First of all, the usual caveats: it’s almost impossible to name a “Best Show of the Year” - that’s because there are so many shows it’s impossible to see them all. Also, each show is presented under different circumstances - some community theatre groups can afford healthy stage budgets and the best theaters - and some have more modest means.
And by my count, there were more than 115 community theatre shows in 2015 - how wonderful that we have so much available to us!
Assorted issues this year made it difficult for me to see as many shows as I’d hoped to catch - and it can especially be a challenge for those of us who are involved with local theatre.
Of course, I have two favorite shows from the year: the non-musical A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the musical Disney’s The Lion King, Jr. - but I admit prejudice, because I directed those shows for Huntington’s First Stage Theatre, so I can hardly be objective!
The same holds true for another terrific show from First Stage - Once on This Island, Jr. - but since I’m on the First Stage board, again, I’m hardly impartial. (But, again - a terrific show!)
Being involved with two shows also made it a challenge to see as many shows as I’d like, and I know I missed some good ones (because my friends gleefully told me how good the shows were).
Paramount Players presented the musicals Rent, Fame and Cinderella this year, and all three got rave reviews - but I missed them.
Charleston Light Opera Guild staged Into the Woods, Cabaret, A Christmas Story: The Musical and Mary Poppins, and everyone told me they were great. I missed them.
Actors for Children's Theatre presented a traveling version of The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi, one of my favorite stories (and their production was honored at a state competition) - but I missed it.
There were at least two other productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this year (one by the Paramount Players, one by Alban Arts Center) - but I only got to see the one I worked on.
Contemporary Youth Arts Company (CYAC) had several great original shows this year, including Mary and The Best of Scarpelli and Kehde, with musical highlights from original work by composer Mark Scarpelli and Lyricist/Librettist Dan Kehde - but I missed them.
CUP presented one of my favorites, Schoolhouse Rock Live - but I was in the middle of Lion King, Jr.
HART also staged Mary Poppins, and again, raves - but the only night I was able to go, the rain poured down on the outdoor theatre production.
But thankfully, I did manage to catch some shows - including the other summer outdoor theatre production by HART, Collis P! A New Musical. It was an entertaining original tale about the founder of Huntington - and a heck of a lot of fun!
Another impressive show was Marshall University’s imaginative production of A Christmas Carol - the actors were wonderful and the staging and set were stunning!
There were two “New Works” festivals this year - I was out of town when ARTS presented theirs (again, I heard raves), but I caught ACTC’s New Play Festival, which featured quite a few terrific, original scripts.
ARTS in Huntington always does great work, and they had a killer lineup this year, including Into the Woods, Company, Brigadoon and Our Town. Each production was impressive and professional throughout, every one worthy of “best of 2015” honors - but their best production was the classic play Medea, which featured amazing acting and a unique, stunning visual design.
Another favorite non-musical was Selections from The Twilight Zone - Appalachian Arts Collective presented an original adaptation of stories from the classic TV show, mixing horror and humor in equal measures. Again, great staging and acting on display.
I love it when a show surprises me - and that’s what happened when I went to Grace Christian’s production of The Wizard of Oz, which matched terrific performances and amazing costumes with some truly impressive stagecraft - it was a real delight from start to finish!
Those are the ones that got my attention (and ticket money) - apologies to any others I missed or overlooked (I'm sure there are many).
So what shows did you enjoy? Here’s your invitation to send in your comments about your favorite shows to our email address: TheMinskers@aol.com or post your list in the comments below.
2015 was a great year for shows, and 2016 looks like another stellar one for Tri-State Theatre!
Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!