Tapeworthy

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Best of Stage 2017

2017 total: 160 Shows (though 7 of those were for Come From Away, and a few other repeats).
Though this year only in Toronto (and surrounding), London, and New York City.

Saw a lot of shows I had seen in previous years and thus ineligible for this year's list (including Dear Evan Hansen, and 1984)
For previous years Best of Stage Lists:
Best of Stage 2016 (including Groundhog Day, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
Best of Stage 2015 (including Come From Away, Significant Other)
Best of Stage 2014 (including Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Best of Stage 2013  
Best of Stage 2012
Best of Stage 2011 
Best of Stage 2010
Best of Stage 2009
Best of Stage 2008 
Best of Stage 2007


Here's the Best of Stage 2017:

1. Yerma - Young Vic Theatre - London, UK
Written by Simon Stone after Frederico Garcia Lorca, Directed by Simon Stone

               

Billie Piper lays her soul for us all to voyeuristically watch as she's entrapped between glass panels and a marriage unable to give her the child she yearns for. Ultimately a tragedy but the build up sounds all too familiar in this modern take of Lorca, in a staging that keeps us at a distance with it's glass walls and projected audio and blaring rock musical segues, which only adds to the lore. Add in magical set transformations within the tight space, and watching Piper's Yerma slowly unravel is painstaking to watch but ever gripping in its strange familiarity.



2. Mary Jane- New York Theatre Workshop - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Amy Herzog, Directed by Anne Kauffman

               

Mary Jane has a son who requires constant medical attention and with the aids of nurses, cares for him in a simple apartment with her limited resources. We see Mary Jane struggle with her situation yet always remaining in high spirits and a positive outlook, even helping another mother who finds herself in a similar situation. The situation is dire and yet the humanity in Amy Herzog's play shines through, with an extraordinary cast lead by a glowing Carrie Coon.



3. Hamlet - Almeida Theatre - London, UK
Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Robert Icke

               

It's still Hamlet but the first time I think I fully understood it all, with an incredible Andrew Scott as the soulful conflicted central figure. Jessica Findlay Brown as an Ophelia whose descent into madness is understandable, and Juliet Stevenson is perfection as a manipulative Gertrude. Icke's staging, with ghosts seen through security cameras and layers of glass in the sleek modern decor makes all the interactions, overheard conversations, and secrets seem plausible.



4. Indecent - Cort Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Paula Vogel, Directed by Rebecca Taichman

               

Rebecca Taichman's beautiful staging of Paula Vogel's clever play about a controversial play is intelligent and inspired. With a small cast in multiple roles, we trace the trajectory of Sholem Asch's Yiddish play God of Vengeance as it gets produced all over, before being banned for lesbian kiss. The company was indicted for indecency but we follow the artists as they try to tell their story of a Jewish brother owner whose daughter falls in love with one of his prostitutes. It's about artists giving their work life, as Taichman's production does the same for this behind the scenes story.



5. Flight Pattern - The Royal Ballet - Royal Opera House - London, UK
Choreographed by Crystal Pite 

               

A stunning dance piece about the plight of refugees that is both beautiful and haunting.



6. Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika - National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre - London, UK
Written by Tony Kushner, Directed by Marianne Elliot

               

Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn, Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter, James McArdle as Louis Ironson, Denise Gough as Harper Pitt, Russell Tovey as Joe Pitt, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Belize, Amanda Lawrence as The Angel, Susan Brown as Hannah Pitt. Enough said.


7. Pacific Overtures - Classic Stage Company - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by John Weidman, Additional Material by Hugh Wheeler, Directed by John Doyle 

               

The usual simplicity with John Doyle's musical staging matches in tune with Japanese minimalism in this beautiful revival of Pacific Overtures. A cast that proves that there is no lack of incredible Asian musical actors.



8. The Ferryman - Royal Court Theatre in the Gielgud Theatre - West End - London, UK
Written by Jez Butterworth, Directed by Sam Mendes

               

A taut thriller, a family drama, a country harvest moment, and so much more in Jez Butterworth's epic new play that remains intimate, despite it's giant cast and long running time. At its heart is a family preparing for the yearly harvest, all while the 1981 Irish hunger strike is happening and the hatred towards Brits comes to a boil when sides are divided amongst a Northern Ireland.



