Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Best of 2015

I share Liz Wollman's wonder at the sheer volume of art in this beautiful city of ours. In 2015, I saw 80 shows and there are easily 80 more I wish I had seen. But even with "only" 80 shows, I had trouble getting my "best-of" list down to 10 shows, so I cheated a bit. This article has a top 10 for drama/comedy and then a separate top 4 for musicals.

As always, I wish the incredibly talented playwrights of Off-Off-Broadway received the attention they deserve. August Schulenburg, Mac Rogers, Jaclyn Backhaus, and Melissa Ross are as or more talented than the playwrights who are featured again and again on Broadway and at the Off-Broadway nonprofits. I hope that their ships all come in, both for them and for theatre audiences everywhere.

My top ten is in alphabetical order. If I reviewed the show, I linked to the review.

Rebekah Brockman in Arcadia 
(costume by Grier Coleman and photo from her website)
Arcadia: Although it was my seventh production of Tom Stoppard's masterpiece, I laughed and cried and was amazed all over again, thanks to Juilliard's solid, well-paced, and well-acted production. And did I mention the $20 ticket?

Between Riverside and Crazy: Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote a wonderful play, and the Atlantic-Second Stage gave it a wonderful production.

Cloud Nine: A superb production of a superb play. 

Jason Howard and David Rosenblatt in The Honeycomb Trilogy
Photo: Deborah Alexander
Honeycomb Trilogy: Advance Man, Blast Radius, Sovereign: My Sunday spent with the Honeycomb was one of my favorite days of 2015.

John: I loved Annie Baker's John when I saw it, and I love it even more now that I've had time to think about it.

Men on Boats: This extraordinary show by Jaclyn Backhaus was a complete blast.

Nice Girl: Melissa Ross's smart and quiet play packed a smart and quiet wallop.

The Odyssey: If you've never seen one of the Public Theatre's "Public Works," do yourself a favor and catch the next one (Twelfth Night in September of 2016). These shows run a few days at the Delacorte, and they feature huge casts that combine NY theatre pros with people from all over the city who are interested in performance. The energy coming off that stage could power Manhattan for a week.

Mike Mihm, Tanenbaum, Hip-Flores, and Sol Crespo in Salvage
Photo: Deborah Alexander
Salvage: Another smart, thoughtful, and deeply humane play from August Schulenburg and the good people of Flux. I had the pleasure of sharing this with two long-time theatregoers who had never seen a show Off-Off-Broadway and were completely blown away.

Schooled: I have to admit that I find a lot of the shows featured in the Fringe Festival to be dreck. But once in a while, a play comes along that makes it all worthwhile.

And the musicals, also in alphabetical order:

Fun Home: What a treat to see Fun Home win all those Tonys. (Okay, we didn't actually see the show win all those Tonys, since the all-important book and score awards weren't broadcast, but you know what I mean.) And what lovely news that the show actually recouped!

Hamilton: Yes, I'm completely on the Hamilton bandwagon and grateful I saw it twice at the Public when tickets were still affordable. I love the CD as well. But to the people who say that it's true to the historical record: It's not. Read the wonderful bio for the much more complicated real story.

Little Shop of Horrors: There are a lot of things about this Off-Center staging that I would have changed, but getting to see Ellen Greene as Audrey one more time was pretty darn wonderful.

Nicholas Park, Ally Bonino, Jack Mosbacher, Rachel Rhodes-Devey,
and Greg Horton in Merrily We Roll Along
Merrily We Roll Along: Under Dev Bondarin's sure hand, the Astoria Performing Arts Center gave us an excellent production of one of Sondheim's more challenging works. (As opposed to his nonexistent less challenging works!)

Theatre remains alive and well. Looking forward to 2016.

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