PLAYBILL PICKS: Breakout Performances of the 2012-13 Broadway Season

By Playbill Staff
April 29, 2013

The 2012-13 Broadway season has come to a close, and the 67th annual Tony Awards are on the horizon. Before Tony nominations are announced April 30, the staff at Playbill.com took a look back at the season and chose a handful of Broadway breakout performances. From Broadway newcomers to familiar faces in monumental moments, here are performers who stole the spotlight this season.



Gregory Haney pushed Broadway boundaries this season as the first transsexual high school character to take a Main Stem bow in the cheerleading musical Bring It On: The Musical. Book writer Jeff Whitty created the character of La Cienega, a member of an all-girl hip hop dance crew at Jackson High, who stomped onto the stage without apology and without an explanation. "There are big misperceptions about transgender people," Haney told Playbill. "I'm trying to really give it the respect that it deserves. It's a hard thing to get up every day and be true to yourself and then have backlash from people who don't want you to be who you are supposed to be." Read Playbill's feature on Haney, La Cienega and Bring It On.

Rob McClure
Photo by Joan Marcus

Rob McClure, previously of Broadway's Avenue Q and I'm Not Rappaport, garnered critical acclaim for his depiction of silent-film star Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin. The actor originated the role of the "Little Tramp" in the out-of-town tryout at California's La Jolla Playhouse and received a Barrymore Award for his performance. McClure stepped into the "Limelight" with his portrayal of Chaplin: Who could forget his seamless transformation into the Little Tramp — putting on the tight coat, baggy pants, bowler hat, oversized shoes and tiny mustache? McClure embodied Charlie Chaplin completely — from the strut to the stunts to the tightrope-walking. "My Aunt Marian, my entire life growing up, told me that I looked like Charlie Chaplin," said McClure in an early interview with Playbill.com. Read the Playbill Leading Men column with McClure here, who talks about his relationship with the film legend.

Tracy Letts
Photo by Michael Brosilow

He made his Broadway playwriting debut with the sprawling family drama August: Osage County, which garnered Tracy Letts the Tony Award for Best Play and Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008. This season, the stage veteran made his anticipated Broadway debut as an actor, inhabiting the role of George in the acclaimed revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Letts' unique take on the weary college professor, recoiled and ready to strike, proved a perfect match for Tony nominee Amy Morton's earthy Martha.

Anthony Warlow
Photo by Joan Marcus

Australian actor Anthony Warlow finally made his Broadway debut in the revival of Annie, and his Daddy Warbucks is nothing short of perfection. Warlow, who played the role twice before in Australia, had caught the eye of the show's lyricist (and original director) Martin Charnin, who was so impressed by Warlow's previous Annie outings that he pushed for his hiring. In Annie Warlow paints Oliver Warbucks with a wide palette of colors. "The challenge for me is to find a real flesh-and-blood spirit that embodies a character that, with all due respect — and I've spoken to [librettist] Thomas Meehan about this — was somewhat scantily written," Warlow previously told Playbill.com. His warm "baritenor" sweetens the character of Daddy Warbucks and leaves the audience with a rich and dynamic vocal performance.

Betsy Wolfe and Will Chase
Photo by Joan Marcus

Betsy Wolfe, in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, offered one of the best vocal performances of the 2012-13 Broadway season. Wolfe, who played Drood's fiancée, the pristine and elegant Rosa Bud, has a seemingly limitless vocal range. Her gorgeous soprano soared on Rupert Holmes' Tony Award-winning score. Following her Drood performance, the actress — formerly of smaller Broadway roles in Everyday Rapture and 110 in the Shade — went straight to her next starring role in the Off-Broadway revival of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, where she currently proves her versatility. In the more contemporary Last Five Years, Wolfe displays sassy belting on numbers like "A Summer in Ohio," "Climbing Uphill" and the show's classic power ballad "I Can Do Better Than That." Wolfe makes you laugh and makes you cry.

Ari Graynor
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Who else could make a porn star shine on Broadway? Ari Graynor, as the charismatic adult-film star Peeps, stole just about every scene in Broadway's short-lived comedy The Performers. In a high-pitched voice, Graynor delivered every naughty word and dirty idiom to perfection.

