Ben Brantley recently shared his theatrical highlights in the NY Times, so I decided to round out 2010 in the same way. Here are the top 10 professional productions I have seen in 2010, in roughly reverse chronological order. In the next few days, you can expect a review of Open Fist’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and perhaps an addendum to my Next to Normal review, focusing on the talented cast of the national tour.
One of the most promising, political, and artistically innovative musicals I have seen in a long time. Saw it 8 times. Shared it with so many friends, which made the ongoing conversation (and outpouring of writing I did on the show) so rich and invigorating.
Next to Normal (Booth Theatre and Ahmanson) – Review
This show is like therapy. Emotionally-exhausting, but intensely cathartic. Alice Ripley astounds me, each and every performance. Saw it 9 times in the past couple of years. Shared with family and friends, even met Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey this fall. Amazing.
In the Heights (Richard Rodgers Theatre and Pantages) – Essay Fragment
Classic, “integrated” musical form with a fresh dance and music style. This show gives me such a wonderful, comforting sense of “home.” And icing on the cake: I snagged a first-row seat to see Lin Manuel Miranda jump back into the lead in LA. Saw it … 4 times, I think.
A musical for insiders, an inspiration for artists. [tos] always pops up in my life at the moments when I most need a little creative encouragement. This production was particularly special because I shared it with my good friend Chris, and it was ridiculously fun to watch the real Hunter and Jeff watch their fictional counterparts onstage.
Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands (Overtone Industries) – Review
The strangest theatrical experience of my year: a collaboration of dozens of LA artists to create amazing, eclectic operatic journey in a vacant car dealership in Culver City. Shared with my incredible designer roommate Camile. I love sharing and discussing theater with theatrical “outsiders,” who bring such a valuably different perspective to the event.
La Cage aux Folles (Longacre Theatre) – Review
Classic musical comedy: more fun than I have had in the theater in a long time. Sometimes I love seeing theater on my own. No one to hold me accountable for my opinions. For once, I was able to turn off my critical lens and just enjoy.
Extropia (King King) – Review
Another one of those fascinating, site-specific theatrical experiences: less a “musical” and more a play about the production of music. A fun, futuristic show – accompanied by a small band and Foley artist – that explores the ways that noise, sound, and the motion of our bodies layer into constructs that we call rhythm, music, and dance. All taking place at a bar on Hollywood Blvd. The same bar where Rock of Ages originated, apparently.
Red (Golden Theatre) – Review
Sheer brilliance of writing, direction, acting, design … I was stunned by this production. Of the 8 shows I saw in NYC last summer, Red was my unexpected favorite – and it’s not a musical! But like Tom Stoppard, John Logan brings a sense of musical dynamism to all theatrical elements. Captivating.
Merrily We Roll Along (Chance Theatre) – Review
The production wasn’t perfect, but I was so glad to see one of my favorite Sondheim scores onstage. And, this was the first show I ever saw with one of my dear theatrical partners in crime, Hunter. “We’re opening doors …”
Ragtime (Neil Simon Theatre) – Review
The emergency trip to NYC for closing weekend was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Broadway economics simply can’t sustain shows like this anymore: a stage full of such remarkably talented actors and a full orchestra in the pit. It’s amazing how a show can renew your faith in the artistry of Broadway … and simultaneously crush that faith with economic reality.
Here’s to another year of rampant theatergoing and reviewing!