A Compendium of Theatrical Bests 2012

December 23rd, 2012 § 2 comments

numbersThose who follow my Twitter feed know that I almost never tweet out reviews; I figure that there are plenty of others, including critics themselves, who do, so why be redundant. I focus my energies on highlighting material which may not have had the same kind of exposure.

For the second year in a row, I’m breaking that moratorium on my blog, because “Best Of” and “Top Ten” lists are affirmative summaries of the year in theatre. They represent what critics found most compelling or enjoyable, and even though some decide to toss brickbats with “Worst Of” lists, I’ve avoided linking to those unless they’re appended directly to the “Best Of” praise.

It’s worth noting that all of these lists should be taken with a grain of salt; that is to say, except in all but the smallest markets, they are almost inevitably incomplete, as critics do not have the time (or are not compensated) to see every last production in the area. These are perhaps better considered “favorites,” but that is no doubt insufficiently declarative for many editors, and if 10 Commandments could be selected out of a pool of 617, then surely critics can do likewise. But it’s worth noting that the critic for Time, a national magazine, has restricted his selection to New York; is this because that is where he saw the best work, or because that is the only city in which he went to the theatre this year?

Other than scanning my most cursory summary of each list, I urge you to use the links to look more carefully at what critics had to say about the works they selected, and in particular to do so to learn more about those plays that are unfamiliar to you. Also, as there were multiple Uncle Vanyas, for example, it may not be clear which production is being praised.

Finally, I should say that this is a work in progress and inevitably incomplete, but I urge you to tweet to me at @hesherman with links to lists that don’t appear here, and I’ll keep updating until after the new year.

*   *   *

America: Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal 

St. Joan, A Little Night Music, Nobody Loves You; also a number of other notable productions and artists.

Atlanta: Wendell Brock, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, Apples And Oranges, Next To Normal, Wolves.

Baltimore: multiple critics, City Paper

The Iceman Cometh, The Whipping Man, The Brothers Size, Into The Woods, Office Ladies, Breaking The Code, This Bird’s Flown: A Tragedy Of Antiquity, A Skull In Connemara, Drunk Enough To Say I Love You, Ages Of Man.

Berkshire County MA: Jeffrey Borak, The Berkshire Eagle

A Chorus Line, Parasite Drag, Tryst, Tomorrow The Battle, Far From Heaven, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder, Cassandra Speaks, Edith, Pride @ Prejudice, Dr. Ruth All The Way.

Boston: Carolyn Clay, The Phoenix

Red, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Avenue Q, Billy Elliott, Master Harold…and the boys, The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity, Marie Antoinette, Ted Hughes’ Tales From Ovid, Betrayal, Our Town.

California: Lisa Millegan Renner, The Modesto Bee

Time Stands Still, The Grapes of Wrath, Carousel, Metamorphoses, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Three Days Of Rain, Gypsy, The Shape Of Things, The Mikado, Mamma Mia!.

Cleveland: Andrea Simakis, Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Whipping Man, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Anything Goes, Bust, Avenue Q, The Mousetrap, In The Next Room, The Secret Social, The Texas Chainsaw Musical!.

Chicago: Catey Sullivan, Chicago Magazine

Angels In America, Cascabel, Dark Play, The Doyle And Debbie Show, Hamlet, Hit The Wall, The Iceman Cometh, Jitney, A Little Night Music, Sunday In The Park With George.

Chicago: Bob Bullen, Chicago Theatre Addict

Camino Real, Angels In America, Immediate Family, Superior Donuts, The Light In The Piazza, A Little Night Music, Eastland, Hit The Wall, Good People, Sunday In The Park With George.

Chicago: Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Sunday In The Park With George, Good People, The Iceman Cometh, Hit The Wall, Metamorphoses, Les Misérables, Time Stands Still, The Invisible Man, The Light In The Piazza, A Little Night Music; also Annie, Beauty And The Beast, Death And Harry Houdini, Kinky Boots, The Letters, The Mikado, Moment, Oedipus El Rey, Sweet Bird Of Youth, When The Rain Stops Falling.

Chicago: Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Good People, Hit The Wall, The Iceman Cometh, Idomeneus, Invisible Man, Metamorphoses, Oedipus El Rey, Romeo Juliet, Sunday In The Park With George.

Columbus: David Ades, The Other Paper

Age Of Bees, Long Way Home, King Lear, The Irish Curse, La Boheme, Memphis.

Dallas: Elaine Liner, Dallas Observer

Essay,  “The Year in Dallas Theatre.”

