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2018 had a lot of great theater, some so-so and some, terrible. Here is a look back at 2018. Let's begin, first, with the really good. Ferryman was the best thing I saw all year, that is saying something since this was a great year for both plays as well as musicals. Even though To Kill A Mockingbird was met with good reviews, I think it is a prime contender for many Tony Awards. Jeff Daniels and Celia Keenan-Bolger should easily be nominated for their rolls in Mockingbird. Waverly Gallery was also a great show. Eline May should be nominated for best actress in her roll as a women suffering from dementia. A Lifespan of a Fact, will, or should get a few Tony nominations, but Lifespan just wasn't in the league of the aforementioned. Lifespan never lived up to the hype. I personally liked it. It had three great actors in it and was very amusing, however, critics were lukewarm towards it.
King Kong was this years big Broadway disappointment. The staging and Book were way off the mark and left many in the audience wishing they were elsewhere. In what was much anticipated, Kong was a colossal bust, panned by almost every critic out there. Another much anticipated show, Head Over Heels was met with only a somewhat warm reception. Reviews did not help sales at the box office. Head had great music, but a terrible story behind it.
Off Broadway had many good shows. The Lion Theater alone had three very good plays. Beloved was very deep and entertaining. Pound, the story of Ezra Pound starring Christopher Lloyd was very good, as was the old classic, Gemini. At the Zoo, Edward Albee's play performed at Signature was fantastic. A great cast and direction made this a pleasant show to watch. Vonnegut's, Happy Birthday Wanda June made its way uptown from The Frankle to The Duke. June had a great cast and direction, as well as a great story behind it. Mummenschanz returned to John Jay College to a wide approval from the audience. This show has changed over the years, but is always delightful to see. Fool for Love at the Theater For The New City was a pleasant surprise. This show had a very good cast to complement this Shepard Classic. 4th Wall, A.R. Gurney's play was as funny and resonant as any Gurney play that you will see. Private Peaceful, may have been the best off Broadway show this year. A one-man show, superbly acted, with a great story, made this the most memorable show for me this season. A close second, Melissa Gilbert in My Brilliant Divorce was a funny, poignant, as well as vibrant play.
A Raisin in the Sun, Desperate Measures, as well as The Mufties at The York were all terrific shows. Desperate ended up moving from the York to World Stages. Even though I really loved the York's production, The World Stages production was still good. HRT's Raisin was unreal. The music, as well as the acting, was spectacular. The Wizard of Oz was not as good, but the HRT still put on a great production, nevertheless.
Shows that were fair include, Later Life, A.R. Gurney's play that has a great story behind it, however, the direction made this show fall flat. Miss You Like Hell and The Girl From the North County were fair at best. The Public did not have its best season this year. Still, The Public is the bench- mark for off Broadway theater. Steeped in tradition, The Public continues to push out works by new artists. Nebraska at Second Stages and The Stone Witch were big disappointments. Both shows had good stories; they both fell flat under the Direction. Log Cabin and Noura, both at the great Playwrights Horizon, had good direction, however, Noura was a little short on story as well as direction. Log Cabin was a good story and the directing was passable to make it a very watchable play.
Some of the hidden gems were Property and Unexpected Joy at the Clurman. They had great stories behind them, peppy directing and great movement amongst the characters. Daniel's Husband was fantastic all the way around. Good acting, directing, sets and lighting made Daniel a true joy. The Paper Mill Playhouse had two fantastic shows. The Sting was one of the best that I saw all year and should be coming to Broadway. If it does, I only hope that Harry Connick Jr will revise his role in the lead. Holiday Inn, too, was fantastic. While I was underwhelmed by A Color Purple, it was still somewhat enjoyable in the music. The show was lost in direction and spiraled wayward as a result.
Shows that were awful include Extreme Whether, Time Stands Still, Caligula, Thanksgiving, God Save Queen Pam, Frankenstein and Danny And The deep Blue Sea. While some were just bad, Extreme Whether at La MaMa was atrocious. A bad story, directing and most, not all of the actors, were terrible. Extreme Whether and Time Stands Still were the two worst I saw all year. As bad as Time was at the 13th St Theater is how good Before We're Gone was at the same 13th St Theater. Joe Batista directed a gem. Lenia Rideout gave a performance for the ages, much like Bolger did in Mockingbird.
With 2019 looking very promising with the early line-up that I have seen, we will see how the new year turns out on Broadway.