It’s always a trick to look back on the year gone by and try to sort out one’s favorite shows - especially since I didn’t see all the shows produced last year.
It would probably be impossible to see all the shows presented in the Tri-state area in a year. By my count, there were approximately 120 shows presented this year! What a wealth of theatre for our area!
It was also a heck of a busy year for your pal Chuck - I produced one show and co-directed another, my sons got married this year (one in the spring, the other in the fall), and the whole family took a two-week-long trip to Europe this summer. Whew! So, the only down side to this year of happy events was - I didn’t see nearly as many shows as I’d like.
And don’t expect me to name Disney’s Aladdin, Jr. as my favorite show. I helped direct the show (with my pal Amy Browning), so I can hardly be expected to be objective. The same is true for the other First Stage shows this year, including Godspell, Dear Edwina, Jr. and Little Women the Musical - all wonderful shows, but I’m on the board of the theatre group, so I’m prejudiced.
So what was the best of the ones I saw? It’s a tough call, because I saw some excellent shows.
For musicals, I loved the classic fun and great songs in ARTS’ The Boy Friend, and the lighthearted tale and terrific songs in ARTS’ Crazy for You. I enjoyed the “not exactly a musical and yet it was” of Marshall’s Taming of the Shrew - but my favorite musical of the year title would have to one of my all-time favorites, The Pirates of Penzance (by ARTS). A show loaded with talent, lots of laughs and lighthearted fun (the memory of it alone makes me smile) - and I was amazed to see it all squeezed into the Renaissance Ballroom.
For straight plays, there were quite a few terrific shows, including an intense production of 12 Angry Men and a very funny presentation of Much Ado About Nothing, both from ARTS. ACT had some fun (yet moving) shows for young audiences, including A Gift-Bear for the King and Monsters Under My Bed. But the top spot is a virtual tie between Alban Arts’ Venus in Fur and ARTS’s Rabbit Hole. Both terrific productions with amazing acting and smart scripts - but while “Venus” was more fanciful, “Rabbit” hit home a little harder, with its story about a couple coping with the tragic loss of their son - so Rabbit Hole is my pick for Best Play.
Obviously, your mileage may vary and your list may be completely different. I invite you to send in your own choices for best shows - either post a comment below or email your list to TheMinskers@aol.com and I'll share your list on this blog. I know I missed lots of great ones (one of my New Year’s resolutions is to see more shows in 2015).