9. Network - National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre - London, UK
Adapted by Lee Hall, based on the film by Paddy Chayefsky, Directed by Ivo van Hove

               

Bryan Cranston screaming out "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE"and making the audience scream it out too. Michelle Dockery throwing a fit in a glass sound booth.  Ivo van Hove using his Ivo tricks to turn the film into a live theatrical frenzy with live filming, using the language of live news media and the way television is portrayed in film and counterpointing that with the live nature of the stage. Plus there's a working restaurant on stage!



10. A Christmas Carol - The Old Vic Theatre - London, UK
A new version written by Jack Thorne, Directed by Matthew Warchus

               

A haunting and spirited new version of the Dicken's classic with a terrific Rhys Ifans at the center of a reconfigured Old Vic as his psychologically damaged Scrooge. The three ghosts include women from Scrooge's past, that explains how he became such a miser, and it makes Ifans transformation all the more joyous, using the transformed theatre-in-the-round in all its glory, filled with sounds of beautiful bells and a beautiful score. You will be filled with the Christmas spirit by the end of Warchus' elegant production!



11. Albion  - Almeida Theatre - London, UK
Written by Mike Bartlett, Directed by Rupert Goold

               

We watch an entire garden grow and die at the centre of a reconfigured Almeida Theatre in an allegory of Britain post-Brexit. in this play about a city woman who buys a historical plot of land in the countryside in the hopes of reviving it and recreating the glory of its historic British garden. Meanwhile, in her determination to create her dream, she shuts out the community beyond the walls, her family, and the help, each with their own stories, their own threads, and their won reasons for wanting the garden to succeed. Fascinating, with Victoria Hamilton at the charge in constant determination to make things succeed to her liking, but at whose costs?



12. Half a Sixpence - Noël Coward Theatre - West End - London, UK
Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Book by Julian Fellowes, Original Music and Lyrics by David Heneker, Original Musical by David Heneker and Beverley Cross, Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh

               

A sweet old-fashioned, very British musical about class and money in a rags to riches to rags to riches story with a love triangle split between the classes to top it all off. A star making performance by Charlie Stemp (and just as wonderful alternate Sam O'Rourke who usually delightfully plays Buggins) keeps up the tempo and manages to charm us in this silly musical that still slips in the plight of the working class within the big toe-tapping banjo playing dance numbers.



13. The Glass Menagerie - Belasco Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Tennessee Williams, Directed by Sam Gold

               

Just when you thought you knew The Glass Menagerie and had enough of it, in comes Sam Gold to readjust our view of the classic play in his re-envisioned production. Challenging the text in a stripped down production, putting an older Tom by way of Joe Mantello makes the memory play feel fresh, with a commanding central performance by Sally Fields that makes us see Amanda Wingfield in a new angle. Casting Madison Ferris, an actress who requires a wheelchair, as Laura, presents Laura's limp in a dramatic new light. Pitting her against a bouncy delighted Finn Wittrock's Gentleman Caller only adds to how we see his presence changes the dynamics with Tom and Laura. It truly heightens the tragedy without changing a word, and while Gold's direction may have angered the traditionalists, it opened up an already-favorite play of mine into a new dimension.



14. Bands on Broadway:
Bandstand - Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY
Music by Richard Oberacker, Lyrics and Book by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor, Directed by Andy Blankenbuehler
The Band's Visit - Ethel Barrymore Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Itamor Moses, Directed by David Cromer

               
               

The Band's Visit got all the acclaim and Bandstand quietly popped up on Broadway and then sadly disappeared far too soon. The Band's Visit beautifully tells its tale simply with a gorgeous evocative score by David Yazbek, while Bandstand is slightly overblown new musical that takes on a deeper issue about PTSD and the lives of vets post-war, but has the heart and spirit that makes it emotionally thrilling. Bandstand could have been edited down to focus on its core story, moving to that emotional impact a tad sooner, and The Band's Visit could have extended itself to explore some of the characters more and give us more time for an emotional connection, but while both shows lacked in opposing flaws, they both excelled equally in their own strengths. Here's to the Band's playing on.



15. Syncing Ink - The Flea Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by NSangou Njikam, Directed by Niegel Smith

               

It's another coming of age/finding your voice tale that sort of doubles as the history of hip-hop and rap, in this thrilling vibrant new musical play. The clever staging and choreo and the rhymes pulsate that culminates in a thrilling (apparently improvised) showdown. While it's a tad overlong, the thrilling cast keeps the simple story moving and imprints the sound of a Black American .


