THEIR FAVORITE THINGS: Tony Award Winner Brian Stokes Mitchell Shares His Theatregoing Experiences

By Andrew Gans
July 3, 2013

Playbill.com's new feature series, Their Favorite Things, asks members of the theatre community to share the Broadway performances that most affected them as part of the audience.

This week we spotlight the choices of Tony Award-winning stage and screen star Brian Stokes Mitchell, who will kick off The Town Hall's Starry Summer Nights Concert Series July 8 at 8 PM with an evening titled Simply Broadway. The Broadway favorite will also be a part of Playbill's Broadway on the High Seas 4. Read about it here. 



(Clicking on a name bolded in blue will take readers to that actor or show's entry in the Playbill Vault.)

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

 

"Okay - I didn't actually see this on Broadway. I saw this performed by a USO troupe of college actors when I was about nine years old while living on a navy base in the Philippine Islands. I thought that it was the funniest thing that I had ever seen, and it marked the awakening of a deep and lasting appreciation of the power of the theatre and for the work of Stephen Sondheim."

 

 

Sweeney Todd 

 

"Dark and beautiful with humor and heart and horror executed (pun intended) by artists working at the top of their form - director, actors, designers, writers, orchestrator. I saw this in Los Angeles with George Hearn but was already in love with the score that I had listened to multiple times both viscerally and analytically. I had staged it in my head, but threw out all my blocking when I saw what Hal Prince had done with it! Definitely on my personal list of 'The five greatest shows of all time' - Sondheim's masterwork IMHO."

 

 

 Dreamgirls
 

 

"This was the first Broadway musical I saw on Broadway (it took me a while to get out to the East Coast!!!). It was with the original cast, and I was sitting in the last row of the balcony over toward the right but I felt like I was in the first row. I remember the brilliant staging and the set with the moving columns, the soulful performances, choreography and score and the feeling of sitting in an audience and being part of something that was electric. It was also my first time to see a literal showstopper complete with a standing ovation in the middle of the show thanks to Jennifer Holliday's rendition of 'And I Am Telling You...' The perfect alignment of performer, song and show."

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

 

"Theatrical storytelling at its best. It was a novel and joyful occasion to spend two days watching a show that never bored or lacked inventiveness. A cast of precision artists. I can still see the horse-drawn carriage wheels that were made with four actors turning parasols."

 

 

Peter and the Starcatcher 

 

"Also theatrical storytelling at its best but with a more American sense of the English music hall style. Incredibly clever script and pre-imagining of the Peter Pan story. Crude low comedy realized in a most sophisticated way. The entire cast was an amazing ensemble, and Christian Borle's performance as Hook was wacky, sideways, wildly creative and free but also perfectly controlled, precise and very artful - comic genius. I think of one particular surprisingly long comic take that he did (when Hook loses his hand) and it still makes me laugh out loud." 

 

 

Noises Off

 

"A door-slamming backstage comedy directed and performed with the most intricate timing. I remember laughing so hard I could barely control it - but I didn't mind because everyone around me was doing the same. The memory of that production was one of the main reasons I wanted to do Kiss Me, Kate - same director, Michael Blakemore - I felt I had so much I could learn from him."

 

Shockheaded Peter

 

"A darkly hilarious trip back to theatre of the Victorian age replete with retro stagecraft, costumes, effects and acting style. Dark morality tales for children (not really!) where death and tragedy abound. I also loved the bizarre, unnerving and strangely appropriate score performed live by the Tiger Lillies."

 

Rabbit Hole

 

"This show tore me apart. A painfully beautiful study of a family coping with tragedy - a young child killed by a teenage driver. Subtle, beautiful performances from everyone. David Lindsay-Abaire created a situation and characters that were revealed in a most eloquent onion-layered fashion. The scene with the meeting of the characters played by Cynthia Nixon (Mom) and John Gallagher, Jr. (the teen who accidentally caused her child's death) just about did me in with its pain, simplicity, and deeply loving sense of flawed humanity. It is etched in my mind forever. Great writing, great acting, great direction - and the set turned itself inside-out -artfully reflecting what the family was going through! Actors like to talk about 'truth' in the theatre - here it was in spades. I was very happy when it won the Pulitzer months after closing."

Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce

 

"...in anything. Especially big fun watching them together in La Bête. Mark Rylance's outrageous and comedically cloddish performance vs. David Hyde Pierce's beautifully understated and barely controlled rage and frustration. They were like oil and water in a blender. Two very sophisticated comic performances and a masterclass in comedy."

 

 Billy Elliott

 

"I saw this first at their Actors Fund special performance in a theatre full of fellow actors and artists. I was sitting a few feet from Bebe Neuwirth and a few other performer friends of mine. When the lights came up for the intermission, I remember that we were looking at each other in stunned silence with a mutual 'OMG' expression on our faces. Those boys were amazing and we could not believe what all the kids and cast were doing. And the show is a beautiful re-imagining of the film - capturing the spirit of the film but in that uniquely musical theatre way."


 Next to Normal

 

"When my wife and I walked into the theatre, we had no idea what we were in for - Straight play? Musical? Comedy? Tragedy? It was a fresh, intelligent, disturbing, entertaining(!) exploration of mental illness and its effect on a family. Proof that in skilled hands any subject matter can be explored in the musical theatre form. The depth and complexity of the situation, characters and outcome were constantly surprising and deeply moving."


 Anything by August Wilson

 

"Ordinary people struggling in ordinary situations that take on mythological proportions. His ten-decade Pittsburgh cycle is unparalleled in the theatre and the tragic and comic music and rhythm that voice his characters and propel his stories are like a jazz symphony with complex themes weaving in and out of each other. If I had to pick one it would be The Piano Lesson. Or Joe Turner. Or Fences. Or Ma Rainey. Or... you get the point."