Culled from the list of the 30 plays and musicals I saw on Broadway in 2018, the following stood out as representing the top ten - the best of the best.
This year, the list includes seven plays and three musicals. Here they are, in alphabetical order, and with my rationale for their inclusion.
For my list of the best of Off Broadway, link HERE
For my more detailed reviews, go to Show-Score.com and do a search under my name or by title.
Angels in America
Tony Kushner's magnum opus, operatic in scope and in length, saw a grand and glorious production in its return to Broadway, 25 years after it initially opened to near universal acclaim. First-rate performances, impeccably overseen by director Marianne Elliott, earned it 11 Tony nominations and three wins: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by a lead actor for Andrew Garfield, and Best Performance by a featured actor for Nathan Lane.
A luminous performance by Janet McTeer elevated to the rafters Theresa Rebeck's play about Sarah Bernhardt, the reigning queen of 19th Century French theater. The play, about Bernhard's tackling Shakespeare's most famous male role, was filled with humor, heart, and snappy dialog. I'd peg McTeer as a sure bet for a Tony nomination, if not a win. Intriguingly, her greatest competition might come from Glenda Jackson as another of Shakespeare's male giants, King Lear.
The Boys in the Band
The 50th anniversary production of Mart Crowley's groundbreaking play about a gathering of gay men at a birthday party for one of them was a first-class revival all the way. Funny, awkward, and yes, admittedly cliché-ridden, it was also honest and compelling, with wonderful performances all around, especially by Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Robin de Jesus. Joe Mantello did a beautiful job directing. Arriving too late for last year's Tonys and way too early to remain in the memory of voters for this year, The Boys will likely be overlooked come awards time. Nevertheless, the production, performed and directed by a team of openly proud and gay men, was an early-on triumph of the season.
The glowing production of Jez Butterworth's Olivier-Award winning play (and easily the front-runner for the 2019 Best Play Tony) is saturated with magic and music, domesticity and revolution, comedy, drama, and melodrama. It is richly imagined, smartly directed by Sam Mendes, and smashingly performed by a cast of 22 adults, teenagers, children, and one infant -- plus a live rabbit and a goose. It is marvel to behold, and, since it's still playing, I highly recommend a visit to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
There is theater magic galore in this extension of J. K. Rowling's mega-popular tale of "the boy who lived." Fans are definitely fed lots of insider references. But the real magic for any theatergoer shows up, as it does in the original Harry Potter books, through the complex and heart-felt stories of the relationships among the characters. I recently returned to see Part II again (the stronger, more plot-driven part) and found myself deeply moved by the love and friendship that makes the show soar without the need for a "wingardium leviosa" spell. Patience will reward you with very affordable tickets, if you are interested.
The Lifespan of a Fact
OK. I get the coincidence here, but it's only a matter of falling into place alphabetically that the portrayer of filmdom's Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, shows up next. Radcliffe and his co-stars Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale make for a splendid team in this true-ish play based on an encounter between a young and obsessive fact checker and a magazine writer who is "creative" in his use of facts in order to make a point in the pursuit of TRUTH. Any of the three, and the play itself and director Leigh Silverman, may very well capture a Tony nomination for this highly entertaining and intriguing play.
Three Tall Women
This was a near perfect revival of Edward Albee's pitch dark comedy about a cantankerous old woman facing the end of her life in the company of younger versions of herself. Glenda Jackson's performance was out of this world, which is why I imagine her King Lear will be brilliant as well.
The Cher Show
Surprisingly entertaining, even for someone who is not a diehard Cher fan. Three performers play the singer at various times in her life, a concept that I thought would make this a train wreck. The thing is, all three - Stephanie J. Block (predicting a well-deserved Tony nomination for her), Teal Wicks, and Micaela Diamond - manage to truly seem to be playing the same person, down to the mannerisms, speech patterns, and vocal quality. The biography part skims the surface, as you might expect, but the whole thing comes off as a crowd-pleasing, confident, and glitzy Broadway extravaganza. In addition to the triad of Chers, special kudos must go to director Jason Moore for pulling this off so well, and to costume design legend Bob Mackie, who also will likely receive a Tony nomination and a possible win for his work here.
My Fair Lady
This is one of the most familiar and iconic musicals of the Baby Boomer generation, and it's pretty hard to think of something new to say. Yet director Bartlett Sher managed to breathe new life into this musical by focusing on one woman's journey to self-determination. Even though he gave us a Henry Higgins who is much closer in age to Liza Doolittle than we've come to expect, this is no longer a romantic comedy. Everything seems fresh and new, while giving us great singing and dancing and design elements all the way through.
This one is pure fun, with a wonderful cast giving marvelous over-the-top performances in a show that reminds me of Hairspray. It is both a light-hearted satire that takes digs at Broadway theater types with massive egos, and a plea for understanding and acceptance. High appeal here for older and younger audience members, with an upbeat and bouncy score. Hats off to all involved with this.
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And there you have it, the best of the best of Broadway for 2018.
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