Thursday, December 31, 2009

My 2nd Annual Year in Lists

Happy new year's eve. Here are some of my favorites of the year in entertainment.
Top 5 Movies:
1) Up: I'm noticing a trend here. Last year, my favorite movie was Wall-E, also Pixar. While I enjoyed the whole film, the first 10 minutes of Up were so simple and beautiful that they cemented its place as number one.
2) (500) Days of Summer: What can I say? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are adorable. I loved the non-chronological order in which the story was told. The last scene may have made me groan, but the rest was just cute enough for me.
3) The Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson + Roald Dahl + stop-motion animation + awesome soundtrack = winning combination
4) The Princess and the Frog: Disney successfully returns to hand-drawn animation with a spunky new heroine, Tiana, and a jazzy score by Ryan Newman.
5) Where The Wild Things Are: I grew up with this book and felt it was a pretty faithful retelling (though it was a disappointment that Max's room didn't transform).

Top 5 Albums:
1) Hair, new Broadway cast: It can't compare to seeing it live, but this is a pretty definitive recording, including every song and the curtain calls.
2) 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day: I used to casually enjoy Green Day in middle and high school, but I've really become a fan with this album and American Idiot.
3) The Boy Who Knew Too Much, Mika: As is usually the case, his sophomore album is not quite as good as Life In Cartoon Motion, but the songs are still very catchy.
4) GoodTimeNation, Gavin Creel: This album was released a few years ago, but Gavin Creel passed it off as new at one of his concerts and I'm guessing it's sold better this year than in the past. A really fun album with my new favorite song, "Rocket Ride."
5) Changing Horses, Ben Kweller: Admittedly, this is country-flavored album is my least favorite favorite from Kweller, but just because I like it less than his previous work doesn't mean I don't like it.

Top 5 Concerts:
1) Paul McCartney, Citi Field, July 17: This wasn't as good as the other times I've seen Paul McCartney, but he always gives a great show. It was disappointing that he went with a very conventional set list, but it was still thrilling to see him at the former Shea Stadium, especially when he sang "I'm Down," which he sang there with the Beatles all those years ago.
2) Ricardo Arjona, Madison Square Garden, August 7: This was my second time seeing Ricardo Arjona and I preferred seeing him in a more intimate venue, but he also knows how to put on a show with his theatrical sets and mixing of hits with new work.
3) Gavin Creel and Robbie Roth, Joe's Pub, July 27: I saw Gavin Creel twice this year, but the first time was the best because I was not expecting to like his own songs so much, but I was pleasantly surprised with songs like "Holding."
4) Rated RSO, Joe's Pub, May 4: I went to this on a whim because I liked the description ("sexy schoolteachers, Bostonian rent-boys, obsessive homicidal teenagers, and fairy dustand") and it got me hooked on Ryan Scott Oliver's music. I think he's brilliant and I hope we see more of his work in musical theater because we could use someone to shake things up a bit.
5) Wall to Wall Broadway, Symphony Space, May 16: This was an all-day free event with musical performances and talks throughout the day, culminating in a concert with a live orchestra. Seeing Brian Stokes Mitchell sing "Soliloquy" from Carousel (one of my favorite musical theater songs) gave me chills. I rose to my feet at the end, which rarely happens. Brian Stokes Mitchell as Billy Bigelow please.

Top 5 Broadway:
Since Hair was my number one off-Broadway show last year, I decided not to include it on my Broadway list this year (most people who know me know it's my favorite show currently on Broadway anyway).
1) The Norman Conquests: One of the funniest shows I've ever seen. I did the marathon and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a day than with that brilliant cast.
2) Ragtime: I love the musical Ragtime and I am one of those people that is so happy to have it back on Broadway (however temporarily). Even though I wasn't crazy about that Model T and some other aspects of the production, overall, I thought it really got to the heart of the show. Also, Bobby Steggert gives one of the best performances of the year in a supporting role.
3) Joe Turner's Come and Gone: Another thrilling revival with a strong ensemble cast.
4) In The Next Room or the vibrator play: This seems to be a love it or hate it play, but I loved it, especially the ending.
5) reasons to be pretty: I'm still sad that this play came and went so quickly. Again, not everyone cared for it, but to me, the characters felt honest and it was extremely well acted.

