2018 was undeniably the best year of theatre for me personally. Through out the past year I rebranded my old website Coffee Talk with Brett to be simply Brett Talk. I started taking reviewing more seriously and saw more shows in 2018 than I did any other year. This pas year I saw roughly 55 shows which ranged from musicals, plays, new works and even a few from New York on Broadway. Since I saw so many, I wanted to take the time to recap a few of my favorite shows and memorable moments.
Best Play - Indecent at the Guthrie Theater
This year I was introduced to a lot of new plays. Typically I gear more towards musicals because I just enjoy them a bit more but I was happy to be introduced to so many new plays that I hadn’t seen before. My pick for Best Play that I saw was Indecent at the Guthrie Theater. I’m rarely speechless about theatre when the curtain falls. After seeing a production I immediately want to talk about it with friends and write about my experience. I sat in the audience for a few minutes before leaving just so I could absorb everything I witnessed. This script was so beautifully written about the intersection of family, religion and love. The dialogue and relationships that Paula Vogel created about another playwrights work was beyond masterful. When I originally wrote about it I stated that it was “the most important piece of theater I’ve ever seen” and I still stand by that. The story was gripping, the characters were alive and I felt every piece of emotion that they conveyed to the audience. Indecent is the epitome example of how art can start a revolution and also save lives.
best play Runner Up - Hand to God at the Jungle Theater
The quality of productions at the Jungle Theater are incredible and Hand to God is by far my favorite thing I’ve seen there. If I gave out a mention for a show that made me laugh the hardest, it would also go to this one. The show was not only full of cackling from me but also the entire audience. The reason why I picked this as a Best Play Runner Up is because of the sheer skill and talent of leading actor Riley O’Toole. His comedic timing and ability to not only play one character but also embody the puppet Tyrone was brilliant and resembled a young Robin Williams.
Memorable Productions - Hello, Dolly! on broadway
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a variety of Broadway shows this year —seven to be specific. While all of these were absolutely divine, their was only one that take the spot of most Memorable Production and that was Hello, Dolly! with Bette Midler herself. You always read about Broadway shows having amazing celebrities and Broadway legends in their casts and always wishing to see them in person. I was finally able to do that and Midler made the trip worth it. Midler never once drops the speed and attention that part requires whether she’s bouncing from actor to actor, gallivanting across the stage with a group of chorus boys or even singing with a single spotlight.
Best Musical - Mamma Mia at the Ordway
While I see the importance of both in the world of theatre, musicals will always be my true love. The lights, the music, the dancing and of course suspending disbelief for a few hours. Picking top musicals from this past year was extremely hard because of the the sheer skill that many of these companies created. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts has made quite the impact in the theatre scene in the Twin Cities specifically with their Ordway Original productions. While it was hard to pick one, I finally was able to come to an agreement with myself that the Best Musical was Mamma Mia. A majority of the cast was local which was great to see and reminded everyone how rich in talent we are. The singing was supurb, the dancing easily takes the cake for best choreography this year and the comedic timing between Erin Schwab and Ann Michels was divine. This show was nothing short of beyond entertaining. Beside the incredible production that this was, the show itself has a special meaning to me. I grew up listening to ABBA thanks to my wonderful parents. My mom and I are very close so it was very fun to be able to witness it with her.
Best Musical Runner Up - West Side story at the Guthrie Theater
It was a bit of a shock when the Guthrie announced they would be producing West Side Story because the previous season the Ordway had just done it as one of their Ordway Originals. While I’m not going to compare the two, I will say that this production really spoke to me which is why I have it as the Best Musical Runner Up. Casting of course was phenomenal with impeccable dancing however it was what Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj said in the program that was my “Ah-ha!” moment. In the script, one of the first stage directions appears when the Jets enter. It states that they are “an anthology of what it means to be ‘American.’” Never do they say the Jets have to be white. While this is such a small feature, it’s incredible that he used it as an outline of everything this production. Special shout out as well to Ana Isabelle who was by far the best Anita I’ve ever seen.
Memorable Productions - Hamilton: An American Musical
Another memorable production I got to see this year was, of course, the incomparable Hamilton: An American Musical. Where do you even begin this with multi-winning production? It’s one of the biggest cultural phenomena in the last decade and the tour finally made its way to the Twin Cities. We hear the word "“innovative” a lot and it’s really become watered down however this show is the epitome of innovation. It’s exciting, different, unique and brilliant. Just like a cannon going through a window during the Revolutionary War, this show shattered every expectation I had.