Chicago Theatre Addict’s TOP TEN of 2010

Oh my goodness. I’m horrible at compiling these. Because I always forget something. Take for example last year’s list. I completely overlooked American Theatre Company’s fantastic production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which should have been, at least, among my top five. Whoopsie.

That said, lists are fun, and I hope I do better this year in capturing the highs (and lows) of 2010. I saw a lot of shows this year (I didn’t keep count, but I’m estimating more than 130), and I’ve blogged about each and every one.  Click on the play’s title to read my original review.

1) Ragtime | Drury Lane Oakbrook: After I saw Drury Lane Oakbrook’s heart-stopping production, I went back the very next weekend and took people with. I just had to share this experience. This was one of the most expertly-staged productions of a musical I’ve seen in Chicago, thanks to the amazing director, Rachel Rockwell.

Scenes from Drury Lane's "Ragtime."

2) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Still playing!) | Steppenwolf: Amy Morton and Tracy Letts are Steppenwolf superstars, and as Martha and George, they are giving bold new interpretations of Albee’s classic work.

3) Hephaestus | Silverguy Entertainment: I can’t recall a time in the theatre when I held my breath for what seemed like a solid minute. A truly thrilling production that blended daredevil acrobatic acts with a magical storyline.

4) August: Osage County | Broadway in Chicago: Why is this on my list when this Pulitzer Prize-winning play’s been around for a few years? Well, I finally caught the show in its remarkable national tour earlier this year, starring the formidable Estelle Parsons and an explosive Shannon Cochran. And, like Billy Elliot, the show more than lived up to the hype.

5) Fuerza Bruta | Broadway in Chicago: I just couldn’t get enough of this show — saw it three times. If standing on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre wasn’t cool enough, this immersive rave-party-meets-performance-art made for an unforgettable and interactive experience. And a perfect show for the humid Chicago summer, especially if you chose to dance in the on-stage rainstorm at the end.

6) Private Lives | Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: I’ve a soft spot for what I call “art deco theatre,” and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of this biting Noël Coward comedy was pitch-perfect. Not that I know the guy, but I’m going to be so bold as to say Sir Coward would be proud.

7) Frost/Nixon | Timeline Theatre: As David Frost and Richard Nixon, Andrew Carter and Terry Hamilton offered complex and deeply human portrayals of these historical figures. Their performances made you lean forward in your chair as you witnessed this compelling moment in history unfold.

8) Billy Elliot | Broadway in Chicago: This world-famous megamusical lived up to the hype. While a tad slow in spots, the show featured two amazing performances: the kid playing Billy (I saw Ceaser Corrales twice and J.P. Viernes once) and the fantastic Emily Skinner as his hard-boiled ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson.

9) The Seagull | Goodman Theatre: Robert Falls’ streamlined production focused on the actors and the audience. A bare stage, simple costumes and clear performances made this an accessible, fresh and compelling take on the Anton Chekhov classic.

10) Killer Joe | Profiles Theatre: Nearly forgot about this one because it feels like I saw this so long ago! However, this show was a critical and financial hit for Profiles for a reason — it was damn good.

The honorable mentions:

A few other shows that I stood out in my mind:

Inherit the Whole | Mortar Theatre Company: Dana Lynn Formby’s bold, new play made me sit up and take notice of this fledgeling company. While they had a stumble with Under America, I hope their second season kicks it in the ass.

State of the Union | Strawdog Theatre: A classy, classy production with a stellar cast, this study on maintaining political integrity in the face of a changing nation was both intriguing and entertaining.

Traces (Still playing!) | Broadway in Chicago: Heart-stopping action, an attractive cast and an ample dose of heart makes this hit a must see, and a great way to open the new Broadway Playhouse theatre.

Cats (Still playing!) | Theo Ubique: Credit must be given to choreographer-turned-director Brenda Didier, who does a mighty fine job reworking Gillian Lynne’s athletic original staging for Theo Ubique’s shoebox of a space. And thanks to a super talented cast, this show is a joy from start to finish.

Kid Sister (Still playing!) | Profiles Theatre: Disgusting, fascinating and gripping, Profiles’ latest effort keeps you at the edge of your seat.

The unfortunates:

As always, a host of shows were more than a chore to sit through. These included:

Les Enfants Terribles | Red Tape Theatre: This head-scratcher of a show did nothing but irritate me as I sweated my ass off in a nearly 100 degree theatre on a sweltering summer day. One of the most unbearable moments of my theatergoing lifetime.

Sex Marks the Spot | Stage 773: A crude farce that was neither funny nor clever. In fact, the “comedic bits,” including a near anal rape scene, were simply uncomfortable and made me feel bad for the hard-working cast.

Trust | Lookingglass Theatre: This felt like a PSA put onstage. A fine performance from Allison Torem (who’s starring in Kid Sister, listed above) almost saved this show. Almost.

EquusLudicrous Theatre Company: One of the most awkward performances I’ve ever seen in Chicago theatre by the gentleman playing Dr. Dysart bogged down an already overworked production.

So: what do you think? Do you agree with this list? See something amazing this year and what to call it out? Comment away!

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