And the Winners are...
With over 200 active theaters in Chicago and even more productions, picking the 10 best is a painstaking task and is always subjective. I can say of all of the shows I attended in Chicago this year, I did not see any that I felt were a total waste of time. Chicago truly has some of the best theater you will see anywhere.
Here are my picks...Drum roll, please...
1. Billy Elliot: The Musical.
2. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Expectations were set high for this Edward Albee blockbuster, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, way before its' opening at Steppenwolf Theatre. A great show, a spectacular cast with Tracy Letts as George and Amy Morton as Martha--but could it live up to the hype? It did and then some. Best of all, if you haven't seen it yet, you may still be able to score a ticket. Through February 13, 2011.
3. Streetcar Named Desire.
Writer's Theatre, a jewel of a theater, in Glencoe on Chicago's North Shore dazzled audiences and critics alike with their masterful production of Streetcar Named Desire directed by David Cromer.
TimeLine Theatre, recently named best Theatre Company of the Year, by the Wall St. Journal, always delivers. However, I was not looking forward to another Frost/Nixon after living through the real thing and seeing the movie. How foolish of me. I had doubts that anyone could master the Nixon role better than Frank Langella in the movie, I was wrong again. Terry Hamilton, cast as Nixon in TimeLine's production captured the Nixon persona to a "T". The entire show was uncommonly well-cast, staged and produced. I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the actual event. Well-done, TimeLine.
5. The Seagull.
The Seagull at the Goodman Theatre was a bit of a departure for director Robert Falls who has a tendency to use over the top design in his productions. This time he went back to Chekhov's original plan for the show with minimal staging and it worked beautifully. The cast shone through and the story ruled. Thank you, Goodman.
Sorry to keep repeating myself, but Steppenwolf Theatre is on a roll this year. Lisa D'Amour's Detroit at the Steppenwolf Theater broke new ground as it continued Steppenwolf's examination of the private and personal self and what happens when the door between the two spaces is opened. The play looked at our present day society--posing the question, "What has happened to the American Dream?" Then presented a brave, bold and successful exploration of life in a "first ring" suburb where the houses and people are starting to fall apart. The entire show and cast were outstanding with Laurie Metcalf as Mary--in a Jeff worthy performance.
An oldie but goodie, Light Opera Works production of Carousel was a standout and somewhat of a surprise hit. Demand was high and the run was short as Carousel had to make way for other productions. Natalie Ford as Julie Jordan was outstanding as was the entire cast, the staging, the acting, the singing and the music.
8. To Kill A Mockingbird.
Also, somewhat of a surprise hit--To Kill a Mockingbird was produced in Steppenwolf Theatre for Young Audiences series but became a "Best of 2010" for all-ages and one of the hottest tickets of the year.
Profiles took a chance with Deidre O'Connor's Jailbait, a disturbing topic, that had to be handled in just the right way. The story of two fifteen-year-old girls being hit upon by two thirty something men could have been trash for the sake of trash. Instead the production was sensitive, probing and even humorous. Kudo's to Profiles, director Joe Jahraus and the outstanding cast.
10. Peter Pan.
Not your mother's Peter Pan, the LookingGlass Theatre's Peter is darker, more playful, comic and soulful. There is also more action and interaction in this production. You can still catch this beautifully staged show, if you hurry. Through January 23, 2011. See video below to get a glimpse of the cast and their New Year's Resolutions.
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