jcm’s Top 10 Best LIVE Performances of ‘10

It’s that time again! I’m serving up my second annual Top 10 LIVE Performances of the year. It’s a follow-up to my ‘09 list. Sadly, there are no Broadway shows on this list. I plan on remedying that in 2011!

1. Die Walküre, San Francisco Opera (Details)

This production offered one of the finest casts that could possibly be assembled for this opera (and The Ring) in the current operatic landscape. The production said some new things, and offered a few fresh perspectives, but didn’t try too hard, or overshadow the score. Maestro Runnicles is a Wagnerian master, and he and the orchestra rose to the occasion again. Yeah, I was a “Supernumerary” in the production, but I was able to watch much of it from the orchestra during rehearsals, and even accounting for my bias, this would still takes my top spot. Enjoy my full review here.

Mark Delavan (Wotan) & Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde); Photo by Cory Weaver

2. Scalpel! The Musical, Brava Theatre (Details)

Can you say fun? It had me at the opening number, with countless heals and drag runway walks. It was the first show I’ve seen in the Brava, and I immediately loved this venue…the warm lighting, the urban ambience, and the straight, raked seating offering direct views. Even with all the camp and hijinks, the entire cast was completely committed to the material. This was the second mounting of the show, and my fingers are crossed that it returns yet again. Apparently, there was a bit of a curse on the production, with multiple cast injuries (including a very unfortunate broken leg for leading man, Mike Finn), but they pushed through, with some quick and fortuitous replacements and prevailed. Picturing Sara Moore as “poop-raking” TV reporter Kitty Kelly (“Hardballs” host) still makes me laugh.

 

Emily McGowan: Fritzy, Arturo Galster: Pepper Van Allen, Cindy Goldfield: Jacqueline Bulgari

3. Heidi Melton: Salon at the Rex, The Rex Hotel (Details)

To hear Heidi Melton plead in spoken french AND debut her chest voice was alone faint-worthy, and positively scintillating. And, to hear her in repertoire much outside her core operatic rep and comfort genres was a treat (ie: Irving Berlin and Kurt Weill cabaret, and Korngold songs). Her rendition of Berlin’s “Always” left not a dry eye in the audience. (Her Noe Valley Chamber Music Recital a few weeks before was also very beautiful). No thanks to the Adler “Future is Now” concert, which was on the same night, the recital was over all too soon (evidenced by a jcm quotation here and here)! I stuck around and imbibed and dined at the bar…I wanted to savor the spell Heidi had cast.

 

4. Jerry Springer: The Opera, Ray of Light Theatre (Details)

The first act was one of the most entertaining acts of LIVE theatre I’ve ever experienced. I just simply couldn’t wait to see what freak was going to walk onstage next. And, there was quite a parade of freaks, as you would expect. Because of the writing, the beginning of the second act is a bit of a pacing lull after this initial excitement, but the excellent performances themselves didn’t let up an iota. It was a raucous and memorable night of theatre, which I was sure to get back and enjoy a second time. Jessica Coker as Chantel knocked it outta The Victoria, with my favorite “I Just Wanna Dance.” Being a fellow Cincinnati native, I just couldn’t get enough Jerry! All the profanity was a little sick…but A LOTTA liberating!

5. The Makropulos Case, San Francisco Opera (Details)

This was arguably the hit of the SFO fall season. No surprise there, as temperamental Super-Diva Karita Mattila, and Janáček ALWAYS seem to set fire here in San Francisco. I was nearly in the last row of the house and there still wasn’t a dull moment. Yes, Karita managed to incorporate her requisite splits. Every character was finely crafted, and the production and set design were very satisfying. Gerd Grochowski as Prus, and Matthew O’Neill as Count Hauk-Šendorf were particularly affecting.

6. Narukami (1724) & Chatsubo, Zenshinza Theatre Company (Details)

During my run as a Koken in the SFO production of Madama Butterfly, I couldn’t resist experiencing some real kabuki theatre. Thankfully, CalPerfs was offering some just across the Bay Bridge. I can’t know whether it was because it was my very first kabuki experience, or if it was truly a great performance/production, but it was a very special night. Narukami is a real classic, presented in the “aragato” (classic) style. At first, the experience of hearing a man voice the leading female role was a bit grating (even with my vast experience of seeing this done in other genres), BUT I grew accustomed to the sound, and enjoyed it and all the other masterful performances. It left me wanting to run off for 3+ years to train in this style! The way they use their entire bodies to tell a story was transfixing.

Zenshinza Theatre Company performs Narukami

7. Peter Pan, threesixty° Theatre (Details)

This production was pure magic. The ingenious use of the in-the-round ceiling for projections and to aid in the illusion of flying was masterful. But, unlike other hi-tech (Vegas) shows, it wasn’t just flash…it had much heart too. Peter was played by a young man, which added a component of sexual tension and frustration, particularly with Tiger Lily I hadn’t felt before. And, the Captain Hook was perfect. I went back a second time, taking my niece who was visiting from Cincinnati, and a few friends. It was no less impressive this second time, although the audience energy was not crackling as at the preview.


8. A TIE: Something Cool, Veronica Klaus, Rrazz Room (Details)
and Divalicious, Leanne Borghesi, NCTC (Details)

How wonderful when a performer raises their game and steps up to a new level of performance and artistry. (Even more wonderful when that artist is a friend.) Both of these divas blew me away with their solo shows. Veronica’s was cool and smooth, Leanne’s spicy and soulful. Leanne’s came right after my separation, so it was particularly emotional and well-timed for me. I love it when theatre/music serves as therapy too.

 

Veronica Klaus

 

9. Wheel in the Middle of the Field, and Rasa: Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet with SFO Adler Fellows, YBCA (Details)

Fresh and daring. Unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The perfect synergy of classical singing and modern dance. It introduced me to the beautiful dancer Brett Conway. Enjoy my full review here.

10. Yo-Yo Ma & Emanuel Ax Recital, Davies Symphony Hall (Details)

I was in a funky mood that night, and therefore didn’t connect with the performance as much as I normally would, but I had waited a long time to see Yo-Yo live, and it was a very beautiful performance indeed. They played Schumann, Chopin and Lieberson. It’s quite powerful to see two of the finest musicians in the world collaborate in that space, with a rapt, full audience.

Honorable Mentions:

Defying Gravity: B.O.O.B.S! (Leanne Borghesi, Jessica Coker, Soila Hughes), Rrazz Room; This show was phenomenal…packed with many fresh, unfamiliar songs, and amazing performances from all three!  •  Carmina Burana, SFS, Davies Symphony Hall; Soprano soloist Joélle Harvey was divine!  •  The Tosca Project, A.C.T.; I couldn’t keep my eyes off Nol Simonse, a phenomenally expressive and unique modern dancer. The piece made me feel very connected to being a (non-native) San Franciscan  •  Dirty Little Showtunes (by Tom Orr), NCTC; This show is screaming to have an Off-Broadway mounting…pun intended  •  Trannyshack, DNA Lounge; The continuing debauchery and gender-play are one-of-a-kind, and I’m honored to be a part of periodic shows there!

And, how ’bout you? What were your favorite LIVE performances of the year?

1 comment so far

  1. Gwinton on

    Thanks for sharing this post. I am glad to get to often see such enchanting theatre spectacles as these!


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