The end of the year is a great time to look back at the best shows of 2012.
But I don’t do top 10 lists (at least not for community theatre), for several reasons:
1) I hate applying the "Best of" label to community theatre shows - every single show was created after a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and while some may be more successful or more accomplished or have a bigger budget than others, they were all a labor of love.
2) It's apples and oranges. Unless you're comparing different productions of the same show, there's no way to compare different shows made with different casts, different budgets, different conditions, etc.
3) I didn't see all the shows that hit the stage in the Tri-State area in 2012. I saw 19 shows (by my count), but there were approximately 90 shows in our area, so I (sadly) missed lots of ‘em. I do have two good excuses: I was in one show in the Spring and I directed two more in the fall. I have friends who see lots of shows, more than I see - but I don't think there's anyone who sees every show.
4) And I can't be impartial, because I'm the current President of First Stage Theatre Company - so I can’t pretend I’m not prejudiced.
What I will do is talk about some of the shows I saw and enjoyed, and invite you, gentle readers, to make comments about shows you liked, too. Send your comments to the link at the bottom of this post, or email them to me at TheMinskers@aol.com and I'll share them.
Brag on shows you worked on, rave about shows you saw, but no negative put-downs, please. (I don't believe in "Worst of the Year" lists, either.)
Of course, I did have a favorite show from 2012 - Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. - but that’s not fair, because I directed the show. But I’m very proud of the show - it featured an amazing, talented cast in a spectacular, beloved musical. It was a huge success and a heck of a lot of fun to be part of the production.
My other favorite show was All Grown Up: A Benefit Concert, which brought back some of First Stage’s most talented stars (kids no longer!) in a special concert to raise funds for the First Stage building, the new home for the children’s theatre. It was so much fun to be part of, and wonderful to see these talented young adults showing off their talents for a good cause. But I must admit that I directed that show, too, so once again I must admit I'm not impartial.
And then there’s my other (other) favorite, the musical 1776, which was staged by ARTS. Again, not exactly fair, because I was in the show (playing a mercifully small part), but it was a terrific production, with a wonderful cast of amazing guys (and two amazing gals). It’s a long-time favorite show and I had a blast being part of it. But again, I’m hardly impartial.
But I did see some other excellent shows just as a member of the audience. In the Spring, First Stage presented one of my all-time favorite shows, Seussical, and it was a real delight, with an amazing cast. It’s a wonderful musical that’s funny and heartwarming. A month ago, Scrooge took the stage, a high-spirited musical version of A Christmas Carol set in the Old West. A talented mix of adults and kids brought this delightful show to life!
ARTS presented several outstanding shows this year: Stepping Out was a dance-centric drama/comedy set in a dance studio. It was funny, touching and a pure delight, with a terrific cast of actors / dancers. Crimes of the Heart was a straight drama about the relationship between sisters, with wonderful performances by a great cast, and a truly impressive set. The group’s final show for 2012 was Shakespeare’s Macbeth, an amazing reimagining of the classic tale of ambition and madness. Brutal, bloody, high-energy and packed with stunning performances by a gifted group of actors, it was not to be missed.
HOT's July show was the fast-paced and upbeat musical Legally Blonde, with an amazing performance by Kathryn Davis as Elle Woods, the college student who becomes a student at Harvard by sheer force of will - and the power of love. A great cast, and a show that was a heck of a lot of fun!
Fifth Avenue Theatre tackled 9 to 5, a fast and funny musical version of the hit film. Terrific performances brought the story of three professional women dealing with the boss from Hades to life!
Marshall's Theatre Alliance always creates excellent, top-notch work, and this year was no different. Proof was a drama about a young woman and her relationship with her father - a genius who has a slender grip on reality. She wonders, is she afflicted with the same problem? An impressive show! The year’s most imaginative show was Marshall’s New Works Festival production of Dead Letter Office, a clever stream-of-consciousness play set in an odd, futuristic post office (of sorts). Very smart, with amazing work by the actors.
Charleston Light Opera Guild always does terrific work, and that was certainly true of Next to Normal, the musical drama about a family dealing with heartbreak and sanity. This was a truly impressive production - easily equal to a professional production. Definitely one of the year’s best.
I caught two shows from Curtains Up Players. The most recent was Dracula the Musical, based on the classic novel. The title character was brought to life by the gifted Jon Lamp, along with a terrific supporting cast. The group also presented the impressive production Avenue Q, an adult musical comedy that featured fantastic work by the cast - acting, singing and operating a small army of puppets. The show mixed together songs, comedy and some important messages, all on a state-of-the-art set, with an excellent orchestra and audio-visual support! Very, very impressive, and one of the year’s best productions.
Company of Dreams in Ashland presented The Curious Savage, an endearing adventure of high comedy about an older woman who inherits a great deal of money - but her children don’t like her plans to dispose of the money. A fun show!
Charleston’s Children’s Theatre presented Willy Wonka, Jr., and it was an impressive production, with fine performances and an army of Oompa-Loompas!
Fifth Avenue Methodist Church also presented its annual fundraiser: Jon Joy added a new chapter to the hilarious adventures of the title characters in Bitsy and Boots in the Tropics, and it was a pure delight, with lots of laughs and lots of scene-stealing along the way. What a hoot!
And that’s it for 2012 - sad that I missed so many great shows, but I hope you’ll chime in, readers, and let us know about some of your favorites.
So, another great year of theatre - and hopefully another great one on the way!
Happy New Year, theatre fans, and thanks for joining us here at the Tri-State Theatre blog!