16. Vimy - Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Bailie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON
Written by Vern Thiessen, Directed by Diana Leblanc

               

Whereas the film Dunkirk was grand in scope, telling the individual tales from different sides of a historic moment, Vimy is an intimate look at the individual tales from a historical moment in France in the first World War. Leblanc's stunning staging lets this war play become intimately focused on the different soldiers' stories, bring an infamous moment in war and bringing it back to the perspective from the ground, from those that were right there. Harrowing and a young cast that brings it to life with verve and class.


17. Everybody's Talking About Jamie - Apollo Theatre - West End - London, UK
Music by Dan Gillespie Sells, Book and Lyrics by Tom MacRae, Directed by Jonathan Butterell

               

A fun fun fun new musical based on a documentary about a real life teen Jamie who chose to do drag, but while it feels like a spiritual sequel to La Cage/Kinky Boots/Priscilla, there's a far more progressive modern sensibility and reactions.  This tends to diminish the drama (as his own acceptance about his queerness is established from the opening number), but heightens the positive attitude. Add in The Feeling's frontman Dan Gillespie Sells' endearingly catchy music, and a starmaking lead performance by John McCrea, and it's one of the most joyous new musicals to open in recent memory.


18. Table Talk in Toronto
Asking for It - Nightwood Theatre, Necessary Angel and Crow's Theatre at Streetcar Crowsnest - Toronto, ON
Written by Ellie Moon, Directed by Brendan Healy
Unholy - Nightwood Theatre at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON
Written by Diane Flacks, Directed by Kelly Thornton

               
               

2 new plays each with 4 actors sitting at 2 tables, each with a microphone. Discuss.
Surprisingly theatrical, with each play spinning off from their discussions into scenes that fill out the controversial topics at hand. Asking For It begins with Jian Ghomeshi's case and continues with verbatim interviews about sexual harassment. Unholy concocts a panel of 4 women speaking about religion and feminism. Neither sound like enjoyable things to sit through yet both were something we needed to hear (with lots of surprising humour and humanity within).


19. The Seat Next To the King  - Toronto Fringe Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto, ON
Written by Steven Elliott Jackson, Directed by Tanisha Taitt

               

The imagined meeting between two real life figures who were both caught in gay public sex scandals in 1960s. MLK Jr.'s adviser Bayard Justin meets LBJ's top aid Walter Jenkins and what transpires is a tense yet emotionally revealing brief affair where race and sexuality and the coded behaviors of surviving in that time comes to blow. Taitt's direction in this simple Fringe production is beautifully evocative and Conor Ling and Kwaku Okyere's performances give this small tight play a grandeur the emotions in these secretive events deserve.


20. The Smile Off Your Face - Summerworks at Artscape Youngplace - Toronto, ON -
Originally Created by Ontroerend Goed, Canadian Premiere by Re:Current Theatre, Directed by Brian Postalian

               

Theatre as an amusement park ride that tickles your senses and plays with your perception of what your senses makes you imagine. The twist is the starring role is the smile off your face, and then the discovery of what made that happened. Oh yah, you will also by blindfolded and tied to a wheelchair.



Honourable Mentions:

The Aliens - Coal Mine Theatre - Toronto, ON
Written by Annie Baker, Directed by Mitchell Cushman

Cost of Living - Manhattan Theatre Company in New York City Center Stage 1 - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Martyna Majok, Directed by Jo Bonney

The Girls - Phoenix Theatre - West End - London, UK
Music, Lyrics and Book by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow, Directed by Tim Firth

The Life Henri - Toronto Fringe Festival at Alliance Francais - Toronto, ON
Written by Adam Bailey

Mr. Shi and His Lover - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON
Music by Njo Kong Kie, Written by Wong Teng Chi and Njo Kong Kie, Directed by Tam Chi Chun


Solid revivals of:

Bakkhai - Stratford Festival in the Tom Patterson Theatre - Stratford, ON
Translator by Anne Carson from Euripides, Directed by Jillian Kelley 

Banana Boys - Factory Theatre - Toronto, ON
Written by Leon Aureus, Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

The Beauty Queen of Leenane - Druid Theatre at BAM in the Harvey Theatre - Brooklyn, NY
Written by Martin McDonagh, Directed by Garry Hynes


Follies - National Theatre's Olivier Theatre - London, UK
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Goldman, Directed by Dominic Cooke

Hello, Dolly! - Shubert Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman, Book by Michael Stewart, Directed by Jerry Zaks

Torch Song - 2nd Stage in the Tony Kiser Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Harvey Fierstein, Directed by Moises Kaufman


