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My Favourite Theatre of 2014

For the last few years, my Top Ten has been listed in alphabetical order because I see no point struggling any further with ranking art. This year, more than most, any show in my Top Ten could have been my absolute favourite – and they probably were, until I saw the next one in the list.

I saw shows in Melbourne, Sydney and New York this year. I feel very privileged to have seen amazing theatre in all three cities; there are shows from all three places in the list. And I will never forget any of them.

THE TOP TEN

Bernadette Peters – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne


How to describe seeing one of the great Broadway leading ladies from the front row of Her Majesty’s Theatre? Singing some of the most iconic songs of her repertoire, from some of my favourite shows? Making eye contact with me and talking directly to me at one point? Magical.


Cabaret - Broadway
Sam Mendes’ and Rob Marshall’s iconic production of this absolute classic musical has been revived yet again, because every once and a while people need to see Alan Cumming as the Emcee – a role he’s be returning to for twenty years. Seeing the show at Studio 54 in the “Kit Kat Club” cabaret seating was amazing.

Calpurnia Descending – Sisters Grimm, Malthouse
Sisters Grimm’s ode to screen divas and Hollywood bitchery was a next evolution in their development as one of the most exciting theatre companies in Australia. Ash Flanders and Paul Capsis were captivating. The whole show was mind-blowing

The City They Burned – Attic Erratic, Melbourne Fringe

Attic Erratic have been making great theatre for a number of years now – and their production of Fleur Kilpatrick’s The City They Burned, developed closely with director Danny Delahunty, will be talked about for years. Act one’s immersion was powerful. Act two’s intimacy was blistering.

Frankenstein – The Rabble, Malthouse

The Rabble continue to make theatre that is challenging, thought-provoking and troubling. Visually stunning with a sound design that was unnerving, to put it mildly, it also contained one of the most commited performances I’ve ever seen: Jane Montgomery Griffiths as the Creature.


The Glass Menagerie - Belvoir

I saw The Glass Menagerie at MTC a few years ago and Daniel Schlusser’s adaptation/homage, Menagerie, at Neon last year. Eamon Flack’s production at Belvoir this year prompted me to say that I never need to see the show again – because this version was perfection. Every element working in concert with every other like clockwork, and getting to the very heart of Tennessee William’s stunning work.

The Government Inspector - Malthouse

Out of adversity (a cancelled production of The Philadelphia Story) comes a triumphant show about that adversity – one of the most ingeniously theatrical shows the incredible Simon Stone has ever put together. And what a cast!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Broadway

I am a big fan of the film version, but at never seen Hedwig on stage. Nothing could have prepared me for Neil Patrick Harris’s Hedwig on a Broadway stage. So much energy. So much rage. So many sequins. Such wigs. And there’s really nothing to compare to seeing two Tony-award winning performances (Harris along with Lena Hall) the very week they took home their trophies.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill - Broadway

Speaking of award-winning performances, Audra MacDonald won an unprecedented sixth Tony award for her work as Billie Holiday. If she’d never won a Tony before this show, she would have deserved six awards for this show alone. Audra was Billie. That show put us in that bar and grill in 1959. I have no more words.



Sleep No More – Punchdrunk, New York

I wrote about Sleep No More last week, as an answer to the question “What should I see when I’m in New York?” I love immersive theatre and this feels like the pinnacle; five levels of hotel in which to explore, stare, watch, read and interact. To have shared moments with a dozen audience members and a large ensemble of actors; to intimate one-on-one moments with an actor in a phone booth. And you would never see the same show twice. Stunning.

THE NEXT TEN


Green Screen – Sans Hotel, NEON Festival, Melbourne Theatre Company

Nicola Gunn’s meditation on creativity that was built and destroyed in front of our eyes.


Heathers: The Musical – Off-Broadway

No one is more surprised than me that one of my favourite films actually works on stage.

Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday - Malthouse

This show made me smile so much. Verbatim theatre at its finest.

Idina Menzel – Radio City Music Hall

I saw this show from the very back row of Radio City Music Hall, filled with six-thousand (?!) Idina Menzel fans. It was as amazing and as terrfying as that sounds.


Into the Woods – Victorian Opera

The sets might have wobbled but with a brilliant cast in a brilliant show, it’s hard not to get caught up in the many moments in the woods

A Long Way Home

A mix of verbatim & scripted theatre, Daniel Keene has crafted a fascinating insight into the psychology of soldiers returning home.

Matilda - Broadway

Nothing so delightful that sitting in a theatre filled with children loving theatre. Matilda is a triumph on so many levels. It’s fun for everyone.

Neighbourhood Watch – Melbourne Theatre Company

Lally Katz’s script is strong. Belvoir’s production under Simon Stone’s direction makes it stronger, even if it slightly loses its way at the end.


Once

This was on my list when I saw it in New York in 2012. It had to go on my list again this year, because lightning struck twice. But I arbitrarily decided not to put it in my Top Ten this time, given there were so many deserving shows. Once is that good twice.

Pacific Overtures – Theatre Works

I am so glad I have finally seen this show on stage, even though it will never crack my Top Five favourite Sondheim shows, it was a surprisingly effective production.

OTHER MEMORABLE SHOWS


The Book of Loco – Malthouse

Cock – Melbourne Theatre Company

Children of the Sun – Sydney Theatre Company

The Cripple of Inishmaan – Broadway

Groundlings – Los Angeles

Les Miserables – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne

Photographs of A – NEON Festival, Melbourne Theatre Company

Pippin – Broadway

Purgatorio – Attic Erratic/5 Pound Theatre 

The Witches – Malthouse

Favourite Theatre of 2013

Favourite Theatre of 2012 

Favourite Theatre of 2011



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TOP TEN (alphabetical order)
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The Bleeding Tree – Arts Centre Melbourne