2012 was a banner year for theater in Rhode Island. Several national tours launched their runs in Providence at the PPAC, the Ocean State Theatre Company opened a brand-new venue in Warwick, and Rhode Island's local companies proved their mettle in a season packed with talent and innovation. What follows is a brief look back at five of the stand-out productions of 2012.
1. Courthouse Center Stage (formerly The Courthouse Center for the Arts) produced an absolutely outstanding staging of Maury Yeston's Titanic. This Titanic was excellent in every aspect, featuring a brilliant cast of actors and singers, sophisticated set and lighting design, and a clear, dedicated commitment to the material from the artistic team, company and crew. Courthouse's dazzling Titanic easily earns a place on the 2012 season's "best of" list.
2. Mixed Magic Theatre and Trinity Repertory Company teamed to present When Mahalia Sings, a portrait of the life of gospel singer and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson, in a special run at Trinity's Dowling Theater. This production featured smart and streamlined storytelling, powerful, uplifting musical numbers, and an incredibly talented cast of vocalists and musical performers. Mahalia was, undoubtedly, one of the season's best; should Mixed Magic mount the show again in the future, do not miss a chance to see it on stage.
3. 2nd Story Theatre enjoyed a tremendous season both at its Market Street home and with special performances staged at the historic Bristol Courthouse. 2nd Story embraces ambitious projects, and they more than met the challenge of bringing life to Daphne Du Maurier's haunting Rebecca. A clever adaptation allowed the mystery to progress naturally, the actors maintained an air of tension throughout, and Trevor Elliott's set and lighting design masterfully recreated the great Manderly estate on the theater's intimate space.
4. The Ocean State Theatre Company directed Theatre-by-the-Sea's 2012 season for the fifth year, beginning the summer's lineup with a top-notch production of Forever Plaid. The show is an automatic crowd pleaser given its catchy jukebox score and jaunty good humor, and TBTS's fabulous four-man cast blended spot-on comedy with terrific vocal performances. Endearing, toe-tapping, and witty, Forever Plaid proved a memorable start to summer stock theater in Matunuck.
5. The national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical Memphis opened at the Providence Performing Arts Center to well-deserved acclaim. Every member of the production's singing-and-dancing cast radiated talent, embodied their character, and brought great energy to the stage. Memphis is heartwarming and heartbreaking, and the story unfolds with both frankness and sensitivity. Be sure to catch Memphis when the tour stops in a city near you.