Dallas: Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice

Ruth, The Most Happy Fella, The Night Of The Iguana, The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity, The Farnsworth Invention, Becky Shaw, Oklahoma!, The Producers, Superior Donuts, On The Eve.

Halifax, Nova Scotia: Kate Watson, The Coast

Lysistrata Temptress Of The South, Titus Andronicus, Hawk, Twelve Angry Men, Arsenic And Old Lace, The Drowsy Chaperone, Inherit The Wind, Same Time Next Year, Pageant, Bone Boy, Bare, Whale Riding Weather, The Monument, The Men, Who Killed Me, Kill Shakespeare.

Hartford: Frank Rizzo, The Hartford Courant

The Realistic Joneses, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder, Marie Antoinette, Into The Woods, Carousel, A Raisin In The Sun, Sty Of The Blind Pig, A Winter’s Tale, Les Misérables; also, Satchmo At The Waldorf, The Tempest, Bell Book & Candle, Metamorphosis, Harbor, I’ll Fly Away.

Kansas City: Robert Trussell, Kansas City Star

The Kentucky Cycle, Titus Andronicus, The Whipping Man, The Mystery Of Irma Vep, Time Stands Still, The Motherfucker With The Hat, Antony And Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Moustrap, The Real Inspector Hound, Inspecting Carol, The Importance Of Being Earnest, Making God Laugh, Game Show, Hairspray, Lucky Duck, Spring Awakening, Shrek, The Seagull, Sex Drugs Rock & Roll, The Addams Family, Memphis, An Eveneing With Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin, Next To Normal, Master Class, The Fantasticks.

Las Vegas: staff writers, Las Vegas Weekly

Nurture, Measure For Pleasure, Crazy For You, Golda’s Balcony.

Lehigh Valley, PA: Myra Yellin Outwater, The Morning Call

On The Town, I Love A Piano, Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Doubt, Arsenic and Old Lace, A View From The Bridge, The Tempest, Eleanor Handley in Much Ado About Nothing & Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Parfumerie, The Miracle of Christmas.

London, Matt Wolf, The Arts Desk

Brimstone And Treacle, Cornelius, A Doll’s House, The Effect, In The Republic Of Happiness, Julius Caesar, Merrily We Roll Along, The River, Sweeney Todd, The Taming Of The Shrew.

London, multiple critics, The Guardian

Ten Billion, You Me Bum Bum Train, Gatz, Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, Noises Off, Mies Julie, Three Kingdoms, Three Sisters, Posh, In Basildon.

London: Susannah Clapp, The Observer

The Boys Of Foley Street, Coriolan/us, Love And Information, Timon Of Athens, Sea Odyssey, Constellations, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Red Velvet, Julius Caesar (x2).

Los Angeles and New York: Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

Clybourne Park, Death Of A Salesman, Follies, In The Red And Brown Water, Ivanov, Jitney, Krapp’s Last Tape, Our Town, Waiting For Godot, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.

Miami: John Thomason, Miami New Times

Winter and Happy, Becky’s New Car, The Turn Of The Screw, A Man Puts On A Play, Venus IN Fur, I Am My Own Wife, The Motherfucker With The Hat, Death And Harry Houdini, Next To Normal, Ruined.

Milwaukee: Mike Fischer, Journal Sentinel

Musicals: Avenue Q, Big, Blues In The Night, A Cudahy Caroler Christmas, Daddy Long Legs, The Sound Of Music, Sunday In The Park With George, Tick Tick…BOOM, Victory Farm, West Side Story; Plays: A Thousand Words, Cartoon, The Chosen, Honour, Love Stories, Microcrisis, Othello, Richard III, Skylight, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Minneapolis: Rohan Preston and Graydon Royce, Star Tribune

  • Rohan Preston: Untitled Feminist Show, The Brothers Size, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been, Dirtday!, Buzzer, In The Next Room, Swimming With My Mother, The Origin(s) Project, A Behanding In Spokane, Fela!
  • Graydon Royce: Flesh And The Desert, Ragtime, Spring Awakening, Sea Marks, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Cherry Orchard, Waiting For Good, Measure For Measure, In The Next Room, Buzzer

New Jersey: Bill Canacci, Courier Post

Once, Falling, The Piano Lesson, The Whale, Tribes, End Of The Rainbow, The Best Man, Clybourne Park, Merrily We Roll Along, Forbidden Broadway: Alive And Kicking.

