As a group of new plays and musicals toss open their doors this Spring to welcome NYC theatergoers into the new worlds that their artists have collaboratively crafted, it is time to reflect upon the exceptional productions that opened in New York during the 2016 theatre season. On January 1, My Entertainment World announced the 2016 MyTheatre Award nominees for New York, and the votes have been counted.
Don’t miss our 2016 Nominee Interview Series, featuring exclusive interviews with nominees from all of our MyTheatre branches and be sure to check out Awards Headquarters for the full list of this year’s winners.
Without further ado, the winners are:
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
In a crowded field of insightful and intriguing new musicals, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 stands out with its lush score, enchanting production design, extraordinarily talented ensemble and transformative theatre-going experience, which redefines what is possible in a Broadway house. Even those who struggle to follow the plot will find many scenes, performances and creative elements to love about this show.
Sarah Jones manages to address a taboo subject with grace, wit and intelligence, tackling the subject of sex work from a novel perspective in Sell/Buy/Date. The result is an engrossing, illuminating and hilarious evening of theatre.
Best Revival (Musical)
She Loves Me
Charming and fun-loving, She Loves Me is the perfect blend of familiar story and fresh staging. The results are an entertaining, light-hearted musical courtesy of an energetic and exceptionally talented cast.
Best Revival (Play)
One of several 2016 plays directed by Ivo Van Hove in New York City, The Crucible proves as poignant and engrossing today as it did when it first opened. Including an ensemble filled with stage veterans and household names and an enchanting technical design (as well as the brief appearance of an ominous beast), The Crucible proves to be among the best of Broadway in 2016.
Best Actress (Musical)
Laura Benanti in She Loves Me
Laura Bananti proves again and again that she is one of the best modern musical actors, this time delivering a chuckle-inducing performance as Amalia, a perfume clerk with whom, I suspect, many women can relate. Bananti’s performance is both subtle and soaring, a memorable role indeed.
Best Actor (Musical)
Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen, while an undoubtedly good musical, would likely not be playing to continuously sold-out houses if not for Ben Platt. Platt, while quite young, delivers a powerhouse and career defining performance as the awkward and tortured Hansen, at one point visibly breaking down with such authenticity that it is difficult to fathom how Platt performs the role night after night.
Best Actress (Play)
Sarah Jones in Sell/Buy/Date (MTC)
Sarah Jones is an acting chameleon in Sell/Buy/Date. Jones is a tenacious and entertaining woman who is capable of portraying a vast and diverse array of characters with apparent ease. She does not impersonate people – she embodies them (and makes it hard to believe that Sell/Buy/Date is a one-actor show).
Best Actor (Play)
Simon McBurney in The Encounter
Simon McBurney leads one of the most unique theatrical experiences that Broadway has seen in recent memory with his one-actor show, The Encounter. What makes McBurney’s performance so exhilarating is his adept classical acting skill mixed with his mastery of technology to present a truly engrossing theatre experience.
Best Supporting Actress (Musical)
Jane Krakowski in She Loves Me
Jane Krakowski showcases her sharp comedic skills and her dazzling vocals as Ilona in She Loves Me. Krakowski is a scene-stealer in the best possible way, but she also compliments her fellow actors’ performances and projects a confident energy onstage that is perfect for the role.
Best Supporting Actor (Musical)
Patrick Page in Hadestown (New York Theatre Workshop)
The King of the Underworld has an appropriately intimidating presence in the hands of actor Patrick Page in Hadestown. Page’s stage credits are impressive and varied, but he seems particularly well-suited for the role of Hades with his extraordinarily deep, booming voice and grounded stage presence. If Hadestown finds a second life on Broadway (fingers-crossed), one can only hope that Page is available to reprise his role.
Best Supporting Actress (Play)
Randy Graff in The Babylon Line (Lincoln Center)
Randy Graff’s performance in The Babylon Line injected a much-needed boost of humor and heart into an otherwise floundering production. Graff’s portrayal of the nosy-neighbor with an acidic-tongue, Frieda, was so well-crafted that the audience was consistently walking the line between despising Frieda for her catty behavior and appreciating her astute observations and wit – it is a rare balanced and complicated portrayal.
