Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review: The Best and Worst Shows of the Year

I was fortunate enough to have seen more than thirty shows during 2014.  Some were pretty good.  Others were awful.  And some were really excellent.  Okay, so this year didn't bring me to a show like next to normal (though I did see a very good regional production of it this past fall) that changed me forever. Still, in looking over the list of this year's shows, I was hard pressed to find anything that was a complete failure - though a few were close.  Anyway, here is my list of the 10 best, 5 worst and the very best musical and very best play I saw in the last 365 days.

Best #10: If/Then - I love a challenge and kick-ass ballads.  And Idina was a force of nature.

Best #9: Violet - A small, charming show with a big message and huge heart.  And Sutton brought her career to a whole new level.

Worst #5: On the Town - True, the score played by a huge orchestra and the dancing were both superb.  But I can't get past the ugly physical production or the painful overacting by many in the cast.  Dial it back, Jackie.  Please.

Best #8: Side Show - I'm first to admit that I loved the original more, flaws and all.  But this re-do was still excellent.  I'm still haunted by that final tableau.

Best #7: Casa Valentina - Riveting performances all around.  Funny, touching and moving.  Harvey still has it.

Worst #4: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical - Despite great music and a star-making performance from Jessie, the show was a snooze fest.  I sure hope Carole's life was more interesting in real life.

Best #6: Allegro - A classic superbly re-imagined, and even more superbly executed.

Best #5: Hedwig and the Angry Inch - The only show I saw three times this year.  For me, it's more about the performance than the show itself. Thank you, Lena, NPH and MCH!

Worst #3: Heathers - A show I was really looking forward to ended up being a huge disappointment. Talk about damage.

Best #4: Aladdin - Magical and transporting.  The costumes, the dancing.  I want a ride on that magic carpet!

Best #3: The Last Ship - Proof that any show can end up being a surprise.  I was sure I'd hate it.  Instead, I loved it.

Worst #2: Bullets Over Broadway - The sets were nice.  And I still love Marin.  But this show was rotten from start to finish.  I haven't had a hot dog since.

Best #2: Cabaret - Lightning can strike twice.  Still the gold standard in revivals and revisals.  As stunning as ever.

The Worst Show of 2014
Worst #1: Les Miserables  - I am all for revising revivals (see above).  But this alleged overhaul was a yawn.  And the casting was almost uniformly bad. If I'd had a seat closer to an aisle, I'd have left.

Best # 1: The Bridges of Madison County - The Our Town staging, the ravishing score.  Brilliant.  Oh, yeah.  Kelli and Steven were pretty good, too.  :-)

The Very Best Play of 2014
THE VERY BEST PLAY OF 2014: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - I laughed.  I cried. But most of the time, I sat with my jaw dropped in complete amazement.  Whenever anyone asks why I love live theater, this will be my new go-to example.

The Very Best Musical of 2014
THE VERY BEST MUSICAL OF 2014: The Most Happy Fella - It's cliche to say "they just don't write 'em like that anymore." But in this case it's the truth.  A lovely, light direction. A lush, beautiful score, played by a full orchestra and brilliantly sung by a flawless cast.  It may be decades old, but it felt so fresh. I wanted to se it again and again.


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