The Year In Theater

Theater Critic David Hurst picks his Top 10 for 2012!
December 21, 2012

(Clockwise from top left; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, One Man, Two Guvnors, A Christmas Story, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.)

Spanning two theater seasons, calendar year 2012 brought us a lot of great plays, both original works and revivals. But musicals of any stripe, with the exception of the invaluable Encores! Series, were in very short supply. Here’s our Top Ten for 2012:

1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Steppenwolf’s electrifying revival of Edward Albee’s masterpiece about the ultimate dysfunctional relationship is the best show of the year—hands down! Starring a revelatory Tracy Letts as George and Amy Morton as Martha, this Virginia Woolf is one for the ages.

2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Encores’ scintillating revival of this lighthearted romp by Jule Styne, Leo Robin, Anita Loos and Joseph Fields found the delicious and talented Megan Hilty stepping into the role of Lorelei Lee, proving once and for all she should be playing Marilyn Monroe instead of Katharine McPhee. This was the “smash” Smash wanted to be.

3. Tribes

Beautifully written by Nina Raine and sensitively directed by David Cromer, this heartbreaking play about a family coming to terms with their deaf son, Billy, became an Off-Broadway sensation that will continue to dazzle audiences through January.

4. One Man, Two Guvnors

The brilliantly funny James Corden deservedly took home the Best Actor Tony Award last season for Richard Bean’s hilarious adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s A Servant of Two Masters. A crackerjack of a comedy, One Man was the funniest show in decades.

5. The Mystery of Edwin Drood

A smashing delight of a revival, Roundabout’s energetic, rollicking take on Rupert Holmes’ adaptation of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel may be the only musical we’ll still be talking about next year when the Tonys are handed out. The cast is uniformly sensational, including musical theater goddess Chita Rivera.

6. 4000 Miles

A perfect production of a perfect play, Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles was a tour de force for the wonderful Mary Louise Wilson as a left-wing grandmother getting to know her troubled grandson, a terrific Gabriel Ebert.

7. The Piano Lesson

Better than the landmark original production, the Signature’s current revival of August Wilson’s Piano Lesson is a master class in acting. Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s sensitive direction reveals one shattering performance after another, led by Brandon Dirden as Boy Willie and the magnificent Roslyn Ruff as his sister, Berniece.

8. Death of a Salesman

Last season’s devastating revival of this Arthur Miller classic directed by Mike Nichols was a showcase for Philip Seymour Hoffman, Linda Emond, Andrew Garfield and Finn Wittrock. It’s a play that tears your heart out and gains in emotional heft and power with every passing year.

9. A Christmas Story

Miraculously, they did everything right in adapting this classic film about a boy who wants a Red Ryder BB Gun into a musical. With a pitch-perfect cast, led by Johnny Rabe, John Bolton, Erin Dilly and Dan Lauria, and a wonderful score by wunderkinds Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, this Christmas Story is a joyous delight you’ll love.

10. Merrily We Roll Along

It wouldn’t be a New York theater season without a Stephen Sondheim musical, so thank god for City Center Encores! for producing a terrific revival of one of his greatest scores, Merrily We Roll Along. Starring the handsome Colin Donnell, multitalented Lin-Manuel Miranda and Broadway darling Celia Keenan-Bolger, this Merrily brought new depth and substance to its long-troubled book. And, oh, that score!