What is a Broadway show without the actors at its core? Here, we single out the singular talents that burned bright on Broadway stages this year. Prepare to be enthralled as we navigate some of the exceptional performances that have defined the essence of Broadway in the year 2023.
Sean Hayes in Good Night, Oscar
In a surprise to no one, the top mention in this year’s list goes to Sean Hayes for his Tony-winning turn as Oscar Levant in Doug Wright’s play. Whether it was his tickling of audiences’ ribs or the ivories in his rendition of ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ a performance this special does not go unnoticed. In his return to the Broadway stage after performing An Act of God in 2015, Hayes asserted himself as a theatrical powerhouse, and he will surely be welcomed back to the stage in seasons to come.
Annaleigh Ashford in Sweeney Todd
After icons including Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone, Imelda Staunton, and Christine Baranski have all filled the role of Mrs. Lovett, you wouldn’t think there were any crumbs left in the material with which to do something new, make a unique choice. It is our utmost pleasure to report that Ms. Ashford finds them all, and then some. With her wit and vocals in hand, Ashford manages to almost recreate this tried and true character, begging her castmates to catch up as she runs off with their show.
Kara Young in Purlie Victorious
Fresh off her second Tony Award nomination for Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living (which was in turn fresh off her first Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut in Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s), Young displays a different facet of her enormous talent and versatility as Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins in Purlie Victorious. In this role, Young delivers a masterclass in comedy in all its forms: physical, verbal, satirical, and the like. Her prowess, a must-not-miss performance, is on display nightly at the Music Box Theatre through February 4, 2024.
Jodie Comer in Prima Facie
This year, Comer brought her Olivier-winning performance in Suzie Miller’s one-woman legal drama stateside, where she added yet another trophy to the mantle. Known to New York audiences primarily for her television career, Comer’s stage acting wowed as she spun this heavy tale with authenticity, nuance, and sheer power.
Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer in Spamalot
As the Lady-of-the-Lake, Kritzer is the Standout-of-the-show! In a series of sparkly Jen Caprio gowns, she evokes Broadway divas like Liza Minelli, and adds the touch of Broadway glamor that holds the looney world of Spamalot together, making it not just a salute to Monty Python, but an exceptional stage musical on its own. Director Josh Rhodes wisely gives Rodriguez Kritzer ample opportunity to improvise, making the show fresh every night (see: the floored social media reactions from the audience that found out the SAG-AFTRA strike had ended because Leslie announced it live onstage and in character.) It’s a delight to watch her lead the company in her 8th Broadway show, and a treat to hear her belt to the rafters.
Michael Urie in Spamalot
Urie has a sterling reputation as a comedic heavy hitter, from prior credits like Torch Song Trilogy, Buyer and Seller, and TV’s Ugly Betty. In a production full of actors with PhDs in clowning, Urie still manages to steal the show with his surgically precise timing, detailed facial expressions, and total commitment to chaos in his performance as the nervy Sir Robin and a host of other medieval wackos. Who else could land a huge laugh just by darting his eyes back and forth? Watching him bring down the house with his Act 2 number ‘You Won’t Succeed on Broadway’ is a bit like watching Julia Child cook or Serena Williams play tennis – the sheer joy of watching a master at work.
Alex Brightman in The Shark is Broken
Jaws fans got a behind-the-scenes look at the storied set of the iconic blockbuster in this year’s The Shark is Broken. With Alex Brightman (AKA Beetlejuice, to those in the know) playing the real-life Richard Dreyfuss, the play was infused with a burst of energy, zaniness, and neurosis that transports the audience effectively through the boredom of waiting on the boat. Brightman excels in exhibiting Dreyfuss’s ambitious and chaotic spirit, even if the real-life actor did not so much appreciate the interpretation…
Billy Eugene Jones & Jay O. Sanders in Purlie Victorious
Both given a near-impossible task of making grounded and genuine human characters out of archetypes, Billy Eugene Jones (last seen on Broadway in Fat Ham) and Jay O. Sanders (last in Girl From the North Country) make comedy magic as Gitlow Judson and Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee, respectively. As the “Uncle Tom” and racist plantation owner types, this duo of New York theater perennials use the vessels created by Ossie Davis to subvert stereotypes and deliver the play’s thesis, under the watchful direction of Kenny Leon.
Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Lindsay Mendez in Merrily We Roll Along
How could we sever the unbreakable bond between this trio of Broadway stars?! For their convincingly deep friendship and for their help in reifying the glory of one of Stephen Sondheim’s lost treasures, the Frank-Charlie-Mary of 2023 round out our list of the best performances to hit Broadway this past calendar year.