Nancy Sasso Janis
- Connecticut Critic
- Connecticut Critics Circle
Connecticut - 2016 marks the fifth year that I have compiled an end-of-the-year top ten lists of the productions that I have seen during the calendar year. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the number of shows I can review in a year continues to grow. Last year I published 100 reviews; this year with 16 Equity productions, seven touring companies and two Broadway shows (‘Matilda’ and ‘Waitress,’) 34 productions with young performers, 32 community theatre musicals and 25 community theatre plays, the grand total was 116.
While that is certainly a large number of shows from which to choose, the four lists remain one person’s opinion of the best of area productions. There were many shows that I missed due to weather, personal commitments or car trouble. So take them for what they are worth.
This year I saw more university productions than usual and I hesitated to group them in with productions by students in grades pre-k through 12. Ultimately, because I did not review enough of any one age group to carve out a subset, I lumped all students together in a single category of ‘young performers,’ otherwise known as ‘up and coming talent.’
Click on the title to read the entire review of the show and see why it made this list.
Top Ten Plays of 2016
10. ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’ by the Warner Stage Company - This multi-aged cast worked so well together.
9. ‘New York’ by Community Theatre at Woodbury - A timely piece with a fine ensemble cast.
8. ‘Extremities’ by Backyard Theatre Company - This intense piece went to extremes in many ways.
7. ‘COPS’ by Phoenix Stage Company - Another intense play with plenty of grittiness to make it memorable.
6. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by Elm Shakespeare Company - This outdoor production in New Haven was a beautiful one.
5. ‘Eleemosynary’ at Warner Theatre - A unique piece that was a fundraiser for the WCTAE in Torrington and featured their director Isabel Carrington in a pivotal role.
4. ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Landmark Community Theatre and Backyard Theatre Ensemble - This collaboration made its mark on the Thomaston Opera House stage.
3. ‘The Santaland Diaries’ by Castle Craig Players - Ian Galligan brought the snarky elf to life in this one-man show at three different venues.
2. ‘The Cover of Life’ by Phoenix Stage Company - A most memorable dramatic production with strong women by the PSC in Oakville.
1. ‘Macbeth’ by Phoenix Stage Company - Strong performances and stage combat made for a great Shakespearian production at the PSC.
Top Ten Musicals of 2016
10. ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ by Musicals at Richter - A rainbow of color made this a fun show under the stars in Danbury.
9. ‘Sister Act’ by Landmark Community Theatre - The cheerful nuns took to the stage of the Thomaston Opera House under the direction of Broadway’s Marissa Perry.
8. ‘Once on This Island’ by Connecticut Theatre Company - This was a beautiful production at the CTC in New Britain.
7. ‘My Fair Lady’ by Connecticut Theatre Company - The leads could not have been stronger and then there was Chuck Stango in a featured role.
6. ‘A Man of No Importance’ by Phoenix Stage Company - Ed Bassett led a wonderful cast in what will probably be the final musical at the PSC.
5. ‘A Christmas Carol’ by NewArts - The first winter production by the NewArts arm of the 1214 Foundation was a fine holiday treat in Newtown.
4. ‘[title of show]’ at TheatreWorks New Milford - I loved this little musical with a talented cast of four.
3. ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’ by Warner Stage Company - A wonderfully big production of the Disney classic on the massive Warner stage.
2. ‘Rock of Ages’ by Warner Stage Company - This return to the eighties was so much fun for all generations.
1. ‘Seussical’ by Warner Stage Company - A super-colorful production of one of my favorite musicals with some of the best of community theatre talent.
Runner ups: ‘Spitfire Grill’ by Community Theatre at Woodbury, ‘The Who’s Tommy’ at The Arts at Angeloria’s, ‘Billy Elliot’ by Landmark, ‘Gypsy’ by Two Planks,and ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ by Warner Stage Company
Professional Regional Theatrical Productions
10. ‘Saturday Night Fever’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre - Another bright dance-filled musical at WBT
9. ‘Queens for a Year’ at Hartford Stage - The dramatic play was very impressive and impactful.
8. ‘A Christmas Carol A Ghost Tale of Christmas’ at Hartford Stage - This annual classic featured Bill Raymond for his final time.
7. ‘Burning Desire’ at Seven Angels Theatre - Lou Diamond Phillips played the devil in this 7A production in Waterbury.
6. ‘Legally Blonde’ at Seven Angels Theatre - “Omigod You Guys” Lawson Young was a great Elle Woods and WATR’s Tom Chute got to be Callahan.
5. ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ at Sharon Playhouse - The cast of four worked really hard on the Sharon Playhouse stage two near the New York border.
4. ‘Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ at Sharon Playhouse - A very big show that filled the main stage in Sharon.
3. ‘Gypsy’ at Sharon Playhouse - The performance of Karen Ziemba made this production memorable.
2. ‘He Wrote Good Songs’ at Seven Angels Theatre - Jon Peterson as Anthony Newley was a pro in this one-man show.
1. ‘Anastasia’ at Hartford Stage - I loved seeing this big production in Hartford before it hits Broadway.
1. ‘Wicked’ OF COURSE!
Productions by Young Performers
10. ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ by Western CT State University Opera - This hour-long opera that is an annual tradition at WCSU was the perfect introduction to the genre for young and old alike.
9. ‘Godspell’ by Naugatuck Teen Theatre - The teens with NTT brought a most joyous production to the St. Michael’s stage under the direction of Matt Cornish.
8. TIE Both of these college-level productions were effectively done.
‘Chicago’ by Post University Players directed by Bob Tansley
‘Cabaret’ by Naugatuck Valley Community College directed by Burton Tedesco
7. ‘Tick, tick...BOOM’ at Sacred Heart University - I loved this early work by Jonathan Larson, the composer of ‘Rent,’ at my alma mater.
6. ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’ by Blessed Sacrament Children’s Theatre - The two casts of kids under the direction of Bob Tansley always make their mark and this year was no exception. Even better was seeing their director onstage as Maurice.
5. ‘Into the Woods’ by Amity Creative Theatre - The high school students at Amity always set the bar high and this was fine production.
4. ‘School of Rock’ by NewArts - The talented young people of Newtown worked with the NewArts side of the 1214 Foundation for a spectacular CT debut of this new musical.
3. ‘Grand Hotel’ at Waterbury Arts Magnet School - The WAMS students took on a challenging musical and presented a finely tuned version on the Waterbury’s Palace Theater stage.
2. ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ at Western CT State University - The WCSU students took on the colorful roles in this cheeky old-fashioned musical.
1. ‘King Lear’ at Connecticut Repertory Theatre at UConn - I was blown away by the talented UConn theatre students that comprised almost all of this cast.
Pictured: ‘King Lear’ at Connecticut Repertory Theatre at UConn (Gerry Goodstein/Connecticut Repertory Theatre)