New Jersey: Ronni Reich, Newark Star Ledger

Dog Days, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Death Of A Salesman, The Convert, Henry V, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, The Best Of Enemies, Once, No Place To Go.

New York: Matt Windman, AM New York

Once, Merrily We Roll Along, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, Clybourne Park, Closer Than Ever, Forbidden Broadway: Alive And Kicking, Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, Porgy And Bess, Harvey, Bring It On.

New York: Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Top 10 Theatre Moments: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Once, Clybourne Park, James Corden, Neil Patrick Harris, Kevin Spacey as Richard III, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, the death of Marvin Hamlisch, A Christmas Story: The Musical, the return of Forbidden Broadway.

New York: Robert Feldberg, The Bergen Record

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, One Man Two Guvnors, Once, Annie, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, The Best Man, Wit, Grace.

New York, Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News

Death Of A Salesman, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Disgraced, Sorry, February House, Slowgirl, Uncle Vanya (x 2), the Fugard season, One Man Two Guvnors, Detroit; also The Lady From Dubuque, Annie, Vaya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, A Streetcar Named Desire, Newsies, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet.

New York, Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly

Once, The Heiress, Porgy And Bess, Rapture Blister Burn, Newsies, Tribes, Death Of A Salesman, One Man Two Guvnors, Giant, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.

New York: David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

As You Like It, Clybourne Park, Death Of A Salesman, Disgraced, 4000 Miles, Porgy And Bess, Golden Boy, One Man Two Guvnors, The Piano Lesson, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.

New York: T. Michelle Murphy, Metro

Venus In Fur, Once, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Death Of A Salesman, Then She Fell, Triassic Parq, Bare: The Musical, Peter And The Starcatcher, As You Like It, Helen And Edgar.

New York: Joe Dziemanowicz, New York Daily News

20 stage moments to remember: Assistance, Bad Jews, Claire Tow Theatre, Clybourne Park, Delacorte Theatres 50th, Einstein On The Beach, Feinstein’s, 54 Below, Marvin Hamlisch, Newsies, Nina Arianda, Norbert Leo Butz, Once, One Man Two Guvnors, The Piano Lesson, Rebecca, Sorry, Uncle Vanya, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Yvonne Strahovski.

New York, Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post

Assistance, Detroit, Gob Squad’s Kitchen, Natasha Pieere and The Great Comet Of 1812, One Man Two Guvnors, 3C, Tribes, Uncle Vanya, We Are Proud To Present A Presentation…, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.

New York: John Lahr, The New Yorker

Golden Boy, Death Of A Salesman, Peter And The Starcatcher, Title And Deed, Timon Of Athens, Tribes, Richard III, Clybourne Park, The Whale, The Piano Lesson.

New York, Scott Brown, New York magazine

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Tribes, Sorry, Death Of A Salesman, Cock, the black box conjurations, Detroit, Uncle Vanya, the unmusicals, One Man Two Guvnors.

New York, Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

  • Ben BrantleyCock, Harper Regan, Mies Julie, Neutral Hero, Once, One Man Two Guvnors, Peter And The Starcatcher, Sorry, Then She Fell, Uncle Vanya.
  • Charles IsherwoodWho’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Detroit, The Piano Lesson, Title And Deed/The Realistic Joneses, The Iceman Cometh, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder, Golden Boy, Disgraced, Uncle Vanya, One Man Two Guvnors.

New York: Jesse Oxfeld, The New York Observer

Death Of A Salesman, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolff?, 4000 Miles, Clybourne Park, Hurt Village, Detroit, The Whale, Disgraced, Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, Cock, The Twenty-Seventh Man, A Civil War Christmas, Assistance, The Great God Pan, The Bog Meal, Rapture Blister Burn.

New York: Richard Zoglin, Time magazine

Annie, Detroit, One Man Two Guvnors, A Christmas Story: The Musical, Grace, Louis CK on tour, End Of The Rainbow, Forbidden Broadway: Alive And Kicking, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, 4000 Miles.

New York: David Cote and Adam Feldman, Time Out New York

  • David Cote: Golden Boy, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Death Of A Salesman, One Man Two Guvnors, Uncle Vanya, Glengarry Glen Ross, Detroit, Natasha, Pierre And The Great Comet of 1812, A Map Of Virtue, If The Is I Haven’t Found It Yet.
  • Adam Feldman: Natasha, Pierre And The Great Comet Of 1812, The Piano Lesson, Tribes, Golden Boy, The Material World, A Map Of Virtue, Hurt Village, The Twenty-Seventh Man, 3C.

