My Best of Connecticut Theatre in 2015
Nancy Sasso Janis
This is the fourth year that I have compiled my end-of-year top ten lists of the productions that I have seen during the calendar year, and every year it has gotten harder to do.
I have always only included shows that I have seen in their entirety in my rankings. During 2105 I missed a few big shows due to “mom taxi duty” for a young actor with shows that conflicted with every performance of the shows I wanted to review. While I did not attend every one of his performances, traveling too far from home would mean that I would not be back in time to pick him up after his curtain fell. Many high school shows chose the exact same weekend for their performances, and I just could not fit them all into my calendar, no matter how much I wanted to see them all.
New this year is an additional category which I called “professional regional productions.” Because I attended 19 shows that were touring company productions or Connecticut (and one upstate New York) Equity plays and musicals, I felt comfortable adding this ranking. This means that the top ten plays and top ten musicals are limited to community theatre works, of which I enjoyed 19 plays and 25 musicals in 2015. Add to these the 34 productions presented by young actors and I managed to review a grand total of 97 shows this year; with the three Broadway shows that I was thrilled to see in NYC (‘Aladdin,’ ‘Something Rotten,’ and ‘Spring Awakening’) the grand total is a nice round 100.
So here are what I felt were the best productions that I had the pleasure of attending during 2015. Click on the title to read my review of the show.
Top Ten Plays 2015
10. ‘The 39 Steps’ by Warner Stage Company - Madcap and very funny, the four actors stepped a lot more than 39 times in this one.
9. ‘Time Stands Still’ by TheatreWorks - Well-drawn characters portrayed by four strong actors made this play a memorable one.
8. ‘Gidion’s Knot’ by Backyard Theatre Company - Two community theatre actors brought to life a teacher and a bereaved mother in this challenging play set in a classroom.
7. ‘Greetings!’ by Goshen Players - I appreciated this heartwarming and thought-provoking piece with a spiritual theme.
6. ‘Masterclass’ by Phoenix Stage Company - Marilyn Olsen embodied the diva Maria Callas in this brief run at the beginning of 2015 at Phoenix Stage Company’s former location in Naugatuck.
5. ‘Deathtrap’ by Two Planks Theater Company - This scary comedic thriller presented by the Monroe-based Two Planks made me both laugh and jump.
4. ‘Noises Off’ by Connecticut Theatre Company - Chris Kulman directed this hysterical romp that featured Chuck Stango as the director of the farce within a farce.
3. ‘Steel Magnolias’ by The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts - A wonderful ensemble of strong females made for a memorable trip to Truvy’s salon.
2. ‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol’ by Phoenix Stage Company - I remembered this holiday play as the best of season.
and 1. ’Souvenir’ at Theatreworks New Milford - I cannot forget this lovely and very funny piece that was a showcase for the talents of Priscilla Squires as Madame Flo and Greg Chrzszon as her ever-loyal accompanist.
Top Ten Musicals 2015
10. ‘Christmas Eve at Earlene’s Diner’ at Seven Angels Theatre - I saw this one twice and couldn’t stop laughing at the antics of Earlene (the fabulous Michelle Gotay) and the patrons of her diner.
7. ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Landmark Community Theatre - Dan Beaudion brought down the house as the nervous crab Sebastian in a Little Mermaid that featured a cast that included a boatload of talent.
6. ‘Next to Normal’ by Two Planks Theatre Company - A stellar cast sang the soaring score that narrates the journey of Diana and her family at the Monroe-based theatre company.
5. ‘Assassins’ The Musical by Warner Stage Company - I liked everything about this seldom-produced Sondheim piece that included so many community theatre celebrities.
4. ‘Memphis’ by Landmark Community Theatre - This was an outstanding production of a superb musical directed by Foster Evans Reese that I did not want to end.
3. ‘The Addams Family’ by Warner Stage Company - Patrons could not believe that this musical was a community theatre production that was also directed by Foster Evans Reese.
2. ‘Chicago’ by Landmark Community Theatre - An amazing production of the classic musical featured an outstanding cast that was directed by Foster Evans Reese.
and 1. ‘Green Day’s American Idiot’ by Warner Stage Company - The most memorable musical of the year that I can’t wait to see again.
Runner ups: ‘Mary Poppins’ by Artful Living, ‘The 1940’s Radio Hour’ by Landmark Community Theatre, ‘One Night with Fanny Brice’ by Phoenix Stage Company, and ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ by Warner Stage Company
Professional Regional Theatrical Productions 2105
10. ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ at Sharon Playhouse
9. ‘42nd Street’ tour at the Palace Theater
8. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Sharon Playhouse
7. ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’ tour at the Palace Theater
6. ‘Footloose’ at Seven Angels Theatre
5. ‘White Christmas’ tour at the Palace Theater
4. ‘La Cage aux Folles’ at Goodspeed Musicals
3. ‘Godspell’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre
2. ‘West Side Story’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre
and 1.’The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Seven Angels Theatre
Productions by Young Performers
10. ‘West Side Story’ by Young People’s Center for Creative Arts - The choreography was a highlight of this teen production in Durham.
9. ‘I, Don Quixote’ at Waterbury Arts Magnet School (WAMS) - The students took on this non-musical play with lots of double roles and a little added music.
8. ‘The Wedding Singer’ by Landmark Community Theatre - Connor Dunn led the cast of talented teens is this fun musical.
7. ‘Guys and Dolls’ by Naugatuck Teen Theater - Marissa Perry directed area teens in a wonderful production of the musical fable of Broadway.
6. ‘Hairspray’ at The Taft School - In the year of ‘Hairspray,’ Taft teens for all over the world came together to pull off a great one.
5. ‘Dead Revolting’ at WAMS - This original musical was a collaboration by a WAMS teacher and two students that featured zombies; I was very impressed with all of it.
4. ‘Yes, Virginia’ at WAMS - Yes, this cute musical could not have been more adorable; the students in Nina Smith’s theater class worked together to pull it off.
3. ‘Seussical’ by Blessed Sacrament Children’s Theatre - The two casts of this colorful musical gave it their all and I loved it.
2. ‘The Lion King, Jr.’ by NewArts Newtown Musicals - 1214 Foundation presented a beautiful production of this magical musical with Newtown area students.
and 1. ‘Tarzan The Musical’ at Amity High School - I wrote in my review that this would be one of the best productions I would see in 2015 and it was.
Runner ups: ‘Liberty Smith’ by NewArts Newtown Musicals, ‘Dogfight’ by WTCAE, ‘Urinetown’ by GetUp, ‘Hairspray’ by Newbury Musical Theatre Company and Naugatuck Valley Community College, ‘Once on This Island’ at Wolcott High School, and ‘Leader of the Pack’ at Watertown High School.
Pictured: The Warner Theatre Presents: Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT. Photos by Luke Haughwout ©2015