Best theater of 2019: ‘Tina,’ ‘Fiddler’ stars shine

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Now and then, someone does something onstage that takes your breath away. Here are a few of the most thrilling performances of the year, on Broadway and off.

Perhaps you missed the Tony-nominated performance she gave in 2016’s “Shuffle Along.” No matter: There’s no missing the whirlwind that is Adrienne Warren in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren doesn’t sing a song so much as she lives it, and when she hurls herself into “River Deep — Mountain High,” an electrified audience leaps to its feet. As long as she’s Tina, this jukebox musical isn’t leaving anytime soon.


Zero Mostel, Theodore Bikel, Alfred Molina, Harvey Fierstein, Leonard Nimoy . . . Who hasn’t played Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”? But in Joel Grey’s exquisite revival — performed in Yiddish, with English subtitles — Steven Skybell doesn’t seem to be playing anything: He’s simply a father wrestling with his devotion to his faith and his love for his wayward daughters. So it’s no wonder why, when “Fiddler” ends its run Jan. 5, Skybell says he plans to spend the next few days sleeping. “Offers have come, but I want it to be something very special after Tevye!” he tells The Post. Catch him while you can.

It’s hard to stand out when you’re surrounded by so many other terrific singers and dancers. But Ephraim Sykes manages just the same in “Ain’t Too Proud,” the Temptations musical. Just as he did when he stole TV’s “Hairspray: Live,” as the slithery Seaweed, he sings, he struts, he slides into a split — always without missing a beat. It’s easy to see how Sykes won the lead in Broadway’s upcoming “MJ: The Musical.” If anyone can make us fall under Michael Jackson’s spell these days, it’s Sykes.

Ephraim Sykes (kneeling) and the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud,” the Temptations musical.
Ephraim Sykes (kneeling) and the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud,” the Temptations musical.Matthew Murphy

Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” is full of angsty anthems, and Lauren Patten gets to deliver the most famous of them. As Jo, a sexually fluid high schooler in thrall to a BFF who’s falling in love with a guy, Patten makes “You Oughta Know” a raw and wrenching experience. But she’s just as wonderful in the upbeat “Hand in My Pocket”: a Broadway star is born. Chances are, she’ll be rocking “Pill” for a while, but you can also catch her recurring role on TV’s “Blue Bloods.”

Lauren Patten in "Jagged Little Pill."
Lauren Patten in “Jagged Little Pill.”Matthew Murphy

There are 18 performers — and one pygmy goat — in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ messy but memorable new play, “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven.” Even so, it’s hard to keep your eyes off Esteban Andres Cruz. As Venus, the sole trans woman in a halfway house for battered women, Cruz is mesmerizing, especially when bathing in an onstage tub, a morbidly obese character afraid of her own body. Cruz’s next project is a solo show, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria: The History of the U.S. Through The Eyes of a Cross-Eyed, Queer Mexi-Rican,” slated for 2021 at the 16th Street Theater. I’m there!

Victor Almanzar with Esteban Andres Cruz in a scene from “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven.”
Victor Almanzar with Esteban Andres Cruz in a scene from “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven.”Monique Carboni

Biggest deal of the decade

How can anything possibly top “Hamilton”? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-accented account of that forgotten founding father opened on Broadway in 2015, and it’s still the hottest ticket in town.

Lin-Manuel Miranda during the curtain call for his final performance in "Hamilton" in 2016.
Lin-Manuel Miranda during the curtain call for his final performance in “Hamilton” in 2016.Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic



By Barbara Hoffman

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