Breakthrough Performances (in alphabetical order):

The 'band" in Bandstand: Alex Bender, Joe Carroll, Brandon James Ellis, James Nathan Hopkins, Geoff Packard

Caitlin Robson and Eric Miinch in Caitlin and Eric Are Broken Up

The cast of Murder in the Cottonwoods: Paul Aihoshi, Guy Bradford, Christy Bruce, Lance Byrd, Alexandra Hurley, Matt Nads, Colin Sharpe

Kwaku Okyere and Conor Ling in The Seat Next to the King

The cast of Syncing Ink: McKenzie Frye, Nuri Hazzard, Elisha Lawson, NSangou Njikam, Adesola A. Osakalumi, DJ Reborn, Kara Young

The cast of Vimy: Sebastien Bertrand, Andrew Chown, Tim Dowler-Coltman, Wesley French, Christine Horne, TJ Riley

Adam Bailey in The Life Henri
Jocelyn Bioh in Everybody and In the Blood
Nicola Correia-Damude in Marine Life
Jack DiFalco in Torch Song
Josh Epstein in Onegin
Beanie Feldstein in Hello, Dolly!
Maxwell Haynes in The Aliens
Lucas Hedges in Yen
Ashley D. Kelley in Bella: An American Tall Tale
January Lavoy in Wakey Wakey
Katrina Lenk in Indecent and The Band's Visit
Ben Mayne in The View Upstairs
John McCrea in Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Gregg Mozgala in Cost of Living
Sam O'Rourge in Half a Sixpence
Bryonha Marie Parham in Prince of Broadway
Andrew Polec in Bat Out of Hell
Randy Redd in The View Upstairs
Chris Reid in The Merchant of Venice
Michael Rosen in Torch Song
Lucie Shorthouse in Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Justice Smith in Yen
Cobie Smulders in Present Laughter
Danielle Steers in Bat Out of Hell
Charlie Stemp in Half a Sixpence
Luke Thallon in Albion
Bobby Conte Thornton in A Bronx Tale


Great Performances (in alphabetical order):

The principal cast of  Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches & Part Two: Perestroika: Susan Brown, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Russell Tovey

The cast of Of Kith and Kin: Joanna Bacon, Donna Berlin, James Lance, Chetna Pandya, Joshua Silver

The cast of Pacific Overtures: Karl Josef Co, Marc Delacruz, Steven Eng, Megan Masako Haley, Ann Harada, Kimberly Immanuel, Justin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh, Orville Mendoza, Marc Oka, Thom Sesma, George Takei

The cast of Unholy: Diane Flacks, Barbara Gordon, Niki Landau, Blair Williams, Bahareh Yaraghi

Annaleigh Ashford in Sunday in the Park with George
Kate Baldwin in Hello, Dolly!
Evan Buliung in Guys and Dolls
Kate Burton in Present Laughter
Corey Cott in Bandstand
Richard Coyle in Ink
Daniel Craig in Othello
Bryan Cranston in Network
Gavin Creel in Hello, Dolly!
Frenchie Davis in The View Upstairs
Janet Dacal in Prince of Broadway
Carson Elrod in The Liar
Sally Field in The Glass Menagerie
Alexis Gordon in Guys and Dolls
Cyrus Lane in A Christmas Carol: The Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose
Nathan Lee Graham in The View Upstairs
Sarah Greene in The Ferryman
Tamsin Greig in Labour of Love
Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George
Rebecca Hall in Animal
Clare Halse in 42nd Street
Victoria Hamilton in Albion
Rhys Ifans in A Christmas Carol
Jasna Ivir in 42nd Street
Laura Linney in The Little Foxes
Tom Lister in 42nd Street
Joe Mantello in The Glass Menagerie
Sharron Matthews in Unapologetically Me: Sharron's Cabaret for Kids
Anna Maxwell Martin in Consent
Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!
Jeff Miller in My Night with Reg
Max Gordon Moore in Indecent
Marie Mullen in The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Stuart Neal in 42nd Street
Cynthia Nixon in The Little Foxes
Jack O'Connell in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Sophie Okonedo in The Goat Or Who is Sylvia?
Laura Osnes in Bandstand
Aisling O'Sullivan in The Beauty Queen of Leenane
David Oyelowo in Othello
Lisa Palfrey in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Ashley Park in Sunday in the Park with George
Billie Piper in Yerma
Gray Powell in My Night with Reg
Anusree Roy in Tartuffe
Mercedes Ruehl in Torch Song
George Salazar in The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
Helen Schlesinger in Albion
Andrew Scott in Hamlet
Saycon Sengbloh in In the Blood
James Smith in Lessons in Temperament
Juliet Stevenson in Hamlet
Corey Stoll in Julius Caesar
David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho
John Douglas Thompson in Jitney
Richard Topol in Indecent
Taylor Trensch in Hello, Dolly!
Brandon Uranowitz in Prince of Broadway
Michael Urie in Torch Song
Josie Walker in Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Jonathan Wilson in My Night with Reg
Ruth Wilson in Hedda Gabler
Finn Wittrock in The Glass Menagerie


