Friday, January 2, 2015
Holly's Top 10 Picks of 2014
It was another great year for the arts in Northern Delaware -- Here are my 10 Best picks for 2014, in categories I made up, and in no particular order:
Best Small Production: Bootless Stageworks’ Venus in Fur. Starring Sean Gallagher and Kelly Warne, this might have been the most underrated production of the year. Opening night had way too many empty seats, but the two actors put on a show worthy of a packed house. Now that Bootless has a permanent home in St. Stephen’s Church on Broom Street, hopefully theater fans will be able to find them.
Best Musical: It’s going to be The Candlelight Theater, it’s just a matter of which show. If you love musicals, you should really have a season pass, because that’s almost all they do, and they do it well. It was between Fiddler and Always… Patsy Cline, but the edge goes to Always... Patsy Cline because it marked the return of Erica Scanlon Harr to the Candlelight stage.
Best Youth-Oriented: This one’s a dark horse (for me at least, since I’d never seen one of their productions before): Reedy Point Players’ The Outsiders. There probably isn’t a production that works so well in a library gymnasium in Delaware City. And that’s not a backhanded compliment, it was actually the perfect setting. The strong cast was well-led by Middletown High’s Brandon Dawson.
Best Classic: Wilmington Drama League’s To Kill a Mockingbird did justice to the classic Depression-era story of injustice, featuring a standout performance by Tomorrow Jenkins, Assistant Principal at Kennett High, making her stage debut as Calpurnia.
Best Production Featuring Actors who are Famous Outside of Delaware: It’s hard to pass over Love Letters with Michael Learned and Daniel Davis (aka the iconic Butler from “The Nanny”), but the big surprise in star-powered theater in Delaware in ‘14 was DTC’s Rest, in Pieces, featuring Donna Pescow of Saturday Night Fever fame and Lenny Wolpe, the Wizard in Broadway’s Wicked.
Best Production I Wouldn’t Normally Cover: Made an exception to the “no high school productions” rule to check out Wilmington Christian’s Sunshine on Leith, the first ever production of the Proclaimers’ musical outside of the UK or Ireland. I’m glad I did. While the kids on stage were great, the general theater etiquette at high school productions will not have me changing my policy any time soon, though.
Best Dance Production: First State Ballet’s Irene was written and choreographed by Delawareans Shaun Dougherty and Alex Buckner. It’s a ballet set in the vampire underworld. No way this wasn’t going to make the list.
Best Holiday Show: While I credit Candlelight's A Christmas Carol with getting me into the holiday spirit in November, my top pick for best holiday show is City Theater’s James Joyce’s The Dead, just a great story and a great show, a grown-up holiday production where The Black Box was converted into an Irish pub for the audience.
Best Non-Theater Event: Underground Comic Con, Jabaar Brown and Eric Cooper’s scaled-down version of the comic book convention (which have evolved into ridiculously expensive spectacles that seem more about meeting celebrities than anything else) is fun, diverse, family-friendly, and free, making it accessible to everyone. I hope this event keeps on coming back.
Local CD I Can’t Stop Playing: I don’t listen to a ton of Classical, but Melomanie’s Excursions is so addictive that for a while I’d come back for it if I left the house without it (hey, driving music is important). I’m very partial to the back half, a multi-part piece called “The Nobility of Women” by Philadelphia composer Kile Smith. Really great CD. (I don’t get a lot of local CDs/digital albums to be honest -- if you think your CD is Best of ‘14 (or ‘15), send it to me for possible review via firstname.lastname@example.org).