By Karen Isaacs
It’s that time of year, when we all make lists of things to do or buy, and critics make lists of the ten best or the ten worst of the past year. Instead of naming best and worst, I’ll give you a list of some of the things that impressed me this year.
My Choices for Best Connecticut Productions: Three musicals are at the top – or near the top of my list this year. To me, the best musical production this year was La Cage aux Folles at Goodspeed, followed closely by two Ivoryton productions – South Pacific and Memphis. Lower on the list – just squeaking in is Evita at MTC (Music Theater of Connecticut).
My favorite play – for both the production and the work itself (which was new) was Reverberation at Hartford Stage.
Nearly as good was Disgraced at Long Wharf, Good People at TheaterWorks, Indecent at Yale Rep, And a Nightingale Sang at Westport Country Playhouse, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Yale.
That only adds up to nine productions because, there are several vying for that last spot: Peter Pan at CRT (Connecticut Repertory Theater), peerless at Yale Rep, Broken Glass at Westport. Following close behind in the runner-up category would be Kiss Me,Kate , The Pianist of Willesden Lane and Private Lives at Hartford Stage. I’d also add Broken Umbrella Theater’s Seen Change.
Turning to the New York City Shows: I have yet to see the Tony winning musical Fun Home though I’ve heard the cast CD nor Hamilton which has taken the city by storm.
The Musicals: I’ve been trying to think of which musicals I saw in 2015 that I would like to see again, or I would tell me to “not miss.” Three quickly come to mind: the incredible revival of Spring Awakening that is in NYC for only a limited engagement through January. I had enjoyed the show previously but this production which mixed deaf and hearing actors adds emotional depth to this story of teenagers growing up in a repressive society.
My other favorites are An American in Paris which featured a terrific Robert Fairchild from the NYC Ballet who surprised all with a good acting and singing and The King and I which gave us Kelli O’Hara in the classic role. Both these shows were blessed with strong supporting casts. Added to the list is the new Allegiance which I found moving and brought Lea Salonga back to Broadway. I hope audiences will take to it. Another musical that I found fascinating was Kander & Ebb’s The Visit; the material is dark, but the production was stunning and it brought Chita Rivera back to Broadway and gave us the last chance to see the very talented Roger Rees.
A very special mention must be given to the off-Broadway musical Daddy Long Legs which I found delightful.
The Plays: My favorite play of 2015 has to be the revival of Skylight with B
ill Nighy and Carey Mulligan; this is a play that moves me and both the acting and the production qualities were outstanding. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson acted up a storm in the fascinating Constellations and Helen Mirren proved her mettle as Queen Elizabeth in The Audience. Of the shows that opened this fall and are still running, King Charles III, which is billed as a future history, is the one I would recommend.
While I wasn’t entranced with The Gin Game, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson are two national treasures that were great to see on stage as was Annaleigh Ashford in Sylvia. The technically off-Broadway Dada Woof Papa Hot at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center was personal and touching. I found last season’s Wolf Hall more spectacle and fast pace than moving.
While there are some shows, I would put on my “disappointing list,” since I know how difficult it is to produce theater, I won’t mention them. Let’s just applaud the efforts of all who try to produce quality theater — it is a difficult task and I’m happy it succeeds as often as it does.
This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com.