Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Best of 2019: The Best Musicals I Saw Onstage

Unlike my recent Best of the Decade list of favorite musicals, this one is not exclusive to newly-created shows.

Although I did see a few brand new works that had some nice moments, I didn't get to New York this year and have not seen Hadestown, the latest Tony winner.

And, as opposed to several years, Broadway in Chicago's slate of musicals didn't include any pre-Broadway tryouts.

So it's been a rather lean year for me in terms of "new" musicals, but as a yearly category I've always used this one to celebrate the best musicals of any vintage or level I saw over the previous 12 months.

Any show making my list was quite good and especially in terms of older musicals, I'm really gauging the productions as much as the source material, though the two obviously blend together in terms of my enjoyment.

I believe my Top 6 musicals below were shows I awarded @@@@@ (out of 5) when I posted a review to Seth Saith.

So not a lot separates them, and in terms of rankings, I do give a bit of weight to recent shows, just to celebrate the freshness of something newly terrific.

Nearby is a graphic showing all 25 musicals I saw onstage in 2019, and quite honestly, I enjoyed them all.

Some were better than others, but there was really nothing I didn't like.

Not included for consideration here are several shows I more consider--and were generally marketed as--"plays with music," rather than outright musicals. It's not an easy delineation, especially as some of these were about Nina Simone, The Ramones, Ma Rainey and Cambodian rock music.

But I will soon be doing a post of My Favorite Plays of 2019, and will provide citation there for shows meriting it.

Also not eligible here, but perhaps of note to some, are concerts by Hugh Jackman and Barbra Streisand, which included considerable Broadway music. 

But for whatever it's worth, and however unscientifically determined, here are my picks of:

The Best Musicals I Saw On Stage in 2019:
(Note: 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. Dear Evan Hansen - Nederlander Theatre / Broadway in Chicago (my review)

2. Come From Away Cadillac Palace / Broadway in Chicago (my review) 
3. Les MiserablesCadillac Palace / Broadway in Chicago (my review)

4. The Producers - Paramount Theatre, Aurora (my review)

5. West Side Story - Lyric Opera of Chicago (my review)

6. Into the Woods - Writers Theatre, Glencoe (my review)

7. Bright Star - BoHo Theatre (my review) 

8. A Chorus Line - Porchlight Music Theatre (my review)

9. The Music Man - Goodman Theatre (my review)

10. Next to Normal - Writers Theatre, Glencoe (my review)

11. The Band's Visit - Cadillac Palace / Broadway in Chicago (my review)

Honorable Mention
In preference order

- Oliver - Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (my review) 
- The Simon & Garfunkel Story - Broadway Playhouse / Broadway in Chicago (my review)
- The Light in the Piazza - Lyric Opera of Chicago (my review)
- Matilda - Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace (my review)
- A Bronx Tale - Nederlander Theatre / Broadway in Chicago (my review)
- Head Over Heels - Kokandy Productions / Theater Wit (my review)
You Can't Fake the Funk Black Ensemble Theater (my review)
Falsettos- Nederlander Theatre / Broadway in Chicago (my review)

-- If re-posting lists or highlighting selections, please attribute to: Seth Arkin on

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