Nina Arianda - What a pleasure and utter thrill to see such a bravura performance - her turn in Venus in Fur not only ignited her career, but provided the theater world with one of those performances that people will talk about for years to come.
John Bolton - I've been seeing Mr. Bolton in shows for years, on tour and on Broadway, but this year, he really came into his own as The Old Man in A Christmas Story: The Musical. A riot of physical comedy, with all the right notes of sincerity and emotion, I'll never forget his distress at the broken leg lamp in the window. Fragile, indeed!
Tom Edden - I can take or leave British comedy. But when barely 30-something Edden took the stage in One Man, Two Guvnors as 1,000-something Alfie, you couldn't help but laugh. And cry - tears of joy from laughing that hard are rare these days. Can anyone confirm that Edden is really half man half rubber? That man can stretch and bend like no other!
Rachel Griffiths - An accomplished television and film actress, this Aussie made her Broadway debut as a bi-coastal American in Other Desert Cities. She not only held the stage with such heavy-hitters as Judith Light and Stockard Channing, she took it over! If only every TV/film star that comes to Broadway was this good.
Gregory Haney - Leggy, sassy and all woman, Haney brought Broadway's first teenage transgender character, La Cienega, to vibrant, fearless life. The show was Bring It On, and he brought it alright!
Jenn Harris - The queen of deadpan, Harris did a spot-on tribute to the Oscar-winning role of Jodie Foster, and made you laugh until your stomach hurts while watching her do it. Silence! is, I'm sure, not the last we'll see of her.
Steve Kazee - One of the truly nice guys of Broadway, Kazee charms, smiles and shares his love of his profession regularly on Twitter. But it is his sweet, genuine and delightfully low-key turn as Guy in Once that cemented his career - he'll always be known as "Tony-winner Steve Kazee" - but he is just getting started. I, for one, can't wait to see what's next!
Celia Keenan-Bolger - Not one, but two starring roles this season brought her to the forefront this year. Apparently, she can do it all... from boozy loudmouth with a broken heart to sassy, self-assured woman-child. If Merrily We Roll Along and Peter and the Starcatchers didn't show enough of her considerable talents and range, playing Laura in The Glass Menagerie in 2013 should do it!
Derek Klena - So he's cute, with a smile that would melt ice. But this guy is also uber-talented. How amazing to get to see him twice in one year AND to watch him grow as an artist while doing it! I really liked him as good guy jock-with-a-heart Tommy in Carrie, and then marvel at the depth of his performance in the most underrated show of 2012, Dogfight. What's next for this guy? Whatever it is, I am there!
Rob McClure - Had I been blogging when he was starring as Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q, he'd have made this list years ago. But I wasn't, but no worries, as his star is really on the rise after his Tony-worthy performance in the title role of Chaplin: The Musical. Enough has been written about the remarkable menu of skills he had to learn for the role, but without the grace, strength and dignity of his acting/singing performance, none of that would matter. Bravo!
Cristin Milioti - When I first saw Once, I marveled that I was captivated by Girl from the second she wordlessly appears in the show. That is very rare. And she continues to be brilliant in a brilliant show. I love this girl!
Lin-Manuel Miranda - OK, so the year of In the Heights would really have been the year he made this list. But I wasn't blogging then - so better late than never! He sang and danced in Merrily We Roll Along, was a composer/lyricist for Bring It On and contributed to the revival/revisal of Working. oh, and he made a movie or two, and is going to be on TV. There is nothing this quintuple threat can't do!
Jessie Mueller - She started the year as a bright spot in a crap show, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and I had a feeling she was going places. Then she did the oddity in the Park, Into the Woods and was on much more solid -if risky - ground. But she has turned a supporting role into a star turn night after night in this winter's smash hit, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Please let her be Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. Please.
Pasek and Paul - The 21st Century's Rodgers and Hammerstein? Well, that remains to be seen. But so far, so good. They can do old-fashioned Broadway (A Christmas Story: The Musical) and contemporary with a pastiche twist (Dogfight). I can't wait to hear what they come up with next!
Molly Ranson - Her heartbreaking performance as the misunderstood Carrie White was memorable enough. But to belt it out 8 times a week with Marin Mazzie covered with blood takes something extra special. Carrie might have been a wallflower, but Molly is the kind of actress you can't stop watching.
Ryann Redmond - Every underdog in the world can take heart after seeing her star-making performance as Bridget in Bring It On. She had me from the second she took off that parrot head. Find this girl a new vehicle and FAST!
Jemima Rooper - Funny in pants or a dress, this little imp of an actress commanded the stage every second she was on stage in One Man, Two Guvnors. As SJB will tell you, trouser roles are not easy for girly girls, but Rooper dove in with both feet and threatened to steal the show from James Corden. Come back soon!
Jeremy Shamos - With the most difficult to witness role in Clybourne Park, Shamos was the lone reason to see that stinker of a play, Tony and Pulitzer not withstanding. He, in spite of everything going on around him, was brilliant. Period.
Ryan Steele - He only has a couple of lines. And he's but one of more than a dozen hotties in Newsies. But he still manages to to stick out of the ensemble in all the right ways. One of the best dancers currently on Broadway (by a mile), he was great in West Side Story, but he was excellent in this show. Can't wait to see him "Steele" the show in Matilda. 2013 is looking better all the time.
Betsy Wolfe - She is nothing short of brilliant as Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I hope I get to see her near legendary confession soon. But even if I don't, I will still marvel at her gorgeous voice and her campy sense of humor. I will gladly fluff-ah her bustle!