We discussed, voted, re-discussed and re-voted—and finally the Broadway.com editorial staff agreed on our top five shows of 2011. Take a look at our favorites of the year below.
1. The Book of Mormon
Sacrilege and sanctity (and a generous helping of potty-mouth humor) blend seamlessly in this show that markets itself as “God’s favorite musical.” With a bursting box office and boatloads of awards, who can argue? Goofing on everything from buttoned-up Mormons to AIDS-riddled Africa takes chutzpah, which is something South Park duo Trey Parker and Matt Stone have in spades. Add in theatrical know-how from co-creator Robert Lopez and co-director Casey Nicholaw, and you get the holy grail of Broadway: a musical comedy that is actually funny. Plus, it has heart. Consider us converted…we believe!
2. Other Desert Cities
Playwright Jon Robin Baitz clearly knows that unhappy families getting along miserably makes for unbearable holiday dinners but fascinating drama. In this smart and searing work, the scribe shows off his knack for witty zingers, but also digs deeper for a meticulously painted portrait of Reagan contemporaries welcoming their troubled adult children home to Palm Springs only to end up grappling with a long-held secret brought to light. An accomplished quintet of actors, led by Stockard Channing and Rachel Griffiths, beautifully balance the delicate family dynamics.
3. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
First things first: Yes, Harry Potter (a.k.a. the dashing Daniel Radcliffe) can sing and dance, and he does so with aplomb. But what really takes center stage in director/choreographer Rob Ashford’s winning revival is the obvious affection for the material. With the effortlessly charming Radcliffe at the center, everyone from Tony winner John Larroquette to sweet ingénue Rose Hemingway to dizzy comic genius Tammy Blanchard shines. Corporate ladder-climbing has never been so entertaining as it is in this toe-tapping tale of a young window-washer dreaming of nabbing the corner office.
There’s a white-hot anger burning at the heart of the latest revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical about a group of former Follies girls reuniting one last time. Yes, the show—with its dazzling array of showstoppers—still features a bittersweet mixture of showbiz nostalgia and haunting heartbreak, but this production also gets at the fury of aging, whether you get what you think you want or not. Incredible stars Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines act, sing and commit wholly to a production that will stay with us for years to come.
Alan Rickman as an embittered writing teacher with a knack for devastating put-downs? Yes, please! Theresa Rebeck’s bitchy and biting new comedy about a bunch of aspiring novelists desperate for affirmation from their egocentric instructor zips along with acid wit and a barely concealed contempt for writing workshops, literary lions and ambitious youth. It may not have the spectacle of War Horse, the punch of The Motherf**ker With the Hat or the grandiosity of Jerusalem, but for our money, Seminar is one hell of a fun night at the theater.