____________________________________________________

Here is every Stage Show I saw in 2017 in alphabetical order. All reviews are based on a 5 stars system (Workshop Labs, Readings, Concerts and Cabarets are not graded):


4.48 Psychosis (Play Revival) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Theatre Centre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

5 Guys Chillin' (Play) - Theatre Topikos at Kensington Hall - Toronto, ON - ****

32 Short Sketches About Bees (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse - Toronto, ON - ***

42nd Street (Musical Revival) x2 - Theatre Royal Drury Lane - West End - London, UK - ****

1984 (Play) - Hudson Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

A Bronx Tale (Musical) - Longacre Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2 (Review)

A Christmas Carol - The Old Vic Theatre - London, UK - ****1/2 (Review)

A Christmas Carol: The Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose - Ross Petty Productions at the Elgin Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (Review)

Against (Play) - Almeida Theatre - London, UK - ***

Albion (Play) - Almeida Theatre - London, UK - ****1/2

The Aliens (Play) - Coal Mine Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (Review)

Anastasia (Musical) - Broadhurst Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika (Play Revival) x2 - National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre - London, UK - ****1/2 

Animal (Play) - Atlantic Theater Company at Atlantic Stage 2 - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Asking for It (Play) - Crow's Theatre at Streetcar Crowsnest - Toronto, ON - ****

The Audience (Play) - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Bakkhai (Play Revival) - Stratford Festival in the Tom Patterson Theatre - Stratford, ON - ****

Banana Boys (Play Revival) - Factory Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

Bandstand (Musical) x2 - Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

The Band's Visit (Musical) - Ethel Barrymore Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Bat Out of Hell (Musical) - Ed Mirvish Theatre - Toronto, ON - ** or ****

Beautiful (Musical) x2 - Ed Mirvish Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Play Revival) - Druid Theatre at BAM in the Harvey Theatre - Brooklyn, NY - ****

Bella: An American Tall Tale (Musical) - Playwrights Horizons - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Bendy Sign Tavern (Musical) - Sex T-Rex at Toronto Fringe Festival at The Paddock Tavern - Toronto, ON - ***

Billy Bishop Goes To War (Musical) - Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Bailie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **

Blood Ties (Musical) - Edge of the Sky at Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Mainspace - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Blue Remembered Hills (Play Revival) - Good Old Neon at Artscape Youngscape - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

The Bodyguard (Musical) x2 - Ed Mirvish Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Caitlin and Eric are Broken Up (Play) - Bygone Theatre at Toronto Fringe Festival at Tarragon Theatre Extraspace - Toronto, ON - ****

Canadian Music Theatre Project (Musical Workshop) - Sheridan Theatre at Sheridan College - Oakville, ON
Bethune (Musical)
Cocksure Lads (Musical)
My Bonnie Lass! (Musical)
Starlight Tours (Musical)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Play Revival) - The Young Vic at the Apollo Theatre - West End - London, UK - ***1/2

Cavalia: Odysseo (Circus) - White Big Top - Mississauga, ON - ****

Clarkston (Play Reading) - Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY

Clique Claque (Play) - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Mainspace - Toronto, ON - ***

Consent (Play) - National Theatre's Dorfman Theatre - London, UK - ***1/2

Come From Away (Musical) - Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY x5 , Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON x2 - ***** (Already in Best of Stage 2015)

Cost of Living (Play) - Manhattan Theatre Company in New York City Center Stage 1 - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Play) - Princess of Wales Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (Already in Best of Stage 2014)

Dear Evan Hansen (Musical) - Music Box Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

The Death of Mrs. Gandhi and the Beginning of New Physics (a political fantasy) (Play) - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Mainspace - Toronto, ON - **

Delirium (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Don Juan in Soho (Play Revival) - Wyndham's Theatre - West End - London, UK - ***1/2

