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2013 Year in Review: Local Theatre

Walker Evans Walker Evans 2013 Year in Review: Local Theatre
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If you didn’t make it out to one of the dozens upon dozens of local theatrical performances in Columbus in 2013, then go ahead and make it a priority New Years Resolution for 2014, because you missed out on some good stuff this year. From big budget Broadway shows to stripped-down minimalist performances, the local theatrical scene is one that is as diverse as it is entertaining. And between Theatre Critics Lisa Much and Anne Evans, CU was there to review and preview nearly three dozen shows this year, keeping you abreast of what’s decent and what’s absolutely not to be missed.

To recap the year, we’re recounting the Top 20 shows based solely on how well read the reviews were for these shows in 2013:

20. Laughter on the 23rd Floor — SRO Theatre Company

“Laughter on the 23rd Floor serves as an exhibit in the metaphorical museum of television, a relic of a form of entertainment long gone. In the days where the most popular programming showcases “real people” or tired sex jokes and caricatures (ahem, Chuck Lorre), the thought of smart comedy that does not condescend the audience yet still receives high ratings offers a nice walk down nostalgia lane.” – Lisa Much

19. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee — CATCO

“Simply put, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee warms the cockles of your heart. The slightly hyperbolized children and their stories, along with the fine design create an evening of constant laugh-out-loud enjoyment that makes the audience remember the ultra-defining moments of their youth. A guaranteed great evening.” – Lisa Much

18. American Idiot — Broadway in Columbus

“American Idiot steers away from traditional CAPA offerings. The show contains copious cussing, sex, near nudity, intravenous drug use, other drug use, anti-American themes, loud music, and bright lights/strobes. It is a Green Day album thrown on stage—not for every ‘theater-goer,’ but certainly worth a watch purely for the spectacle.” – Lisa Much

17. The Whipping Man — Gallery Players & New Players Theater

“The Whipping Man covers so much content and questions in its less than two hour run time. Naturally, historical perspectives come to mind, but he also touches on choice, mental slavery, freedom in a figurative sense, spirituality, and family. This show certainly gives the audience plenty to discuss and think about hours after they’ve left the theater.” – Lisa Much

16. Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits: Vol. 1 — CATCO

“Now that summer has officially begun, it seems like the perfect time to stray from the usual and journey on a theatrical vacation. In all honesty, it probably helps to possess a passing knowledge of musical theater; however, most jokes stem from such collective culture that even non-theater-junkies are sure to enjoy. A tribute to that is Storer’s fitting rendition of Les Miserables’ ‘Bring Him Home’ decked out in Wolverine claws.” – Lisa Much

15. Death of a Salesman — SRO Theatre Company

“If anything, a man is indeed a piece of fruit. Life, work, family, obligations, responsibilities eat the fruit and discard the peel. Perhaps Death of an American Dream fits as a better title for contemporary audiences. Despite the content feeling old, the central point of the play, to notice people and pay attention, seems more necessary than ever.” – Lisa Much

14. Wall — MadLab

“Wall features a plethora of witty and apt one-liners that accurately capture the absurdity of the state of the nation. The script, while perhaps not palatable to all, is brilliantly written. The show might not change views, which the aforementioned awkward ending eludes to, but it might make the audience think, and it certainly will entertain.” – Lisa Much

13. The Invisible Play — MadLab

“Overall, the show bubbled with energy of the vapid simplicity of a human that many choose to show the world. Small talk, catty conversations, and “witty” remarks abound from the visible members of the office, played by Chad Hewitt, Shana Kramer, and Megan Corbin. Director Andy Batt excels at highlighting the absurdity of that office, especially the ridiculousness of mass lay-offs, yet several promotions. He hones a heady script into a focused show filled with queries and few answers.” – Lisa Much

12. Underland — Shadowbox Live

“Underland marks the fourth musical Shadowbox Live head writer Jimmy Mak has written for the theatre company. ‘It was the first I wasn’t cast in so in that respect it was terrifying,’ he says. ‘I didn’t have my own lines or blocking to be distracted by. Instead, I just watched and thought “God I hope people like this.’ And like it they did.” – Lisa Much

