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Top Ten

The Year on Stage

Love Guns: Jeff Rasmussen (left) and Darren McDonnell in Fells Point Corner Theatre's PASSION

Top Ten 2001

The Year in Film After years of herniating itself searching for ever lower common denominators, Hollywood finally... | By Lee Gardner, Ian Grey, Eric Allen Hatch, Adele Marley and Luisa F. Ribeiro

The Year in Music A quick backward glance over 2001 seems to reveal that pop music has run out of readily available... | By Lee Gardner, Rjyan Kidwell, Michaelangelo Matos, Bret McCabe, Daniel Piotrowski and Shelly Ridenour

The Year in Local Music As a music bloke who's dashed off copy in a handful of cities, I can tell you from experience that... | By Anna Ditkoff and Bret McCabe

The Year in Television 1Sept. 11 attack coverage (NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and Fox News Channel) Watching the second plane... | By Adele Marley

The Year in Books As consumer goods, books make us behave strangely. | By Frank Diller, Mahinder Kingra, Eileen Murphy, Lily Thayer and Rupert Wondolowski

The Year on Stage 1Passion, Fells Point Corner Theatre It was startlingly ambitious of the FPCT to mount this 1994... | By Anna Ditkoff, Mike Giuliano and Jack Purdy

The Year in Art 1Walters Art Museum reopens Though this annual superlatives space is usually devoted strictly to... | By Mike Giuliano

The Unabridged List City Paper Critics' Personal Bests

By Anna Ditkoff, Mike Giuliano and Jack Purdy | Posted 12/19/2001

1
Passion, Fells Point Corner Theatre It was startlingly ambitious of the FPCT to mount this 1994 work with the book by James Lapine and music by Stephen Sondheim. Passion, arguably the first musical about the beauty of stalking, has a demanding score, an exotic setting (mid-19th century Italy), and a 17-person cast, all of which has to be played out on a single set. It all succeeded brilliantly, with Amy Jo Shapiro giving a heartrending interpretation of Fosca, obsessively in love with a young Army officer and a woman whose life has been so miserable that she happily dies, declaring, "Now that I've been loved, I don't want to live." (Jack Purdy)

2
Dinah Was, Center Stage Playing a legend is a daunting task, but in Dinah Was, Oliver Goldstick's musical look at "Queen of Blues" Dinah Washington E. Faye Butler made it look easy. Butler filled the stage with her presence, whether she was jovially spewing obscenities or singing one of Washington's heart-wrenching tunes. Crisp direction by David Petrarca and an energetic supporting cast created a perfect showcase for Butler and made this diva-centric play one of the year's powerhouse performances. (Anna Ditkoff)

3
The Piano Lesson, Center Stage The 1930s installment in August Wilson's decade-by-decade cycle of plays about African-American life, The Piano Lesson is one of his best. Its central conflict between a brother and sister over whether to sell a legacy-laden piano leads to powerful family arguments and even some supernatural grace notes. Although the Center Stage production fell a bit short of conveying this play's greatness, it was well-acted and fluidly staged. It was a real pleasure to hear the rich metaphors and beautiful musicality of Wilson's language while looking at the piano proudly residing in the family's Pittsburgh parlor. (Mike Giuliano)

4
The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre Jeff Goode's bizarre yet thought-provoking holiday play turned the usual God-bless-us-everyone sentimentality of Christmas theater on its ear with a look at the dysfunctional family that is Santa and his eight reindeer. The Spotlighters cast, especially Wayne Willinger, Jessica Conway, and Leslie Wieczorek, attacked The Eight with such energy and commitment that, despite the silly antlers, the work's universal themes came across loud and clear without ever sounding preachy or pedantic, making this play about deer that can fly more than just a kooky novelty act. (AD)

5
Pajama Game, Center Stage Snazzy, jazzy, and razzmatazzy, The Pajama Game got a physically inventive production and a roster of give-it-all-you've got performances that effectively masked the prehistoric character of a musical now nearly 50 years old. Walt Spangler's ingenious set--nothing less than a huge sewing machine--was a superb use of space. And every cast member--most especially Christianne Tisdale and Meg Gillentine as, respectively, the good girl and the good/bad girl--exhibited an exuberance that felt utterly genuine. Add in three standards worth waiting for--"Hey There," "Steam Heat," and "Hernando's Hideaway"--and you have a show that kept "bobbin'" along. (JP)

6
Watch on the Rhine, Everyman Theatre Lillian Hellman had specific worries about the threats posed by fascism when her Watch on the Rhine opened on Broadway in 1941. Watching it now is an opportunity to see a well-constructed period piece, but it also prompts you to think about the nature of fascism itself. Everyman Theatre mounted a production as solid as its realistically detailed domestic set design. The first-rate cast was led by Tana Hicken as an ambassador's widow running a wealthy Washington household. If you haven't discovered Everyman yet, you're missing out on some of the best shows in town. (MG)

7
The Waverly Gallery, Everyman Theatre Octogenarian actress Vivienne Shub brought decades of acting experience on local stages to her performance as a New York gallery owner suffering from memory loss. Shub remembers a lot of lines about forgetfulness in this funny and touching play about the toll having such a forgetful relative takes on other family members. As in his movie script for You Can Count on Me, playwright Kenneth Lonergan demonstrates a knack for delineating his characters' everyday quirks. (MG)

8
HMS Pinafore, Young Victorian Theatre Company If you love Gilbert and Sullivan, and who doesn't (well, OK, plenty of people), then you had to be grinning like an idiot throughout the Young Vic's single production this summer. This mounting of one of G&S' most beloved works was musically solid, crisply staged, and fully cognizant of the absurd nature of the story line, about couples loving above and below their stations in life. An added bonus was the return of Sun columnist Dan Rodricks to the Young Vic's ranks as the First Lord of the Admiralty and "ruler of the Queen's na-vee." This wasn't stunt casting--Rodricks showed a true sense of show-biz pizazz normally missing from the ranks of ink-stained wretches. (JP)

9
The Judas Kiss, Rep Stage Ironically, the weak link in this Rep Stage production of David Hare's play about Oscar Wilde was the actor playing Wilde. Otherwise, it was a persuasive examination of the circumstances surrounding Wilde's disastrous series of trials in 1895 and his subsequent decline. The supporting performances were sharply etched, and the set design immersed you in the Victorian era and its obsession with sin. Indeed, scenic designer Tony Cisek created a hotel room whose scarlet walls, floors, and curtains had audiences seeing red. (MG)

10
Much Ado about Nothing, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies for two reasons: Beatrice and Benedick. These feisty and unlikely lovers prove that romance doesn't have to be sappy. In the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival production, Bethany Hoffman and Tony Tsendeas wielded the barbs that lead to love with impeccable timing and a sense of fun that was contagious. The supporting cast and Jennifer Stearns' wonderfully intricate costumes made this an amazingly entertaining take on the Bard's tale. (AD)

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
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The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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