Seat Filler: Best NYC Theater of 2011
BY Brandon Voss
January 02 2012 12:39 PM ET
4. The Book of Mormon
As smartly crafted as it is crass, this show from South Park’s creators about mismatched Mormon missionaries in Uganda almost lives up to the buzz heralding it as a musical messiah. Making a gold plate — Mormon joke! — of a modest meal, out Broadway Impact cofounder Rory O’Malley is glorious as Elder McKinley, a closeted missionary who leads a pink-sequined chorus in “Turn It Off,” a showstopper about urge-squelching.
Eugene O’Neill Theatre, open-ended.
The trend of Broadway shows reopening off-Broadway continues with Jonathan Larson’s rock musical masterpiece, which resets La Bohème in the AIDS-addled East Village. Reinvigorating the show with new visuals and an age-appropriate cast — you betta work, MJ Rodriguez as Angel — returning director Michael Greif cements the action in 1991 and brings realism to what bordered on caricature. Rentheads should be over the moon.
New World Stages, open-ended.
2. The Normal Heart
Directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, Larry Kramer’s gut-punching 1985 drama about the AIDS crisis beat mightily with breathtaking performances by out actors Joe Mantello as activist Ned Weeks and John Benjamin Hickey as his ill lover. I found some directorial choices questionable — unnecessary scenic projections, for starters — but it’s best not to quibble with an impassioned treatise so cherished that it transcended theater.
John Golden Theatre, closed July 10.