Everybody (Play) - Signature Theatre in the Irene Diamond Stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Everybody's Talking About Jamie (Musical) - Apollo Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****

The Ferryman (Play) - Royal Court Theatre in the Gielgud Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****1/2

five faces of evelyn frost (Play) - Canadian Stage Company at Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Follies (Musical Revival) - National Theatre's Olivier Theatre - London, UK - ****

Fulfillment Center (Play) - Manhattan Theatre Company in New York City Center Studio Stage II - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

The Girls (Musical) - Phoenix Theatre - West End - London, UK - **** (Review)

The Glass Menagerie (Play Revival) - Belasco Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

The Goat Or Who is Sylvia? (Play Revival) - Theatre Royal Haymarket - West End - London, UK - ***1/2

Groundhog Day (Musical) x2 - August Wilson Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2 (Already in Best of Stage 2016)

Guys and Dolls (Musical Revival) - Stratford Festival in the Festival Theatre - Stratford, ON - ***

Half a Sixpence (Musical Revival) x2 - Noël Coward Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****

Hamlet (Play Revival) - Almeida Theatre - London, UK - ****1/2

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two (Play) - Palace Theatre - West End - London, UK - **** (Already in Best of Stage 2016)

Hedda Gabler (Play Revival) - National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre - London, UK - ****

Hello, Dolly! (Musical Revival) x2 - Shubert Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

hieronymus bosch: the garden of earthly delights (Dance) - Canadian Stage in the Bluma Appel Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - ***

How To Succeed in Business Without Even Trying (Musical - College Production) - Sheridan Theatre at Sheridan College Studio - Oakville, ON

The Humans Seasons/ After the Rain/ Flight Pattern (Ballet) - The Royal Ballet - Royal Opera House - London, UK - ****1/2
The Human Seasons - ****1/2
After the Rain - ****
Flight Pattern - *****

If I Forget (Play) - Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Mirium Steinberg Center for Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Indecent (Play) - Cort Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2

Ink (Play) - Almeida Theatre - London, UK - ****

The Red Letter Plays: In the Blood (Play Revival) - Signature Theatre in the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

The Jazz Singer (Musical) - Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company in the Greenwin Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - ***

Jitney (Play Revival) - Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Julius Caesar (Play Revival) - The Public Theatre at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park - New York City, NY - ***

Labour of Love (Play) - Noël Coward Theatre - West End - London, UK - ***

Lessons in Temperament (Play) - Outside the March in Situ - Toronto, ON - ****

Lewiston (Play Reading) - Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY

The Liar (Play) - Classic Stage Company - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Life After (Musical) - Canadian Stage and The Musical Stage Company at the Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***

The Life Henri (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Alliance Francais - Toronto, ON - ****

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (Musical) - Lucille Lortel Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

The Little Foxes (Play Revival) - Manhattan Theatre Club in the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Maddie's Karaoke Birthday Party (Musical) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Monarch Tavern - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Man from Nebraska (Play Revival) - 2nd Stage in the Tony Kiser Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Marine Life (Play) - Tarragon Theatre Extraspace - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Mary Jane (Play) - New York Theatre Workshop - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2 (Review)

The Merchant of Venice (Play Revival) - Tottering Biped Theatre at Shakespeare at the Rock in the Rock Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens - Burlington, ON - ****

Midsummer (A Play With Songs) - Tarragon Theatre Mainstage - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Molly Pope in A Star Is Born (Cabaret) - 54 Below - New York City, NY

Moonlight After Midnight (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Morro and Jasp in Stupefaction - Guloien Theatre at Streetcar Crowsnest - Toronto, ON - ****  (Review)

Munschtime! (Play) - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Murder in the Cottonwoods (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Annex Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

My Big Fat German Puppet Show (Play) - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Studio - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Mr. Shi and His Lover (Musical) - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

My Night with Reg (Play Revival) - Studio 180 at Panasonic Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Musical) - Imperial Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Network (Play) - National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre - London, UK - ****

North by Northwest (Play) - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2

The Object Lesson (Play) - New York Theatre Workshop - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Of Kith and Kin (Play) - Bush Theatre - London, UK - ***1/2

Onegin (Musical) - The Musical Stage Company at the Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

On the Shore of the Wide World (Play Revival) - Atlantic Theater Company in the Linda Gross Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **

Oslo (Play) - Lincoln Center Theater at the National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre - London, UK - ****

Othello (Play Revival) - New York Theatre Workshop - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Pacific Overtures (Musical Revival) - Classic Stage Company - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2

