Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Looking Back at 2017: A Random List of Theater Bests

2017 may have been a decidedly lousy year in the world, but the theater was still pretty good.

SO many programs.

I saw 119 shows in 2017, which includes:
- 14 Twin Cities Horror Fest shows
- 10 Minnesota Fringe shows,
- 9 out of town shows (Chicago and Spring Green)
- 7 operas
- 4 shows I liked so much I saw them twice
- 2 podcast tapings
- 1 Hamilton
AND ...
- 0 shows that I left at intermission! Go theater!

As I was working on my nomination list for the Twin Cities Theater Blogger awards (coming soon to an internet near you), a few shows, theaters and themes really stood out for me. Here's my decidedly random and wildly adjective-heavy list of bests.

Meghan Kreidler and NINJAS.
Photo by Rich Ryan
Best Show, Hands Down:
Vietgone at Mixed Blood Theatre - Staggeringly talented cast, gorgeously written play, practically perfect production.
Runner-up: Lone Star Spirits at the Jungle

Best Musical:
Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ordway - Randy Schmeling and Jesse Nager kicking ass and reminding me how much I used to love this show.
Runner-up: Man of La Mancha at Theater Latte Da

Best Site-Specific:
Don Giovanni - Skylark Opera Theatre at the Minnesota Woman's Club - Not just wonderfully performed and sung, but conceived to fit the Minnesota Woman's Club perfectly.
Runner-up: Maria de Buenos Aires by Mill City Summer Opera at the Machine Shop.

Eep. Intuition and the Mantis at TCHF
Photo by Dan Norman (maybe?)
Best Theater Festival: 
Twin Cities Horror Festival - For reasons I enumerate extensively in the linked post. Also, it's always Halloween in my soul.
Runner-up: Minnesota Fringe - What else?

Most Surprisingly Good Local Production of a Show I Loved in London: 
One Man, Two Guv'nors at Yellow Tree Theatre - The entire cast and production was fantastic, and I will never forget Ryan Lear's unexpected saxophone solo.
Runner-up: Yeah, just the one on that.

Best One-Person Show: 
Fadeaway Girl by Raw Sugar - Rachel Petrie's amazing show that explores her struggles with bipolar disorder with candor and humor.
Runner-up: Rev. Matt's Monster Science Trilogy of Terror at the Twin Cities Horror Festival

Blackout Improv
Photo from the MN Fringe Festival
Show That Made Me Laugh in a Most Undignified Fashion:
Blackout Improv at Minnesota Fringe - Blackout Improv is everything. It is ALL the things. Go see them, now monthly at Mixed Blood.
Runner-up: Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant: A New Musical at Minnesota Fringe

Most Heartrending Play: 
Intimate Apparel at Ten Thousand Things - Wonderful play and an utterly fantastic cast (including Aimee K. Bryant, Darius Dotch, and Kris Nelson) that will Break. Your. Heart.
Runner-up: Facility by Imagined Theatre at Sabes JCC

Kimberly Richardson in The Red Shoes
Photo by Ron Ravensborg
Amazing New Work: 
The Red Shoes at Open Eye Figure Theatre - Featured inventive stagecraft, truly astonishing moments and a fantastic performance by Kimberly Richardson--and it's coming back in 2018! Yay!
Runners-up: The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox by Winding Sheet Outfit at Sabes JCC and The Nether at Jungle

Best Use of Movement on Stage: 
How to Use a Knife at Mixed Blood - Not only a compelling play with a wonderful cast, but the depiction of a working kitchen was STUNNING.
Runner-up: The Rink at Daleko Arts

Favorite New Theater Space: 
Gremlin Theatre. I mean, COME ON. It has a taproom in the same building! Mmm, Lake Monster!
Runners-up: The Crane Theater, North Garden Theater, Strike Theater

Theater Company That is CRUSHING it: 
Mixed Blood Theatre - Not only did they produce Vietgone, How to Use a Knife, and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, they also have the Radical Hospitality program, accessibility initiatives for days, and host a monthly performance by Blackout Improv. I mean, dang.

I'm SO looking forward to another amazing year of theater. My deepest, heartfeltest thanks to all of the talented and dedicated theater artists who give their time, energy and creativity to making Minnesota an amazing place to live and love theater.


As much amazing theater that I saw this year, there is so much more that I didn't see. Check out my fellow theater bloggers' best of posts, with much love for the equally deserving Penumbra Theatre (Girl Shakes Loose, Wedding Band) and fabulous theater trends like new works, new theaters and continuing conversations about issues like diversity and representation.

Cherry and Spoon's My 2017 #TCTheater Favorites

Play Off The Page's A Theater Year in Review, 2017