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A 2021 Five Best List

Rich Little as Richard Nixon, a gay-centric Oscar Wilde update, two works by Black artists and a British epic were this year’s NYC theater standouts.

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The cast of “Trouble in Mind.”

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

New York City live performances resumed in May, having been suspended in March 2020, due to the pandemic. For this year, I reviewed 27 live and streaming presentations and saw another 15, as a Drama Desk member, one of which is represented here. These included plays, musicals, cabaret shows and dance pieces. Due to 2021’s limited offerings, a reduced homage is appropriate. In the past, my annual wrap up excluded Broadway but this year Broadway presented the bulk of the year’s outstanding works.

Broadway’s The Lehman Trilogy was epic British theatrical story telling at it’s finest.

Tony-Award winning actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson dazzled in his self-written autobiographical Broadway solo play with live music, Lackawanna Blues.

Black Playwright Alice Childress’s (1916-1994) well observed and finely written Trouble in Mind was a notable Off-Broadway success in 1955. In it, an acclaimed Black actress grapples with playing the cliched role a servant in a 1950’s hokey Broadway play set in the South. The original production’s Broadway transfer was scuttled by Ms. Childress refusal to tone down its matter-of-fact depiction of racism. Director Charles Randolph-Wright’s spirited Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival with its exceptional cast headed by Tony-Award winning actress LaChanze, preserved Childress’ vision while affirming her stature as a consequential dramatist.

Legendary impressionist Rich Little made his belated New York stage debut with his magnificent portrayal of the titular character in the wild political Off-Broadway fantasia, Trial on the Potomac: The Impeachment of Richard Nixon.

Conceived and directed by Maarten Cornelis, Off-Broadway’s The Importance of Being Earnestly LGBTQ+ was a frothy contemporary New York City updating of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy with a gay slant.

Links to reviews:

The Lehman Trilogy

Lackawanna Blues

Trial on the Potomac: The Impeachment of Richard Nixon

The Importance of Being Earnestly LGBTQ+

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (804 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for

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