Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Best of 2016: The Best Musicals I Saw Onstage (with a Hamiltonian caveat)

As I wrote upon seeing Hamilton for the first--and for now, only, though I'm also ticketed for March--time, in October:

"So yes, I have become a full-fledged Hamilton acolyte, don't think any of the hype is overstated--even if the ticketing frenzy and aftermarket pricing seems over-the-top--and, without having seen the show on Broadway, found the Chicago rendition completely sublime, with the only possible diminution being a few instances of vocal timbres not quite equaling those on the original cast recording."

But though I think it can be counted among the best musicals ever created, so too can Cabaret, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Evita, The Producers, Man of La Mancha, Company and Spring Awakening, all of which I saw stellar productions of in 2016.

Certainly, my rankings of the best live musicals I saw this year are based not only on the source material, but the quality of the productions I witnessed. And given that Hamilton isn't just playing Chicago on a National Tour but staying in the Windy City conceivably for years on end (as a "sit-down" production), it has been lavishly staged at full-tilt.

Which is my way of explaining the top of my list below--not that it should come as much of a surprise--even if I still may consider other musicals "better" than Hamilton, including ones I saw in pretty resplendent fashion over the past 12 months.

All told, I saw 31 live musicals, and at least in terms of professional productions, I enjoyed all of them. Including those that didn't quite make the cut here, such as Finding Neverland, The SpongeBob Musical, Bullets Over Broadway, 42nd Street and Heathers: The Musical. But the following were:

The Best Musicals I Saw On Stage in 2016:
(Note: My rankings are based on my enjoyment of the particular productions, but blend in the quality of the source material as well. All theaters in Chicago proper unless noted; in some cases the theatrical company is cited rather than venue. New shows are denoted with an *)

1. Hamilton* - The PrivateBank Theatre  
(my review)
2. Cabaret - The PrivateBank Theatre  
(my review)
3. Company - Writers Theatre, Glencoe  
(my review)
4. Come From Away* - Ford's Theatre, Washington, DC (brief review within this piece)
5. The Sound of Music - Cadillac Palace (my review)
6. Man of La Mancha - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)
7. In the Heights - Porchlight Theatre 
(my review)
8. The Producers - Mercury Theatre  
(my review)
9. Matilda - Oriental Theatre (my review)
10. West Side Story - Paramount Theatre, Aurora (my review)
11. Far From Heaven* - Porchlight Theatre (my review)

Honorable Mention
In preference order

Fun Home* - Oriental Theatre(my review)
Wonderful Town - Goodman Theatre (my review)
Sister Act - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)
Spring Awakening - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)
War Paint* - Goodman Theatre (my review)
Bat Boy - The Den Theatre (my review)
The King and I - Lyric Opera (my review)
Hazel*- Drury Lane Oakbrook(my review)
Mary Poppins - NightBlue (my review)
Evita - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review)

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