Broadway theatergoers were blessed with a long list of outstanding performances in 2013. Five actors, however, deserve special recognition for their achievement in leading the casts of two new plays, a pair of Shakespeare revivals, a new musical and a TV-to-stage tuner. Below, in alphabetical order, are our choices for the best performances of the year:
Nathan Lane in The Nance
In Douglas Carter Beane’s excellent play, Nathan Lane took on the double challenge of playing a dour, closeted 1930s vaudeville headliner and performing madcap comic routines in the swishy persona of title character Chauncey Miles. These split-second changes used all of Lane’s gifts as a stage actor, but the real surprise was the vulnerability he displayed in depicting Chauncey’s romance with a younger man.
Laurie Metcalf in The Other Place
How does one portray a brilliant neurologist who may be losing her mind? Step one is to cast a brilliant actress like Laurie Metcalf, who elevated Sharr White’s psychological drama as she parried with characters real and imaginary. In a taut, 80-minute-long production, Metcalf morphed from imperiousness and anger to confusion and grief—a transformation few others could pull off.
Laura Osnes in Cinderella
Laura Osnes must be sick of hearing how perfectly cast she is in Cinderella. Yes, Osnes is ideally suited to playing Rodgers & Hammerstein heroines, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that her luminous performance as the fairytale servant-turned-princess was one of the year’s musical highlights. Osnes projects a lightness and ease on stage and creates effortless chemistry with her castmates.
Billy Porter in Kinky Boots
Nothing in Billy Porter’s background as a character actor could have prepared audiences for his eye-popping transformation into a drag queen named Lola in the Tony-winning musical adaptation of Kinky Boots. Porter is both hilarious and dead serious about conveying the show’s message of self-acceptance and inclusion, and the audience gets to see the slender man behind the diva. A singular performance—and Lola’s gorgeous!
Mark Rylance in Twelfth Night and Richard III
Mark Rylance’s Tony-winning work in Boeing-Boeing and Jerusalem was merely a prelude to his towering achievement as the scheming, smirking title monarch in Richard III and especially as Olivia in Twelfth Night, a comic performance that’s both indescribable and unmissable. Don’t ponder how a balding, middle-aged man can embody Illyria’s most eligible maiden, just get tickets to see him do it.