Annaleigh Ashford is becoming one of those actresses that you drop everything to go and see. I first saw her in Dogfight, a beautiful little show at 2nd Stage. I then fell in love with her as Lauren in Kinky Boots, obviously a well-known show that gave her great reviews and her first Tony nomination (I wish the cast album did her more justice). She, along with her onstage husband Will Brill, stole the show for me in You Can’t Take it With You, with a stacked ensemble cast brimming with talent. I remember watching the show, knowing that everyone was talking about who in the cast could get nominated, and thinking that she was the standout who deserved the awards love. She not only got a nomination, but deservedly won and gave a great, memorable speech.
It was around this time that it was announced she would star as a the dog Sylvia in Sylvia. Not knowing anything about the play, I bought tickets regardless, because Ashford was, in my opinion, long overdue for a starring role. As someone who is afraid of dogs (and animals in general), I wasn’t entirely sure if I would like the show, but it is one of the funniest plays I have ever seen. It properly shows off Ashford’s great comedic timing, physical comedy, and all around lovable personality.
The show was hilarious, and Ashford made a great Sylvia. She knows how to work the laughs and use her body effectively. Unsure of what to expect, the show had me in stitches for most of the time. And then the ending was surprisingly heartfelt, and even I, a cynical person when it comes to pets, found myself touched by the beautiful sentiment of the dog.
As a four person cast, each cast member was hilarious. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear all four of their names read as nominees come award season. Matthew Broderick in particular seemed perfect for the role of Greg, a lonely empty nester questioning his role and looking for the next chapter in his life. I last saw him in It’s Only a Play, (another great ensemble piece that did not nearly get enough award show love as I thought it would) so I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but I thought he was perfect and lovable in this role. Julie White as Kate, was also amazing, and Robert Sella was hilarious in all his incarnations.
As the funniest play out there right now, I’m sad that the show is closing early. Go see it while it’s still running. It’s definitely a show I would love to see a second time, and with Ashford as the leading dog, I doubt two performances are ever the same. And hey hey hey hey hey don’t be surprised if you hear her name again when award season comes rolling along.