Having just complied and rated all my past shows I was a little curious to see what came out as my highest rated shows (4 smiley faces). Of the nearly 170 shows I’ve seen only 17 have four smiley faces. For me a show that is truly great exceeds the sum of its parts and moves me on a visceral level. Frequently these shows aren’t perfect but the overall experience out weighs any flaws or faults. There are plenty of shows that I’ve enjoyed and found intellectually stimulating but it is that ever elusive X-factor that tips a show from enjoyable to excellent.
So I took those top 17 and selected my top 10 and arranged them in order of personal preference and this is what I came up with for my top ten:
- Cabaret – 1998 Musical Revival
This show will forever be my barometer of what a great show should be. To this day I smile when I think of this show and rue the producer who tries to revive this show, it’ll be hard to top. Although the same could be said for the original prodcution of Cabaret.
- Next to Normal – 2009 Musical Original
Who knew mental illness could make such a damn good show. To say more is to give too much away. This is currently on tour, go see it.
- Spring Awakening – 2007 Musical Original
This is show I knew nothing about when I saw it. You would never think that a musical based on an 1890’s German book could be turned into such a modern cutting edge musical. It’s R rated for nudity, violence, sexual situations and language.
- Coast of Utopia – 2007 Play Original
Tom Stoppard’s epic play in three parts, Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage, if you saw it in one sitting it would be 9 1/2 hours. It was about the diaspora of the pre-revolutionary community of Russian philosophers. But really, it was interesting and great fun to watch.
- Rent – 1997 Musical on Tour
The now iconic and at the time ground breaking musical about the poverty stricken drug addled artist counter culture in lower Manhattan. It’s almost become cliched but will always be high on my list.
- The Persians – 2006 Play – Shakespeare Theater Company
Written by Aeschylus and first produced in Greece in 472 BCE, this is play proves that a good play is timeless. This was a fantastic production and made me cry (not that that’s hard) and illustrated how little we’ve truly advanced. Global sociopolitical issues haven’t changed much since ancient Greece.
- Macbeth– 2007 Synetic Theater
This production completely surprised and amazed me. This theater specializes in wordless productions, yet they managed to capture Shakespeare’s rich language and drama with movement and music and not one syllable was uttered.
- The Beaux’ Stratagem – 2006 Play – Shakespeare Theater Company
An excellent example that funny can also be meaningful. A very witty regency era play fantastically performed by an excellent cast.
- Cyrano – 2004 Play – Shakespeare Theater Company
The classic play about love, longing, loss and a large schnoz that precipitated it all. The production was excellently acted by Geraint Wyn Davies. I wish I’d given in to the urge to see it twice before it closed.
- Macbeth – 2004 Play – Shakespeare Theater Company
I will admit that I have a weak spot for the Scottish play but of the 4 straight productions of this I’ve seen this one is head and shoulders above the rest and Patrick Page is still my favorite Macbeth to date.
I anticipate this list will change with time. There are shows that once would have been in my top ten that as my retinue of shows has expanded and my experience has broadened have been supplanted by higher quality productions. I expect that this will keep happening as the years pass and it’ll be interesting (to me) to see what shows can withstand the test of time.
If you’re interested the last 7 shows are in no particular order: God of Carnage – 2009 (play original), Grey Gardens – 2006 (musical original), Street Car Named Desire – 2009c(play revival), Time Stands Still – 2010 (play original), Twelfth Night – STC – 2008 (play revival), Les Miserables – 1995 (musical – unending), The Boy From Oz – 2004 (musical original).