Best Supporting Actor (Play)
Morgan Spector in Incognito (MTC)
Morgan Spector assumes several roles in Nick Payne’s Incognito, transitioning between the parts with flawless dexterity. From his morally-ambiguous portrayal of pathologist Thomas Hardy (the man who took Albert Einstein’s brain) to his thoughtful portrayal of a man assisting a short-term memory loss patient, Spector delivers an emotional and compelling performance in a fast-paced and cerebral show.
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Sure, Josh Groban is making his Broadway debut in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, but he is but one immensely talented performer in an unrivaled ensemble of actors. Delivering high-energy, engaging performances, the ensemble of Great Comet is one gigantic quadruple threat with much of the cast acting, singing, playing a variety of instruments and twisting, flipping and stomping their way through the musical with enviable skill. Each actor has enchanting solo moments as they interact with the audience but they also each fluidly blend into one complimentary whole for many intoxicating group numbers.
Best Set Design
Sam Pinkleton for Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Pinkleton has done the impossible and transformed a traditional Broadway house into a Russian-themed theatre in the round with actors dancing, flipping and running through the audience, engaging with patrons with wild abandon. The immersive feel of the theatre coupled with one gorgeous comet of light is as much the star of Great Comet as any of the humans performing on stage.
Best Sound Design
Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin for The Encounter
Never has a theatre production been so heavily reliant on its technical geniuses as The Encounter is on its sound designers. The Encounter would not exist if it were not for Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin’s sound design, which transports the audience from urban New York City to the heart of the Amazon to an English home with gorgeously crafted sound effects and an in-seat speaker system that allows the designers to control how each patron experiences sound.
Best Lighting Design
Jan Versweyveld for Lazarus (New York Theatre Workshop)
Jan Versweyveld’s lighting design, both stark and striking, has become a fixture on New York stages and beautifully reflects the emotional landscape of Lazarus. It adds a palpable dimension to the otherwise simple set and transforms the space for the audience.
Savion Glover for Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Savion Glover’s work in Shuffle Along not only showcases the tremendous dance ability of the cast, it enlivens and invigorates the production by introducing nods to more contemporary dance while paying homage to the jazz, blues and tap roots from which the musical was inspired. Glover’s choreography is an intoxicating mix of ebullient, seductive and powerful – a winning combination.
Paloma Young for Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Paloma Young’s costume design evokes the spirit of Russian aristocracy and an 1812 Russia on the brink of war, yet the designs have refreshingly modern elements that reflect the music and staging. The design incorporates period elements, undoubtedly reflecting Young’s research of the time, yet the creative flourishes and quasi hard-rock embellishes to the costumes give the production a fresh and invigorating feeling.
Most Memorable Broadway Debut
Denee Benton in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Denee Benton had the difficult task of taking a role originated by Phillipa Soo (of Hamilton fame) and making it her own on a larger stage. Denton has done just that with her youthful and emotional portrayal of Natasha in Great Comet. Benton has a majestic voice and mesmerizing stage presence – one can only hope that audiences will see more of her on stage in the coming years.
Best Special Theatrical Event
The Secret Garden, in concert (Lincoln Center)
2016 was a remarkable year for special theatrical events in New York, yet, perhaps none more memorable than The Secret Garden, in concert at Lincoln Center. Featuring performances by Ramin Karimloo, Cheyenne Jackson, Sierra Boggess and Sydney Lucas, this concert captured the sense of wonder and possibility, as well as the deep pain and loss, permeating the musical. Highlights of the evening included a fresh-faced Ben Platt, having not yet opened Dear Evan Hansen, surprising everyone with his vocal chops and playfulness as Dickon and an extraordinarily emotional moment when original cast member Daisy Egan brought the house while performing the song “Hold on” (there was not a dry eye in the place).
Most Unique Theatrical Experience
2016 was a year of avant grade efforts on Broadway, but none were more intriguing than Simon McBurney’s technology-heavy tale of photographer Loren McIntyre’s 1969 experiences lost in the Brazilian Amazon. The staging, sound craft and McBurney’s performance combined to create one memorable theatrical experience.