1. Julia Morizawa, The Bright Sessions‘s Joan Bright
Julia Morizawa has always been a standout in audio drama actors, but as Joan Bright becomes more developed, watching Morizawa’s range has easily cemented her as one of the best performers in the industry. Morizawa seamlessly navigates going from cold and businesslike to sarcastic and bitter to deeply caring and emotional. Joan is one of the most three-dimensional characters in audio drama right now, and I can’t imagine anyone carrying her with the grace of Morizawa.
2. Jessie Shelton, 36 Questions‘s Judith Ford
Jessie Shelton has a history on the stage, but her performance transitioned perfectly to audio. In 36 Questions, Shelton managed to make Judith frustrating, funny, loveable, manipulative, kind, relatable, and charismatic enough to make the listener feel like she was truly worth everything demanded by the plot–all in just about three hours. Shelton’s performance ensured Judith felt real and sympathetic, which is no small feat as listeners discover why Judith’s husband Jace left her.
3. Michaela Swee, Wolf 359‘s Hera and Miranda Pryce
Wolf 359 is one of the most widely beloved audio dramas–along with The Bright Sessions–in no small part due to Michaela Swee’s performance as AI program Hera. In its final season, though, Swee has also taken on the role of the cunning, malicious Miranda Pryce. Hearing Swee as Hera as well as Hera’s creator is . . . deeply upsetting. The conversations between the two are as captivating as they are distressing, and the disquieting severity Swee brings to Pryce is an exciting opportunity to see Swee break out into a different type of role.
4. Brian Dewan, performer of The Oribiting Human Circus (of the Air)‘s “The 2nd Imaginary Symphony for Cloudmaking”
I cannot imagine “The 2nd Imaginary Symphony for Cloudmaking” withough Brian Dewan’s narration. Dewan’s voice has a timbre that fits perfectly with the holiday specials creator Julian Koster recalls with the “Symphony,” and he carries the entire vocal performance with ease. The “Symphony” never feels in need of additional vocal tracks with Dewan at the helm. Dewan’s voice is cozy and familiar while still being emotive enough to captivate.
5. Noah Masur, Wolf 359‘s Daniel Jacobi
Were I to write a list of the best characters of 2017, Daniel Jacobi would likely be close to the top, and this is largely in thanks to Noah Masur’s performance. Like with Morizawa as Joan Bright, Jacobi has only become more and more complex as Wolf 359 has gotten closer to its finale. Masur has a knack for understanding how to convey this character whose facade is blatantly inauthentic, only just covering up his authentic feelings. There’s a duality to Jacobi that Masur always manages to convey, regardless of the actual lines he’s reading.
6. Alex Marshall-Brown, The Bright Sessions‘s Agent Wadsworth
Alex Marshall-Brown’s performance as The Bright Sessions‘s Agent Wadsworth is sharp, quick, cold, and collected. Marshall-Brown makes it clear to the listener why Dr. Bright would be intrigued by Wadsworth; she also makes it clear why Dr. Bright would understand what a threat Wadsworth is. Marshall-Brown fits seamlessly into the Bright Sessions cast while rooting the show more wholly into its more ominous undercurrents.
7. Tanja Milojevic, What’s the Frequency‘s Whitney
During our conversation, James Oliva and I discussed much more about Tanja Milojevic’s performance than what made the page. In the conversation, Oliva and I both had a chance to marvel at the strange, gleeful energy Milojevic brings to What’s the Frequency‘s Whitney. What sets Milojevic apart is her conviction when allowed to improvise with wide takes. Whitney is one of the most unique and memorable audio drama characters in recent memory, largely thanks to Milojevic’s willingness to be bizarre.
8. Nadine El-Amami, Station to Station‘s Nelly Cochrane
As soon as Nelly Cochrane started speaking on Station to Station, I wanted to hear so much more from the character. Nadine El-Amami gives an incredibly charismatic performance as Nelly and consistently stole just about every scene she was given. El-Amami’s comedic timing is perfect, and she renders every bit of dialogue organic and rhythmic.
9. Dilan Taylor, The Ghost Radio Project‘s Ziggy
Like El-Amami’s Nelly, Dilan Taylor’s Ziggy is one of the most charismatic performances I heard this year. Ziggy is a somewhat traditional rogue with a heart of gold, but with more emotional depth than the trope usually allows, especially so early on. Taylor’s performance brings an effortless swagger to Ziggy, but they also give Ziggy a profoundly emotional edge in the show’s most serious moments.
10. Phillip Jordan, The Bright Sessions‘s Frank Sawyer
One of the earliest posts on Podcast Problems was singing Phillip Jordan’s praises, and Jordan has yet to disappoint as Frank on The Bright Sessions. While Jordan has been pulled into a more background role in recent episodes, each time he’s given a moment in a scene, I’m reminded of how excited I was the first time we got to experience Frank.
Which performances were your favorite of 2017? Please leave a comment below! Podcast Problems will be releasing more Best of 2017 lists throughout December 2017. You can find all of the lists here. Make sure to check back throughout the month for more!