Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Theater's best in 2006
The Citizen file photo Ron Ritchell performs the opening monologue to the play “A Child's Christmas in Wales” during rehearsal at the Auburn Public Theater. Ritchell and his wife, Polly Hogan, not shown, performed the play for 25 years in Boston and came out of retirement in Canada to perform in Auburn.

When The Citizen asked me to narrow down the 2006 theater offerings in the region to the best five productions, I thought, “Sure, that shouldn't be too hard.”

Oh, dopey me.

The problem was that of the nearly 30 shows I saw this year, none were bad. None. Certainly some were better than others, but I was genuinely happy that I'd seen each one. Here, in no particular order, are the best of '06.

“Menopause the Musical” by Syracuse Stage

It's hard to argue with more than 50,000 audience members. The show turned into the must see event of the year with three cast changes (because cast members were committed to other productions of the play) and four extensions of the run.

Any production that causes that much buzz about theater in central New York makes my top five list any year.

“The Wild Party” by Seneca Community Players

For a community theater to tackle a play this dark and erotic is almost as amazing as how well they pulled it off.

SCP has gotten more and more adventurous in choosing its seasons, and the quality of their work is steadily building a base of theater goers willing to take a chance on unusual plays that stretch their casts as well as their audience.

“Hello Dolly” by Hangar Theater

Far and away the best show of the year. It had magnificent performances and impeccable production values.

Barbara Broughton was the perfect Dolly, and impeccable sets, lights and choreography made for a memorable production.

“It Runs in the Family” by Cortland Repertory Theater

CRT has made a reputation for itself as the best producer of farce in the area, and this show was one off-the-charts funny.

Suzan Perry, a fixture in CRT's recent seasons, was absolutely remarkable in what

turned out to be the best comedy of the year.

“A Child's Christmas in Wales” by Auburn Public Theater

A family play of enormous charm and wit, with wonderful performances and a warm and wise script. The adaptation by Polly Hogan of Dylan Thomas stories and poems was a marvel.

APT, in only a year, has established itself as a force to be reckoned with, both as an original producer of plays and as a generous host for other theater companies.

Honorable mentions:

* Merry-Go-Round's “Gigi” and “Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story” showed MGR at the top of its game.

* Harliquin's “Lena's Secret Garden” deservedly won a slew of TANYS Awards

* Hangar Theatre's “Bloodlines, The Children of Argos” was a noble experiment in summer theater, and a largely successful one at that

* The Auburn Players' “Jake's Women” portrayed a fine ensemble work

* Syracuse Stage brought us a marvelous and original “A Christmas Carol” and a haunting and vivid “King Lear”

* Kitchen mounted “The Accidental Activist,” which was a very funny and politically charged production.

* Actor's Speakeasy staged a terrific production of the companion plays “Laundry and

Bourbon“ and ”Lone Star“

* And Auburn Public Theater brought in “Men Fake Foreplay” for a pair of runs

before it headed to Off Broadway

* Cortland's “Moonlight and Magnolias” was a gem of a show, as was “Five Guys Named Moe”


There were some individuals who deserve a mention as well. Ronald Banks was perfection in MGR's “The King and I;” Carole Estabrook in “Lena's Secret Garden;” Kerby Thompson in “Moonlight and Magnolias;” Nick Bessette and Emily Swenson in “The Wild Party;” Erica Steinhagen in Kitchen's “Tony and the Soprano;” Mike DeForest in “Lone Star;” Jessica Cantu and Michele Foytek in both “Laundry and Bourbon” and “Jake's Women;” Lawrence Drzod in “Bloodlines;” Catherine Lynn Davis in “King Lear;” Carey Eidel in “A

Child's Christmas in Wales,“ and Kathryn Bloom in ”The Accidental Activist.“


Let's not forget the producers and directors: Bob Frame, Michael Donald Edwards, Pam Rapoza, Ron Ritchell, Kevin Morriarty, James Cantu, John Turner and Ed Sayles all brought us some of their best work this year. And a nod to Loose Ends Little Theater for putting together the first Cayuga County Short Play Festival.

And finally a word of thanks to Jeremy Boyer, Ashley Hanry and Laura Boyce for making me look presentable in print.

Now let's get out there and start seeing more theater in 2007.

Tom Woods writes monthly on local and regional theater news. E-mail him at