It was a big year for musicals -- and next year is likely to be even more so with Hamilton arriving to flourish his cape at the Forrest Theatre Aug. 27 to Nov. 17. But as we look back at Philly’s best theater of 2018, let’s start with the plays our Inquirer and Daily News reviewers thought were this year’s best. Following those are our song-and-dance winners.
Toby Zinman praises the Wilma Theater’s “brilliant” Kill Move Paradise, written by “our local treasure, James Ijames.”
Julia M. Klein liked the People’s Light production of Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew “for its ensemble work and Morisseau’s poetic street patois.” And she tapped the InterAct Theatre Company’s Human Rites, Seth Rozin’s “crafty and invigorating” examination of clashing cultural perspectives.
Klein also liked the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s “stirring, visually lush, and politically relevant” revival of Ragtime.
Hugh Hunter says Pennsylvania Shakespeare’s repertory shows of Shakespeare in Love and Richard II were his favorite shows all year, “a haunting mix of comedy and tragedy with Harry Potter actor Christian Coulson in star roles.”
Hunter also praises Kash Goins’ “intensely immersive criticism of for-profit prisons” in V to X at the Arden, with Monroe Barrick in the star role, the “sparkling” Next to Normal under director Geoffrey Goldberg at the Media Theatre, and Quintessence Theatre’s Waiting for Godot, “a fabulous revival."
Jim Rutter’s top pick was Azuka Theatre’s Mrs. Harrison, R. Eric Thomas’ “75-minute pressure cooker of race and wounded pasts. The more our county fractures, the more this play will matter.”
And now, the musicals
Brandon T. Harden’s favorite is The Color Purple: An American Musical, through Dec. 23 at Theatre Horizon in Norristown, a “fiery, original” production.
Hunter says superb high-tech effects elevated Little Women: The Musical at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton.
Zinman liked the Arden Theatre production of Fun Home, “with an especially moving, quiet, subtle performance by Mary Tuomanen.”
Klein agrees, adding that she enjoyed the Arden’s “intimate, immersive” Once more than the Broadway version.
Two we liked on Broadway
Of the many shows Zinman saw on Broadway, she says two stand out.
The first is Three Tall Women by Edward Albee, “a deeply interesting drama exploring a woman’s psyche, with a towering performance by Glenda Jackson.” (I second that emotion: That show stood head and shoulders above everything I saw on Broadway this year.)
Zinman also praises My Fair Lady, still on stage at Lincoln Center, “with all the gorgeous songs that make you feel you could dance all night.”