Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best Musicals I Saw On Stage in 2010

Over the course of 2010, I saw 23 musicals live on stage (plus one I saw twice). This seems pretty robust, even to me, but is a bit less than I've seen in several recent years. And as I mentioned in my Best Plays of 2010 piece, I saw more plays than musicals, which is really an anomaly.

Due to fiscal constraints, I did not take any trips to New York or London, nor did I even splurge on any shows at Marriott Lincolnshire, which does great work but rarely shows up on HotTix.

But I still saw several very enjoyable musicals--plus some operas and cabaret-type shows, which I'll also mention underneath--almost all of which were either included in my quite economical Broadway in Chicago "Balcony Club" Subscription or discounted through HotTix or Goldstar. Virtually all the musicals I saw cost less than $30 per ticket, with the majority under $20, so I encourage others to partake in this great art form, which doesn't have to be all that pricey.

As I saw rather few World Premieres or relatively new musicals, the ranking below is as much about production quality as the musicals themselves, although the two aspects can't help but overlap. (For those who care, this is my more content-based ranking of My Favorite Musicals of the 00s, two of which show up here.) As the pool for my 2010 Best Of list covers all performance levels and venue sizes, I tried to be fair to smaller budget shows, but am mainly just ranking my enjoyment, regardless of what I paid, Equity vs. non-union casts, etc.

Every show included below was seen in Chicago or its suburbs, unless otherwise noted. I didn't see recent returning tours of The Lion King or Wicked, but based on my past affinity and current reviews, I'd imagine they would have ranked high among my choices of:

The Best Musicals of 2010

1. Billy Elliot - Broadway in Chicago, Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (my review)
I saw 'Billy' twice in its Chicago run after having loved it in London. 

2. Carousel - Light Opera Works, Cahn Auditorium (my review)
A sublime production of an excellent musical I hadn't previously seen.

3. Ragtime - Drury Lane Oakbrook (my review)
DRO has stepped up its game in recent years and does work on par with Marriott Lincolnshire, typically for a bit lower admission price. 

4. Avenue Q - Broadway in Chicago, Bank of America Theatre (my review)
A touring, non-Equity production of one of my favorite musicals that held up quite well. 

5. Aftermath - Signal Theatre Ensemble (my review)
Much more a play with live music (Rolling Stones songs from the mid-60s) than a narrative musical like the others here, but it was outstanding. 

6. Daddy Long Legs - Northlight Theatre (my review)
A delightful 2-person musical which prompted me to write my favorite review of the year. 

7. Dreamgirls - Broadway in Chicago, Cadillac Palace (my review)
An outstanding touring production that came to town in January. 

8. Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Theatre Wit (my review)
I was tremendously impressed with Roger Miller's 1985 Tony Award winning musical--which would have been even more unique when written--and the Bohemian cast members who played their own instruments.

9. Beauty and the Beast - Broadway in Chicago, Cadillac Palace (my review)
The production values were a little lesser on the 2010 tour than when I saw it in 2001, but this Disney show aimed at families holds up as a first-rate stage musical for all ages.

10a. Hello, Dolly - Light Opera Works, Cahn Auditorium (my review)
I just saw it and suggest you catch it. 
10b. Annie Get Your Gun - Ravinia Festival (my review)
Patti LuPone was typically great even if the musical itself isn't quite as good as its legacy. 

Honorable Mention

The Wedding Singer - Circle Theatre, The Performance Center of Oak Park (my review) 

Rock of Ages - Broadway in Chicago, Bank of America Theatre (my review)

The Addams Family - Broadway in Chicago, Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (my review)
I saw this in January for a second time in its pre-Broadway run; still wasn't fantastic, but much better than in November 2009. 

The Who's Tommy - Northwestern University, Josephine Louis Theater (my review)

Little House on the Prairie - Touring Production, Overture Center, Madison, WI (my review)

Shrek The Musical - Broadway in Chicago, Cadillac Palace (my review)

Related Shows

Opera - I saw four productions I very much enjoyed (relatively speaking; I'm still far from an opera aficionado) at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. In order of preference--as best I can recall/discern--with links to my reviews: Macbeth, The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca and The Merry Widow. 

Cabaret, etc. - Although A Conversation With Stephen Sondheim was just what it sounded like, with no music performed, it was actually more fully rewarding than Ravinia's Sondheim 80th Birthday Celebration (which was sublime but ridiculously brief) or Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin in concert together doing a number of his songs and others'. The very best cabaret-style performance I saw in 2010 was An Evening with Sutton Foster, in which the Broadway star showcased tremendous range and charm.

Circus - Broadway in Chicago included two modern circus-type shows in my subscription packages this year, Fuerza Bruta and Traces. I really didn't care too much for either--despite a number of impressive acts--but will give a slight nod to Traces.


G1000 said...

Got to disagree with your placement of "Billy Elliot" at #1. While I loved it, Drury Lane's production of "Ragtime" just blew everything else on stage this year out of the water. I am looking forward to seeing them put on my favorite musical of all-time ("Sweeney Todd") this Summer, as well as "Gypsy" in the Winter. Should be great!

Seth Arkin said...

I remember loving Ragtime at DRO, but can't recall too many particulars. But it and Carousel at Light Opera Works were by far the best local musical productions.

Thanks for the tip on Sweeney; agree it should be a 'shear' delight.