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Theatrical Highlights of 2018 (Part I)

If you know me, you know that I love the theatre.  I have been wanting to write more about theatre and art but I keep getting stuck; a weird, topic-specific form of writer’s block.  So to break through I decided to write bite-sized blurbs about some of my favorite theatrical moments of the year.  I hope you enjoy my musings, they are offered with love.  Perhaps you’ll get some ideas of what to seek out, and maybe you’ll share some of your highlights with me? I would be so pleased. 

In no particular order, here my theatrical highlights of 2018 (Part I):

Playing Hooky to see Once on This Island
It was my second full day at a Yoga Convention in NYC when it occurred to me, in a flash of genius, that I could skip my next workshop, run over to see the matinee of Once on This Island and still be back in time for my last class. Hmmm … I could do it, but should I? Yes! I sprinted to Circle in the Square Theatre, got my ticket and sat next to a lovely young lady who happened to know and love the show as much as I did! We could hardly contain our glee.

I had seen the original Broadway production MANY times in the early 1990s and because I loved it SO much, wasn’t sure I wanted to see the revival. Now I shudder to think how close I came to missing out on this most spirited, gem of a production. Once on This Island is a fable of classism, racism, romance, community and the power of storytelling. It is vividly brought to life in this immersive staging, directed to perfection by Michael Arden. The entire cast essentially gives you a giant bear hug with their talent. It is closing January 6th, so get there if you can. If you can’t see it, do yourself a favor and listen to it … it is sure to uplift you! (The cast recording was just nominated for a Grammy too!)

Leaning In 
Part I. In the final scene of the magnificent Lifespan of a Fact, the three characters sit in a room having gone over all the facts and falsehoods, yet still not in agreement of the truth. Many important, compelling points have been made, and yet … is there a right answer? Is there a distinction between accuracy and authenticity? I am at the edge of my seat, right there with them and I can barely breathe. HEAVEN! Thank you, Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale!

Part II. In a scene in Act One of  Bernhardt/Hamlet, Sarah Bernhardt (Janet McTeer) is in rehearsal to play Hamlet. She and her cast-mate are reworking the scene where Hamlet meets his Father’s ghost. She is trying to find something deeper in the text, so they explore, willing the words to take them someplace new. It is so silent in the theatre that we can feel every word. I want to dive into the moment with them and swim around. Janet McTeer’s performance was tremendous throughout, but the rehearsal scenes were a sheer luxury of acting riches!

Discovering Joe Iconis
It happened like this: I have a friend and client who is related to the Musical Theatre composer Joe Iconis. She shared a video of George Salazar and Joe Iconis recording  The Goodbye Song. Upon watching it I needed to know more! Who is this composer that just wrenched my heart? Also, who is this George Salazar and why do I love him so much after knowing him for six minutes?

Soon thereafter I had the pleasure of seeing “Joe Iconis and Family”, a cabaret show that features Mr. Iconis at the piano and a varying cast of talented friends to bring his songs to life.

This was the perfect way to discover his extraordinary gift for writing songs that sing conversationally and tell their story purely. He writes a lot about feeling like an outcast, feeling alone. It is so specific in a way that makes it universal.

Some songs contain complexity and emotion that are unexpected because at first they seem light or playful, and in the end, they are that, but more. Some songs are hilarious, some break your heart, some are a little dark around the edges.

He surrounds himself with friends who tell his stories with great artistry and honesty. I’ve seen his cabaret show twice now, with different casts and am a BIG fan. He is a special voice in Musical Theatre today. He is also quite prolific, which means I have barely scratched the surface.

Of course, I am not the only one who discovered Joe Iconis this year. He has risen to new heights due to the wildly popular soon-to-be-Broadway show Be More Chill. If you don’t know the story of Be More Chill’s journey to Broadway, you should, it is remarkable and speaks volumes about the young people of our World and their ability to make things happen. I got to see it during its Off-Broadway run and felt like a superstar just for being there!

I now feel totally invested in the success of Joe Iconis and his mega-talented family of friends, many of whom are in the Be More Chill cast (including the treasured George Salazar!). They are also really fun to follow on Twitter!!  Check out: @MrJoeIconis @georgesalazar @LaurMarcus @J_SweetTooth  @will_roland


Check out Part II HERE!


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3 Responses to “Theatrical Highlights of 2018 (Part I)”

  1. Jennifer Blankfein

    Love reading what you think!!! For me, Once on This Island was a real treat…I also saw it on a whim, sat in the second row and chatted with the a newly retired woman next to me who was thrilled to be there. Our feet were almost in the sand of the island, the show was colorful and wonderful and heartbreaking and joyous, and the Circle in the Square is one of my very favorite places to enjoy theater. As for Joe Iconis, to know him (by that I mean to have seen him perform) is to love him…his enthusiastic keyboard playing, tapping foot and fingers combing through his hair were mesmerizing while his music and lyrics were catchy, deep and moving all at the same time! I am jealous that you already saw Be More Chill! It is part of my 2019 plan. And finally, I am headed to see Lifespan of a Fact this month. Cannot wait! Looking forward to your Part II 🙂

    • Luisa Tanno

      Jen, love these comments! So glad you got to experience some of the same joyful moments. Your description of Joe Iconis at the keyboard is perfect! Such a treat to watch him.
      You might recognize some bits in part II also 😉

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