Pinocchio (Play) - Tout A Trac at Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Present Laughter (Play Revival) - St. James Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Prince of Broadway (Musical) - Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Real Actors, Not People (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Factory Theatre Mainstage - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Play Revival) - The Old Vic - London, UK - ***

Rumspringa Break! An Am-ish Musical  (Musical Workshop) - Theatre Sheridan's Canadian Music Theatre Project at Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto, ON

The Seat Next To the King (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto, ON - ****

Senza Luce (Musical - College Production) - Sheridan Theatre at Sheridan College Studio - Oakville, ON

Shakespeare's Ghostbusters (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Tarragon Mainspace - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Significant Other (Play) - Booth Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **** (Already in Best of Stage 2015)

The Smile Off Your Face (Play) - Summerworks at Artscape Youngplace - Toronto, ON - ****

Somebody's Daughter (Play) - 2nd Stage Uptown - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Songbuster (Musical) - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Studio - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Sousatzka (Musical) - Elgin Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2 (Review)

Special Constables (Play) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Factory Theatre Mainstage - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Strictly Ballroom (Musical) x3 - Princess of Wales Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***

Stupidhead! (Musical) - Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Sunday in the Park with George (Musical Revival) - Hudson Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Sunset Blvd (Musical Revival) - Palace Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Sweat (Play) - Studio 54 - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Syncing Ink (Musical) - The Flea Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Tartuffe (Play Revival) - Stratford Festival in the Festival Theatre - Stratford, ON - ***

Torch Song (Play Revival) - 2nd Stage in the Tony Kiser Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

The Treasurer (Play) - Playwrights Horizons in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

True North Mixtape (Musical) - Toronto Fringe Festival at Randolph Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Two Truths and a Lie (Play) - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Antechamber - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Unapologetically Me: Sharron's Cabaret for Kids (Cabaret) - Young People's Theatre Studio - Toronto, ON (Blogpost)

Undercover (Play) - Tarragon Theatre Mainspace - Toronto, ON - ***

Unholy (Play) - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

The View Upstairs (Musical) - Lynn Redgrave Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2 (Review)

Vimy (Play) - Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Bailie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ****

Wakey Wakey (Play) - Signature Theatre in the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

War Paint (Musical) - Nederlander Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - *** (Review)

The Whirligig (Play) - The New Group in the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Wicked (Musical) - Gershwin Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Yen (Play) - MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Yerma (Play Revival) - Young Vic Theatre - London, UK - *****

Young Marx (Play) - Bridge Theatre - London, UL - ***

__________________________________________________________________
Previous Best-of Lists:

Best of 2016 List:
Best of Stage 2016

Best of 2015 List:
Best of Stage 2015

Best of 2014 List:
Best of Stage 2014

Best of 2013 List:
Best of Stage 2013

Best of 2012 Lists:
Best of Music 2012
Best of Stage 2012

Best of 2011 Lists:
Best of Music 2011
Best of Television 2011
Best of Stage 2011


Best of 2010 Lists:
Best of Music 2010
Best of Television 2010
Best of Stage 2010
Best of Movies 2010


Best of 2009 Lists:
Best of Music 2009
Best of Television 2009
Best of Stage 2009
Best of Movies 2009


Decadeworthy - The Best of 2000-2009 Lists:
SYTYCDworthy (w/ Videos) - List Format
Theatre of the Decade
Best Films of the Decade
Favorite Films of the Decade
Television of the Decade
Television of the Decade - 1 Season Wonders


Best of 2008 Lists:
Best of Music 2008
Best of Television 2008
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Movies 2008
Best of Television Fall '07 - Winter '08 List


Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List


Best of 2006 Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006
Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List


Best of 2005 Lists:
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005


Photos of Yerma and The Ferryman by Johan Persson
Photos of Mary JanePacific Overtures, Syncing Ink by Joan Marcus
Photos of Hamlet, A Christmas Carol, Half a Sixpence by Manuel Harlan
Photo of Indecent by Carol Rosegg
Photos of Flight Pattern, Everybody's Talking About Jamie by Alastair Muir
Photo of Angels in America by Helen Maybanks
Photo of Network by Jan Versweyveld
Photo of Albion by Marc Brenner
Photo of The Glass Menagerie by Julieta Cervantes
Photo of Bandstand by Jeremy Daniel
Photo of The Band's Visit by Matthew Murphy
Photo of Vimy by Cylla von Tiedemann
Photo of Asking For It by Jeremy Mimnagh
Photo of Unholy by John Lauener
Photo of The Seat Next to the King by Foreshots Photography
Photo of The Smile Off Your Face by Marlowe Porter

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com


More After the Jump...

