Year in Review: Performance

Dria Brown, Nikki E. Walker, and Danielle Hopkins in "Crumbs from the Table of Joy" at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse. —MJ Bruder Munafo

So much to do, so little time. Every year performers of all sorts visit the Vineyard from New York, Boston, and all over. Unfortunately, most arrive in the short span of two months that defines our official summer season. If you didn’t catch all of the following entertainment options, don’t worry — no one did. It would have been impossible. Here are some of the things you may remember (or that you may have missed) in 2016.

This past summer there was even more of a wealth of imported talent than usual, thanks to the debut of two new Vineyard series. The Broadway @ series, founded in Provincetown and now featured in cities all over the U.S., came to the Vineyard for the first time in 2016, and what a debut it was. Islanders were treated to cabaret-style shows from Vanessa Williams, Megan Hilty, Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, and Patti Lupone. Broadway really did come to the Vineyard.

The Martha’s Vineyard Concert Series presented an inaugural season of appearances by an eclectic mix including comedian Paula Poundstone; actor, singer and writer Alan Cumming; humorist David Sedaris; and activist Erin Brockovich — another impressive lineup. With any luck, both series will become annual additions to the Vineyard season.

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse extended its summer mainstage season to run from late May to mid-October this year. The critically acclaimed regional theater presented four productions, including the multiple-Tony-awardwinning drama “Red,” and a new play by Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage called “Crumbs from the Table of Joy.” The playhouse is still going strong with programing, including music, movies, poetry, and more scheduled throughout the winter and spring.

The Vineyard Arts Project (VAP) in Edgartown hosted an exciting mix of entertainment this year, with artists in residence and public performances. Among the creative talents were Tony awardwinner Sarah Jones, whose new one-woman piece “Buy/Sell/Date” was viewed for the first time by Vineyard audiences, and Canadian-Somali hip-hop artist K’Naan, who performed music from his upcoming musical commissioned by the Public Theater. Take note: The last hip-hop musical to be developed by the Public Theater was “Hamilton,” and judging by K’Naan’s Vineyard outing, the local audience may have gotten a sneak peak at the next big thing to hit Broadway.

Last, but hardly least, the VAP hosted a reading with songs from the newest musical by James Lapine, “Flying over Sunset.” The Vineyard presentation featured Tony nominee Marin Mazzie and other Broadway actors in a story based on real life, with 1950s celebrities taking a “therapeutic” acid trip together. The show is a collaboration between Lapine, composer Tom Kitt, and lyricist Michael Korie. With its fun premise, fabulous music, and historical appeal, don’t be surprised to see “Flying over Sunset” take off on the Great White Way in the future.

Island Theater Workshop once again wowed audiences with a lavish production of a Broadway musical. This time around, ITW presented “Beauty and the Beast,” complete with elaborate costumes and sets, and the Vineyard debut of former opera singer David Behnke as the Beast.

For the fourth year in a row, Wendy Taucher brought New York–based opera singers to the Vineyard for a spectacular production of an adapted classic opera. In August, Island audiences were treated to a shortened and comedically heightened version of “The Barber of Seville” featuring some of the most gorgeous voices the opera world has to offer. Bellissima!

The Yard was busy this past summer. The world-renowned dance and choreography residency hosted an impressive 15 different performances, including the return of Cuban dance company Malpaso, a new show by Amy Brenneman and Sabrina Peck, and a first-time Vineyard appearance by the Brooklyn-based dance company Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, who create their own blend of blues, slave, and gospel music with traditional African dance and music.

Whether it was theater, dance, or something in between, all of these Vineyard performances left us hoping to catch more next year.