The theatrical year that was (and wasn’t) and a look at 2022

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By Karen Isaacs / Zip06.com • 12/30/2021 04:00 EST

Best Stories and Shows: Usually I make a list of the most notable shows that I have seen during the year. But 2021 was very different and the theater for the most part only returned this summer and fall. So no list of the top 10 shows.

Instead, the number one story in theater is that live theater is back in Connecticut and New York. But for Connecticut, the main story may be the start of a new theater, the Legacy Theater in Branford, which began a successful first season during this difficult time.

Plus, a round of applause to all of our local theaters that have returned to the stage. Special thanks to those like MTC at Norwalk who have done live theater before almost any theater, and to those who have found innovative ways to present live theater. Streaming theater was sometimes brilliant and sometimes not, but thank goodspeed concerts in a tent, TheaterWorks’ Walden made as an environmental production, and all the other performers, directors and production teams who have managed to give us a form of theater.

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

Uncertainty: Is Broadway going to close again? People think it’s possible because COVID cases are increasing rapidly. Small jagged pill closed and announced that it would not reopen. Other shows have closed temporarily, including Hadestown. It could be financially devastating to lose performance and income during the holiday season. Box office receipts usually skyrocket when people visit the city or take their families to a show. January through March are low ticket months.

What if?: You bought your tickets and planned to attend a play, a ballet, a concert, either here or in New York. But, the show may not turn out the way you expected. Why? Tests positive for COVID. Performing arts companies routinely test even vaccinated performers and backstage crews (and nearly all of them are vaccinated) and a positive test can result in a cancellation. We saw it recently in Connecticut when Hip hop NutcrackerPerformances at Bushnell and Shubert have been canceled. On Broadway, several shows have canceled a single performance or multiple performances. If you purchased a ticket from the venue’s official website (with Broadway shows which are usually Telecharge or Ticketmaster), you should be able to get a full refund. But if you purchased tickets from unofficial or resale ticket sources, your ability to get a refund may be very limited.

New York Banknotes: Diane closed, 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 has been that Radio City Music Hall has canceled all of its remaining Christmas shows with the Rockettes due to COVID cases. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise – there is a very large spinning cast to cover the multiple performances being made each day. Hopefully he’ll be back for his entire run in 2022.

Society: One of Stephen Sondheim’s first critically acclaimed shows for which he wrote both music and lyrics was Society, about engagement phobic bachelor Bobby and his married friends. He came back 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 hit in London and was set to open in March 2020. It is now open. For me, it wasn’t the gender of the main character that was the most problematic. Instead, I felt director Marianne Elliott’s concept was wrong. She borrowed elements from the slapstick and sitcom as well as surrealism, which took the emotion out of the room. Most of the actors were great, but I 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 Theater Critics Association. To check out his reviews for the New York and Connecticut shows, visit 2ontheaisle.wordpress.com.


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