The Best in Dallas Theater 2011: Lindsey Wilson’s Picks

To look back at the year in theater, we asked our three theater writers to tell us the plays and performances that stood out for them in 2011. Here are Lindsey Wilson’s picks.

Plays

Red Light Winter (Second Thought Theatre): It’s been eight months and I’m still lavishing praise on Second Thought Theatre’s production. It was that good.

Cabaret (Dallas Theater Center): My favorite show got the raunchy royal treatment at Dallas Theater Center.

West Side Story (Dallas Summer Musicals): Expectations going in were anemic at best, yet this energetic touring version of the Broadway revival knocked my socks off.

Gypsy (Lyric Stage): Lyric Stage has a tendency to lose a show’s heart in the midst of spectacle, but every scene of this Gypsy felt like a delicious treat.

The Wiz (Dallas Theater Center): I took a lot of flack at the DFW Critics Forum for defending Kevin Moriarty’s whirligig re-imagining of the 1970s super soul musical, but I stand firm. For all its flaws, the show’s moving seats and Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s involvement made this a memorable trip back in time.

Top Female Performances

Whitney Hennen, Victor/Victoria. Who is Whitney Hennen and where has she been all our lives?! That was the consensus of every critic who saw her ditzy turn as Norma Cassidy at Uptown Players. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot more of her in 2012.

Sue Mathys, Gypsy. A quick replacement for local favorite Julie Johnson when she joined the touring cast of Memphis, European sensation Mathys stepped into Mama Rose’s formidable shoes with ease and delivered a commanding performance.

Natalie Young, Red Light Winter. Raw, brave, nuanced–there are a lot of suitable adjectives for Young’s performance, but they all add up to “amazing.”

Top Male Performances

Drew Wall, Red Light Winter. Wall’s deftness at comedy and vulnerability make him a standout without ever seeming like he’s hogging the spotlight.

Adam Garst, Spring Awakening. Although I didn’t review this show at WaterTower Theatre, I did see Garst’s heartbreaking and frenetic turn as the doomed German teenager Moritz. I love it when an actor surprises like he did.

Jonathan Brooks, A Christmas Carol. I did a double-take at intermission when I saw that the unrecognizable Brooks played The Ghost of Jacob Marley, and then again when he stole every scene as a drunkenly brash party guest in Act II. He has fun, so we have fun.

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