Orange County CA: Paul Hodgins, Orange County Register

Topdog/Underdog, Car Plays, Elemeno Pea, The Jacksonian, Sight Unseen, American Idiot, Sight Unseen, Waiting For Godot, Jitney, War Horse, Red, The Book Of Mormon, Krapp’s Last Tape, Other Desert Cities.

Philadelphia: J. Cooper Robb, Philadelphia Weekly

Body Awareness, Spring Awakening, The Music Man, Clybourne Park, The Liar, Slip/Shot, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Next To Normal, A Behanding In Spokane, The Scottsboro Boys.

Portland ME: Megan Grumbling, The Portland Pheonix

Aquitania, The Birthday Party, Doctor Faustus Lights The Lights, Eurydice, Faith Healer, Ghosts, Henry IV.

Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina: multiple staff, Indy Week

Original Scripts & Adaptations: What Every Girl Should Know, Jude The Obscure, Shape, Children IN The Dark, Donald, From F To M To Octopus, Sketches Of A Man, Perfect, I Love My Hair When It’s Good: And Then Again When It Looks Defiant and Impressive, The Men In Me; Productions: Acts of Witness: Blood Knot, The Brothers Size, Donald, I Love My Hair When It’s Good: And Then Again When It Looks Defiant and ImpressiveLet Them Be Heard, New Music: August Snow, Night Dance, Better Days, The Paper Hat Game, Penelope, Radio Golf, Red, Richie, What Every Girl Should Know.

San Antonio: Deborah Martin and Michael E. Barrett, San Antonio Express-News

August: Osage County, Superior Donuts, Killer Joe, King Lear, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, íCarpa, Open Sesame, Firebugs, A View From The Bridge, Macbeth, God Of Carnage, I-DJ, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Les Misérables, An Adult Evening Of Shel Silverstein, Hello Dolly!, My Fair Lady, American Buffalo.

San Diego: David L. Coddon, San Diego City Beat

Blood And Gifts, Allegiance, Kita Y Fernanda, A Raisin In The Sun, Harmony Kansas, The Scottsboro Boys, The Car Plays, Parade, Topdog/Underdog, Zoot Suit; also, Visiting Mr. Green, American Night: The Ballad Of Juan Jose, Fiddler On The Roof, Good of Carnage, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.

San Jose: Karen D’Souza, The Mercury News

Becky Shaw, Humor Abuse, The Aliens, The Caretaker, Any Given Day, War Horse, An Iliad, The White Snake, Woyzeck.

St Louis: Dennis Brown and Paul Friswold, Riverfront Times

Sunday In The Park With George, No Child…, Angels In America, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Sweeney Todd, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged), The Children’s Hour, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Eleemosynary, This Wide Night, The Foreigner.

Toronto: J. Kelly Nestruck, Globe And Mail

Top 10 Shows (via personal blog):  Maybe If You Choreograph Me You’ll Feel Better, The Iceman Cometh, The Matchmaker, Terminus, Home, An Enemy Of The People, The Golden Dragon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, War Horse, Enron; also Top 10 Theatre Picks.

Toronto: Jon Kaplan and Glenn Sumi, Now Toronto

Terminus, Proud, The Little Years, Caroline or Change, Kim’s Convenience, The Small Room At The Top Of The Stairs, Miss Caledonia, War Horse, The Penelopiad, Tear The Curtain.

Toronto: Toronto Star

Actress Maev Beatty, War Horse, opera as theatre, Cymbeline, The Small Room At The Top Of The Stairs.

Washington DC: Peter Marks, The Washington Post

Mr Burns a Post-Electric Play, Astro Boy And The God Of Comics, Beertown, Really Really, The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart, The Normal Heart, haute puppetry, locally grown theatre, The Servant Of Two Masters, fine old musicals.

as of 12/30/12  11:00 am


Print page

  • Would be interesting to compile a list by show title. “One Man, Two Guvnors” and “Virginia Woolf” looking pretty good! In answer to TIME just choosing NY shows, maybe they just don’t have the travel budget anymore?

    • A list by title would likely be skewed by the high number of New York critics, giving the impression that well received NYC shows are somehow dominating national lists, and of course this compendium is incomplete based on what I can find — and what’s not behind paywalls. As for the travel budget issue at Time, I assume that travel budgets there have been slashed, as they have almost everywhere; however in that case a national magazine shouldn’t represent that their list represents a national perspective, but only a New York one.

%d bloggers like this: