Sunday, January 16, 2022

Life & Style

The Theater Year That Was (and Wasn’t), and a Look at 2022

Top Stories & Shows: Usually I do a list of the most noteworthy shows that I’ve seen during the year. But 2021 was very different and theater for the most part only returned this summer and fall. So no list of top 10 shows.

Instead, the number-one story in theater is that live theater has returned to Connecticut and New York. But—for Connecticut, perhaps the top story is the beginning of a new theater, the Legacy Theatre in Branford, that began a successful first season during this trying time.

Plus, a round of applause to all our local theaters who have made their way back on stage. Special thanks to those like MTC in Norwalk who did live theater before almost any theater was doing it and to those who found innovative ways to present live theater. Streaming theater sometimes was brilliant and sometimes not, but let us thank Goodspeed’s concerts in a tent, TheaterWorks’ Walden done as an environmental production, and all the other performers, directors, and production crews who managed to give us some form of theater.

Special honors go to audiences who are returning and donors who helped these theaters stay afloat during the crisis. All of the theaters will continue to need our support, our attendance and our donations.

Uncertainity: Will Broadway shut down again? People are thinking it is possible as COVID cases rise precipitously. Jagged Little Pill shut down and announced it was not reopening. Other shows have shut down temporarily including Hadestown. It could be financially devastating to lose performances and income during the holiday season. Box office receipts usually soar as people visit the city or take family to a show. January to March are low box office months.

What if?: You’ve purchased your tickets and made plans to attend a theater production, a ballet, a concert, whether here or in New York. But, the show may not go on as you expected. Why? Positive tests for COVID. Performing arts companies regularly test even vaccinated performers and backstage crews (and almost all are vaccinated) and a positive test can cause cancellation. We saw it in Connecticut recently when The Hip Hop Nutcracker’s performances at both the Bushnell and the Shubert were canceled. On Broadway, multiple shows have canceled a single performance or multiple performances. If you have purchased ticket from the venue’s official online website (with Broadway shows that is usually Telecharge or Ticketmaster), you should be able to get a full refund. But if you have purchased tickets from non-official or resale ticket sources, your ability to get a refund may be very limited.

NYC Notes: Diana has closed, just as I predicted. The musical about Diana, Princess of Wales, had received negative reviews both from its Netflix incarnation and its Broadway production. The shock recently was that the Radio City Music Hall canceled all its remaining Christmas shows with the Rockettes due to COVID cases. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising—there is a very large rotating cast to cover the multiple performances done every day. Let’s hope it will be back for its entire run in 2022.

Company: One of Stephen Sondheim’s first critically acclaimed shows for which he wrote both music and lyrics was Company, about commitment-phobic bachelor Bobby and his married friends. It has returned to Broadway with a twist. Bobby is now Bobbie, a woman, and one of the married couples is a same-sex couple. This production was a success in London and was just about to open in March 2020. Now it has opened. For me, it wasn’t the main character’s gender that was most problematic. Instead, I felt that the concept of director Marianne Elliott was at fault. She borrowed elements from slapstick and sitcom as well as surrealism, which removed emotion from the piece. Much of the cast was excellent, but I just didn’t care about any of them.

Karen Isaacs of East Haven is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle, New York’s Outer Critics Circle, the League of Professional Theater Women and the American Theatre Critics Association. To check out her reviews for New York and Connecticut shows, visit 2ontheaisle.wordpress.com.


Karen Isaacs is the Columnists for Zip06. Email Karen at .

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