris traded the suits for a fabulous pair of gold stilettos. He was barely recognizable as he commanded the stage as Hedwig. Night after night, all eyes were locked on Harris as he strutted around the stage signing classics like “Origins of Love,” “Midnight Radio,” and “Sugar Daddy.” His work will go down in Broadway history as one of the greatest musical performances. His love for Broadway showed night after night as he accepted thunderous applause and standing ovations. Harris’ performance earned him 2014 Drama Desk and Tony Award’s for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. 2014 was the year of Neil Patrick Harris and that definitely is not a bad thing.