11. The History Boys — Available Light Theatre

“When we accept the absurd world of the play, where sexual perversity remains the norm and boundaries are often blurred, we can fully question the many nuances Alan Bennett sprinkles throughout the piece. As I write this, I wonder, as I do from time to time, about the absolute value of art within our society. Further, while I believe, at least for me, that it does allow people to think for themselves, I question whether society truly values that skill—thinking for oneself.” – Lisa Much

10. The Empire Builders — MadLab

“Countless images, ideas and thoughts flitted in and out of my mind the entire time I watched—nay absorbed—this play. I dare not offer an interpretation because, frankly, too many exist. As an obscure example of Theatre of the Absurd, the show provides many moments for laughter amongst the many words; however, the drama and drive make this a powerful piece of art that conjures up thoughts of nearly anywhere due to its philosophical, economic and political undertones.” – Lisa Much

9. Passing Strange — Short North Stage

“The unexpected sadness of the final scene emphasizes not to take anything for granted, and that every now and again, you should stop and re-evaluate the path your life is on. An off-the-cuff decision you made in the middle of your teens may not apply later on in life and understanding love is just as important as having it. This retelling of Passing Strange will make you really feel something.” – Anne Evans

8. bobrauschenbergamerica — Available Light Theatre

“This show features dance, songs, jokes, poetry, love, disgust, anger, apathy—basically it covers the buffet of life. Also, it includes lots of chickens. Though not the easiest show to digest, one leaves bobrauschenbergamerica ruminating over the characters, the emotions, and the kernels of truth evident in the available vignettes.” – Lisa Much

7. Hedwig and The Angry Inch — Short North Stage

“It’s not every day that a piece of theatre comes along with a venue so fitting and actors so perfect in their roles. Add in the fantastic music and deadpan humor, and Hedwig and The Angry Inch is something that will stick with you for some time.” – Anne Evans

6. Fiddler on the Roof — Gallery Players

“Fiddler on the Roof provides ample songs and lovely moments with a cast of characters you cannot help but get attached to. Listening to the audience, expect to hear the applause of unity through story-telling, history, and of course, tradition.” – Lisa Much

5. Sunday in the Park with George — Short North Stage

“Sunday in the Park with George, opened last night, kicking off a new season for Short North Stage. A musical telling the story of painter Georges Seurat and the people in his painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”, Sunday in the Park with George shows off a beautiful set and costumes, with actors just as grand.” – Anne Evans

4. Viva Vagina — Shadowbox Live

“In reality, I wish the show could have tackled some harder issues for women such as: the wage gap; pregnancy woes; lesbianism; domestic violence; rape; international women’s rights issues; gender roles; minority women’s discrimination; or reproductive rights. Rather, it seemed to focus on qualms for single, heterosexual, middle-class, white women in America. Despite these things, I respect that Shadowbox tried something different, especially in expanding its roles for women.” – Lisa Much

3. Burlesque: Behind the Curtain — Shadowbox Live

“Director Stev Guyer and writer Jimmy Mak worked to create an original comedy and dance piece for this stage 2 production. Burlesque Behind the Curtain provides two hours of some of the best Shadowbox Live dance numbers, the expected powerful vocals, and some pretty solid comedy. ” – Lisa Much

2. Nightmare on Front Street — Shadowbox Live

“This show presents a fun foray into some fine sketch comedy, music, and video shorts. While less nightmare and more Front Street, this show features signature Shadowbox tricks. Filled with sketch comedy with scary or Halloween undertones, the show moves at a fair pace with well rehearsed and calculated rock n’ roll.” – Lisa Much

1. The Rocky Horror Show — Shadowbox Live

“As with most Shadowbox shows, the costumes quickly catch the eye; however, with The Rocky Horror Show the costumes and wigs coordinated by Betsy Shortt explode off the stage like fireworks in a cornucopia of color. All of the performers own the often absurd clothing or lack thereof of their character, but first and foremost, I must commend several men for their graceful command of the four-inch heel. JT Walker III, Billy DePetro and Jamie Barrow noticeably rock the mountain-high shoes in a manner that many women I know cannot. Kudos gentlemen, for making running look so simple.” – Lisa Much

For more theatre reviews, previews and news, CLICK HERE to view The Archives.

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