We reached out to some of our favorite theatre writers to ask what stage ensembles were most memorable to them this year. From straight plays to musicals, Broadway to regional theatre, we loved the variety of theatre ensembles they found captivating.
"I was lucky enough to be at one of the closing weekend performances of SpongeBob SquarePants. It was my third time seeing the show, but I had never paid attention to the amount of work that the ensemble was doing. It became clear that they had not only developed specific characters for each and every scene they were in, but they truly were the engine that kept the show moving.
“From belting upside down and skateboarding while playing guitar, to changing scenery and quite literally moving mountains. I miss that show every day, and that’s in big part due to the ensemble of actors that brought that story to life.”
“Some of my favorite plays of this past year involved great ensemble performances but are still, for all intents and purposes, star vehicles: Torch Song; Network; even the gargantuan Angels in America was ultimately all about Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane. But one play stands out to me as not only one of the best I've seen in a long while, but as an ensemble triumph in the truest sense: The Ferryman.
“I was riveted for three hours straight because there was not one character onstage who didn't contribute richly to the telling of the story, from the little Carney girls, who each have distinct personalities that go way beyond adorable; to the quietly threatening Muldoon, lurking even when not onstage; to the deeply individual Corcoran boys; to heartbreaking lunk Tom Kettle; to even the non-human members of the cast (applause for the goose and bunny, who always seem to make their entrances precisely when their presence is needed).
“The story is a complex, intricately layered one, and without any of the ensemble members, it would be far less so. That's a fact that even the ostensible stars seem to know - and it's a credit to Paddy Considine’s onstage humility that he, too, feels like just another member of the sprawling onstage crew.”
“I was incredibly moved by the ensemble work in Two River Theater's production of Songbird this year. In Lauren Pritchard and Michael Kimmel's contemporary take on The Seagull, set in Nashville and infused with country music, the actors are also the musicians.
“The way that songs and dialogue were woven together to tell the story was made all the more powerful by this talented group of artists including Ephie Aardema, Felicia Finley, Deon'te Goodman, Kelly Karbacz, Drew McVety, Eric William Morris, Kacie Sheik, Marrick Smith, Bob Stillman, and Andy Taylor. In backing each other up instrumentally, they made the themes of the piece - involving music and community - resonate intensely. Every relationship on stage felt very specific and real with this ensemble.”
“I didn’t plan on seeing SpongeBob SquarePants seven times, but the magic that Tina Landau and the company created on that stage made me return time and time again. The ensemble specifically brought such joy to the stage — you could tell they actually enjoyed performing as the Bikini Bottom community.
“I also didn’t plan to attend the first performance after they had announced their closing notice. Yet I found myself at the Palace Theatre on July 10, weeping as the curtain rose during the opening number ‘Bikini Bottom Day.’ In front of me were sea creatures of all shapes, sizes, colors, species, gender expressions — I’m sure religions and economic classes. Their collective energy radiated off the stage and into the audience.
“Yes, that show taught their audiences about tolerance, acceptance, and empathy, but they went a step further — they invited everyone into their community and celebrated their differences.”
“I found the ensemble work in The Prom to be absolutely fantastic, but one moment in particular stood out above the rest. In the final scene of act one, leading lady Emma (Caitlin Kinnunen) prepares to attend her high school’s prom with her girlfriend, inspired by Broadway’s Barry Glickman (Brooks Ashmanskas) during the musical number ‘Tonight Belongs to You.’ She soon discovers that the close-minded community of Edgewater, Indiana has chosen to continue hurting her despite it looking like positive change was on the horizon.
“As Emma takes in the community’s upsetting act, the teen ensemblists can be seen upstage of Emma at the prom singing a chilling reprise of ‘Tonight Belongs to You.’ Those who have deliberately hurt Emma have now taken ownership of what was once her anthem. The use of the ensemble in this moment adds an even stronger punch to Emma’s devastation. Chills.”
Jackson Cline, social media manager at The Ensemblist