Top 5 Off-Broadway:
This list was much harder to compile than the Broadway list, because I saw many more shows that I loved off-Broadway than on, and in this list, I'm including anything that wasn't on Broadway, including California.
1) Our Town at the Barrow Street Theatre: I honestly hadn't seen or read Our Town until this production, but what an introduction.
2) Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park: Delightful production with a stellar cast.
3) Pippin at the Mark Taper Forum: This was a production by Deaf West and the Center Theater Group, and having the role of Pippin played by two actors (Tyrone Giordano and Michael Arden) really intensified his struggles.
4) Ruined at Manhattan Theatre Club: I almost didn't include Ruined because it's on every list and everyone knows how good it is, but it does deserve to be here.
5) Brief Encounter at St. Ann's Warehouse: A charming show that was recently extended, so catch it while you can.

Top 5 Books:
1) Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby: I love the way this novel explores obsession with a musical artist, something I may have a passing familiarity with.
2) Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: Not as good as The Time Traveler's Wife, but I really like her use of the supernatural, while still keeping the book grounded in reality. If I don't like most of the characters and I still enjoyed the book, she must be doing something right.
3) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games raises the stakes and I can't wait to see how the series will end (the third and final book will be released in August).
4) Lights on Broadway: A Theatrical Tour from A to Z by Harriet Ziefert (illustrations by Elliot Kreloff and introduction by Brian Stokes Mitchell): This is a children's book that I received as a gift for the holidays and it is so beautifully illustrated and enjoyable that I had to include it. It's a nice introduction to theater but also a good gift for theater fans.
5) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: It's inevitable that comparisons will be made to the Twilight series in this book about a human girl in love with a werewolf, but I really enjoyed it and it hasn't been ruined for me by crazy fans yet. Plus, I prefer the protagonist Grace to Bella.


Esther said...

I forgot to put "seeing Paul McCartney" on my best of 2009 list! I didn't go to Citi Field but I happened to be in New York with a friend and walking up toward the Ed Sullivan Theater the day the appeared on the Late Show and performed on the roof of the marquee. It was very exciting - Paul's my favorite Beatle, I've always wanted to see him and never had the chance.

I also loved The Norman Conquests. I hadn't even planned on seeing it but it got good reviews from my fellow bloggers so I thought what the heck, it would be an experience. And it was terrific. I especially loved Stephen Mangan as Norman. He's a character you're prepared to dislike before you meet him but you can't help loving him. What a bravura performance!

Hair and Our Town are also two of my favorites. I've always loved the music from Hair and I've always been interested in the 1960s. I think Diane Paulus brought out the joy but also made it relevant to today. Even though there's no draft, we're still sending young Americans into battle. And inviting the audience onstage is so in keeping with the spirit of the '60s.

I'd seen a production of Our Town before but this was the first time it seemed really timeless, like it could be taking place today. As the stage manager, David Cromer gave one of the most un-actorish performances I've ever seen. I didn't even realize the play had begun when he started speaking. And Barrow Street is a perfect setting - you feel like you could be in a community center in a small New Hampshire town.

Wish I'd been able to see Ruined and Brief Encounter. I really need to see more off-Broadway.

Linda said...

Hi Esther. I always enjoy reading your comments. Paul's my favorite Beatle too-always has been. I know what you mean about Stephen Mangan. I fell in love with Norman by the end of the evening and I could see what all the women saw in him. I know you said you wish you saw more off-Broadway shows, but you do a good job of seeing both Broadway and off-Broadway for someone who doesn't live here.