Luke Spring
Photo by Carol Rosegg

One of the smallest actors in Broadway's A Christmas Story, The Musical filled one of the biggest New York City houses during the second-act song-and-dance number "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out." Luke Spring, the adolescent tap-dancing prodigy, was discovered by director John Rando, choreographer Warren Carlyle and the creative team of A Christmas Story from his appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show. Watch his "Ellen" appearance, when he was seven years old, here. The house came down at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre during the second act when Spring pulled out all the stops in his tap dance solo opposite theatre veteran Caroline O'Connor. Did we just witness the beginning of Broadway's next Tommy Tune?

Yvonne Strahovski
Photo by Paul Kolnik

Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski slipped easily into the role of tough-as-nails blonde bombshell Lorna Moon in Lincoln Center Theater's masterful Broadway revival of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy. In her Broadway debut Strahovksi went round for round with acting heavy hitters – Anthony Crivello, Tony Shalhoub, Danny Mastrogiorgio and Seth Numrich – breaking hearts as the doomed woman caught in the middle of a prize fight.

Billy Magnussen
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Billy Magnussen ABSolutely runs away with every scene he's in during Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. His work in the gym and rehearsal room paid off – he fills out the role of Sigourney Weaver's dim-witted love interest Spike to the margins of the page, with one of the most detailed comic performances of the season. Check out Playbill.com's feature on Durang's new play.

 

Keala Settle
Photo by Kevin Berne

All hands were off the hardbody when the big-voiced and big-hearted Keala Settle broke out into Hands on a Hardbody's 11-o'clock number (although it was somewhere in the midst of the first act), "Joy of the Lord." Settle, previously of Broadway's Priscilla Queen of the Desert, began her show-stopping moment with an uncontrolled fit of laughter, contagious enough to reach every audience member at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Power-belting ensued shortly thereafter, and it wasn't long before everyone clapped along with the character of Norma Valverde. Amen!

Tom Hanks
Photo by Joan Marcus

We have to include Hollywood royalty Tom Hanks, who makes his Broadway debut as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mike McAlary in late writer Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy. The two-time Academy Award winner has embraced the Broadway community in his first New York stage outing, signing autographs for fans outside the Broadhurst Theatre nightly and – along with his Lucky Guy cast members – raising $301,549 in funds for BC/EFA at this year's Easter Bonnet Competition. We hope Lucky Guy is the first of many Broadway projects for the actor - we think he's got a bright future.

Annaleigh Ashford
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Annaleigh Ashford earns some of the biggest applause in the new musical Kinky Boots with her show-stopper "The History of Wrong Guys." Ashford's quirky performance as factory-girl Lauren takes takes the standard plot device of "love interest" to new comic heights. Her expressive "facial choreography" — as she fawns over oblivious leading man Stark Sands  — had our cheeks sore from laughing.

Bertie Carvel
Photo by Joan Marcus

Bertie Carvel, who won the Olivier Award for his portrayal of the evil Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musial overseas, reprises his performance, making his Broadway debut. Carvel is not just a man in women's clothing. He is Miss Trunchbull. As he walks throughout the aisles of the Shubert Theatre — whistle on his neck, hand at his side — adults and children alike are jumping out of their seats, afraid that Carvel may grab them by their pigtails and catapult them across the theatre.

Lesli Margherita
Photo by Joan Marcus

For Broadway's Matilda, a standout of the 2012-13 season, we couldn't resist including two breakout performances. Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita, who makes her Broadway debut with the production, plays Matilda's mother, Mrs. Wormwood, another character that we love to hate. Who could resist her sexy high-kicking in the tango-inspired dance number "Loud"? She proves to be a surefire triple-threat.

Raymond Luke Jr.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Raymond Luke Jr. as the young Michael Jackson in Broadway's Motown: The Musical brings the sound of MJ alive at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. What more is there to say? It's like watching the real Jackson 5 on television.

Tom Sturridge
Photo by Joan Marcus

In Orphans English actor Tom Sturridge creates a character so physically compelling that by the end of the first act, the audience is exhausted from watching the socially-awkward and mentally-challenged Phillip bounce throughout the apartment — seldomly touching the ground. Sturridge constructs a character so real that the audience seems to forget the character's age and begins to feel for the child stuck inside the four walls of the broken-down home at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

Rachel Bay Jones
Photo by Joan Marcus

There's another kind of magic happening on stage in the Broadway revival of PippinRachel Bay Jones' heartfelt portrayal of Catherine. In between high-flying circus tricks, Jones' bedraggled Catherine, a single mom who helps Pippin find his heart, melted our own with comic honesty.