Who knows what delights await all of us in 2012? But for now, I'll celebrate the year that was. Here is a list of my 12 favorite/best theatre experiences in 2011:
12. Walnut Street Theatre's Aspects of Love: Maybe it was partly the experience of seeing a show at America's oldest continuously running theatres, but mostly, I am pretty sure it was the excellence of the production itself. I went in thinking I would hate it, just as I always had since I saw the original Broadway production. I left loving it.
11. Broadway's The Book of Mormon: It is all the rage, making national headlines and drawing crowds rarely seen on Broadway these days. And I was lucky to see it when it was brand-spanking new (and at a discount that won't happen again for years). I had a great time, and it so great to see veterans and "newbies" (Casey Nicholaw, Robert Lopez, Trey Parker and Matt Stone) come together, take chances and create the most conventional unconventional musical I've ever seen. For me it isn't the best musical ever - it wasn't even the best musical of the season, that was Catch Me If You Can - but there is no denying that being there at the beginning is a theatre experience of a lifetime.
10. Off Broadway's The Submission/Wild Animals You Should Know: It may surprise you that these two plays that I was so iffy on rate higher on my list than one of Broadway's biggest hits of all time. But, while the works are far from the best plays ever, the risks taken by MCC Theatre on new plays by new playwrights is the real event here. And, truth be told, I'd rather see something that isn't perfect and still makes me think and feel. These two plays have provoked heated arguments, lengthy discussions, and not too small doses of soul searching. To me, that is some powerful theatre.
9. Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: It isn't the best musical by far; it isn't the worst musical, either. But the chance to see it evolve from the initial mess of those first previews, then at a final preview before the big shut down and overhaul, and finally to see the end result has been a rare treat in a long history of theatre-going. It is amazing to watch theatre professionals "rise above" and create stage magic under some extreme conditions. The end result may not be perfect, but the journey was the real experience for me.
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