It’s the time of year again for reflection. One of the things that means the most to me year after year is the theatre I see. This year was exceptional. I struggled to come up with my top ten theatrical experiences of the year because I was fortunate enough to see many great shows in London, New York City and the DC area. Here are my favorites:
Miss Saigon – West End
I had been eager to see Miss Saigon in the West End since the original run. My parents still argue I was too young when the opportunity originally arose (but I continue to disagree). However, it was worth the wait to be able to see this production with fresh eyes. The cast is incredible. The beautiful music remains (with some slight alterations), and I thought the set was brilliant. It’s a must-see if you are in London.
Les Miserables – West End
There is nothing like seeing my favorite show on the West End, and nothing beats the original incarnation of this masterpiece. I was particularly thrilled to see a John Valjean I know from the States, Peter Lockyer, the last two times I caught the show abroad. I find that anyone who plays Jean Valjean then steps away and comes back to the role has a perspective that can only be gained with time. The whole London ensemble is phenomenal, and the experience of this now-classic musical is a grand event worth repeating.
Les Miserables – Broadway
Surprisingly, I had never seen Les Mis on Broadway until previews began this past March. I was lucky to have a front row seat to the first performance of the new revival, and the energy of the audience that night was like nothing I had never experienced before at the theatre. Ramin Karimloo was an outstanding choice to lead the cast, and I’m fairly positive Jean Valjean has never looked so sexy (sorry Hugh Jackman!). I hope to be able to return to this production very soon.
Side Show – Kennedy Center (DC) and Broadway
Before Side Show made its return to Broadway, it had a run this past summer at the Kennedy Center in DC. To say I saw it a few times would be an understatement. I think many of us can relate to a show that highlights our inner needs of acceptance and love as well as a sense of belonging. If the end of Act 1 doesn’t hook you, the 11 o’clock duet by the fantastic Emily Padgett and Erin Davie will. I am thankful to have seen this show again when it hit the Great White Way, and I will be sorry to “say goodbye to the Side Show” in only a few days.
Jason Robert Brown’s Artist-in-Residence Launch Concert – SubCulture, New York City
Considering that this special one-night-only concert featured songs and original cast members from all of Jason Robert Brown’s shows, I am counting it amongst this group. This concert was one of the best I’ve ever been to, but this is coming from a longtime, dedicated JRB fan who wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in NYC when this concert was going on. The show JRB personally curated included songs from The Last Five Years, 13, Urban Cowboy, The Bridges of Madison County, Honeymoon in Vegas, Parade and Songs of a New World.
Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse, London
Sadly, I missed Dogfight’s premiere in New York City, but I was overjoyed to learn that I would be able to catch its London premiere just before it closed this past September. I’d seen a show earlier this year for the first time at Southwark Playhouse, and Southwark Playhouse is quickly becoming one of my favorite theatres to visit when in London. This intimate venue produced an excellent cast and presented an unforgettable, touching production of Dogfight. The performance has stayed with me for the past few months, and I sincerely hope that I can see another production of this poignant Pasek and Paul musical soon (though I wonder if anything will top the Southwark Playhouse production).
Urinetown – St. James Theatre, London
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I got a ticket to see Urinetown in London. I had heard of the show, but to be honest, the name did not make the show sound appealing to me. This dark musical comedy won me over rather quickly between its gifted cast, intriguing story, awesome set and amusing music. I was not surprised when the show received a West End transfer, and my only regret is that I could not make it back to London to catch it on the West End as well.
Here Lies Love – Public Theatre, New York City
For one reason or another, I kept putting off seeing Here Lies Love in New York. I didn’t know what (or who) the show was about, so while I continually heard how good it was, it took a while for the feedback to resonate. This intimate, hands-on musical was one of the most interesting, original theatrical experiences of my life so far. The music is catchy and moving, and the true story the show is based on is compelling to watch. Although this show will be missed in the city, it’s wonderful that Here Lies Love has had a life beyond its original run at the Public.
Ordinary Days – Round House Theatre, Bethesda, MD
I first learned of Ordinary Days through a special concert at Signature Theatre, and after relating heavily to some of the characters as I completed graduate school (and worked full-time), I could not wait for the chance to finally see the show. Round House’s production did not disappoint as the musical was cast superbly, and Matthew Gardiner’s direction was ideal (as usual). Even though this musical captures the feelings of four characters during a specific moment in time, the message continues to ring true.
Gypsy/Sunday in the Park with George – Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
This list would be incomplete without a Signature Theatre musical. I am highlighting two Signature shows since I saw both this year, but Gypsy opened in 2013 technically. Nonetheless, Signature’s amazing production of Gypsy, starring the sensational Maria Rizzo and Sherri L. Edelen as Gypsy Rose Lee and Momma Rose respectively, has stayed with me all this time. Likewise, Sunday in the Park with George was a stunning show to kick-off the theatre’s 2014-2015 season. Though all of the elements of the show came together spectacularly, for me, the best part was the two leads, Claybourne Elder (George) and Brynn O’Malley (Dot). Plus, I suspect any art lover, like myself, will appreciate Sunday’s music and meaning.
I am thrilled to see what 2015 brings. Happy New Year!