Monday, December 04, 2017

A Tale of Two A Christmas Carols - A Christmas Carol Reviews

A Christmas Carol - The Old Vic Theatre - London, UK - ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
A New Version Written by Jack Thorne, Directed by Matthew Warchus
Runs until Jan. 20th, 2018

A Christmas Carol: The Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose - Ross Petty Productions at the Elgin Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Matt Murray, Directed by Tracey Flye
Runs until Dec. 31st, 2017

There seems to be productions of A Christmas Carol turning up every December but this year, it feels like theatres are doing Charles Dicken's classic more than ever (including another production at Shaw Fest, another at Soulpepper). A tale of a uncaring miser learning the errors of his ways with the help of four ghosts probably never gets old but seems ever more timely in our current political 2017 world. I happened to see two new productions of A Christmas Carol that are opposing ends of theatrical style, yet both anchored in terrific performances of Ebenezer Scrooge, and ultimately both delightfully joyous theatrical events.

               

The Old Vic presents a new version of A Christmas Carol by Jack Thorne (still riding high from writing the new megabit Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), with some socially modern elements (the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are women in Scrooge's life who control the narrative here). Some psychological explanations help develop our understanding of Scrooge's current behaviour (an abusive father, a terrible boss), but if this sounds all heavy, and despite a slight reliance on group narration (it never truly works unless the entire cast is perfectly in sync), director Warchus and Thorne manage to keep things beautifully haunting yet festive. This new take feels like the modernized version of a classy traditional tale thanks to Christopher Nightingale's gorgeously sweeping music, on Rob Howell's sparse but effective set that cuts through the Old Vic stalls with some surprises to spare.

Rhys Ifans, known best for his comedic roles in films (but was also a terrific Fool in the King Lear at Old Vic), gives a weighty dramatic heft to this psychologically damaged Scrooge, which also makes his transformation to the giddy joyous re-transformed Scrooge, all the more delightful. When we also see the women in his life, like Belle (Erin Doherty), the love of his life, move on away from Scrooge's scourge, living on their own terms, or Scrooge's little sister Little Fan (Melissa Allan) trying to save him for whatever it was worth, there's an element of showing how Scrooge's story can be damaging to those around him, but how they learned from his terrible ways to grow stronger. Ifans is also wonderfully contrasted with young Scrooge (Jamie Cameron, who runs back to the theatre boxes to plays in the band) whose innocence and naivety shows the sense of hope that had been lost (and then refound).



               

On the flip side over at A Christmas Carol: The Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose, Ross Petty's annual Christmas Panto in Toronto finally takes a traditionally Christmas story and brings out the silliness of Scrooge's fate into a zany tale that includes some time travel, cell phone apps, and Petty Panto regular Plumbum (Dan Chameroy delightfully in Panto drag) who turns out to be all the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Add in the ladies of Ghost dusters (I'm guessing to avoid right issues), and Jane, a counterpart to Crachett, who realizes she's not getting equal pay to the men at Scrooge's company, and we have a clever modern take on a familiar story, with some very up-to-date pop music thrown in as a good Panto would do. The jokes, in keeping with Panto tradition, range from the puns (Scrooge's partner Marley is that of Bob with full rastafarian mode) to the topical (a few jibes at the current administration south of the border, with a particularly funny zinger at Kellyann Conway's expense) to the downright obscure references (the Jenni Burkenstocks did get a good laugh from the opening night theatre crowd).

Written by Matt Murray* (*friends via other theatre friends so thus maybe biased, tho I'm also a fan of his Rumspringa Break! and Myth of the Ostrich), and with Tracey Flye's zippy direction, this A Christmas Carol panto takes us on a kooky journey we've come to expect from a Pantomimed version of a classic yet still feeling fresh and clever in its execution.

               

It also helps having Dan Chameroy on hand, and AJ Bridel is back from last year as well to anchor the central female role of Jane, but it's Cyrus Lane, usually known for his dramatic theatrical performances, who runs with this loose Scrooge. It's fun to see Lane get silly and show off his comedic side (as well as some dance moves). Between Lane and Ifans, two terrific actors put in their natural opposing types, shows that putting serious actors in the Scrooge role can pay dividends.



Photo of A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic by Manuel Harlan
Photos of A Christmas Carol: The Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose by Rachel McCaig
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com


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