Kelli O'Hara in South Pacific
(© Joan Marcus)
Kelli O'Hara in South Pacific
(© Joan Marcus)
One can argue that any theatrical season is, to quote Charles Dickens (and a certain recent musical), "the best of times, the worst of times." But 2008 certainly had more than its share of theatrical highlights. This year, I asked our managing editor Dan Bacalzo and all of our contributing New York critics to join me in choosing "The Best of 2008" in four specific categories: Best Dramatic Production; Best Musical Production; Best Individual Performance; and Best Ensemble Performance.

In the spirit of the season -- and knowing the vagaries of scheduling -- each contributor could, if they wanted, choose a show or performance they first saw in 2008 (even if it opened in 2007) or felt was vastly improved from the previous season. The results are listed below. And please let us know if you agree or not with these dedicated theatergoers!

Brian Scott Lipton, Editor In Chief
Best Dramatic Production: The Cripple of Inishmaan (Atlantic Theater Company)
Best Musical Production: South Pacific (Lincoln Center Theater)
Best Individual Performance: Kristin Scott Thomas (The Seagull)
Best Ensemble Performance: Passing Strange (de'Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones)

Dan Bacalzo, Managing Editor
Best Dramatic Production: Blasted (Soho Rep)
Best Musical Production: Billy Elliot
Best Individual Performance: Josh Grisetti, (Enter Laughing)
Best Ensemble Performance: Lady (David Wilson Barnes, Paul Sparks, Michael Shannon)

David Finkle, Contributing Writer
Best Dramatic Production: Farragut North: (Atlantic Theatre Company)
Best Musical Production: Billy Elliot
Best Individual Performance: Liza Minnelli (Liza's at the Palace!)
Best Ensemble Performance:Black Watch (The company of the National Theatre of Scotland)

Patrick Lee, Contributing Writer
Best Dramatic Production: How Theatre Failed America (Barrow Street Theatre)
Best Musical Production: Passing Strange
Best Individual Performance: Patti LuPone (Gypsy)
Best Ensemble Performance: The Cripple of Inishmaan (Kerry Condon, Andrew Connolly, Laurence Kinlan, Dearbhla Molloy, Aaron Monaghan, Marie Mullen, Patricia O'Connell, David Pearse, and John C. Vennema)

Kiril Kulish and company in Billy Elliot
(© David Schneimann)
Kiril Kulish and company in Billy Elliot
(© David Schneimann)
Sandy MacDonald, Contributing Writer
Best Dramatic Production: The Seagull
Best Musical Production: Shrek
Best Individual Performance: John Kani (Sizwe Banzi Is Dead)
Best Ensemble Performance: Chair (Theatre for a New Audience: Stephanie Roth Haberle, Will Rogers, Alfredo Narciso, Joan MacIntosh, Annika Boras)

Adam R. Perlman, Contributing Writer
Best Dramatic Production: The Cripple of Inishmaan
Best Musical Production: Passing Strange
Best Individual Performance: Brian d'Arcy James (Shrek)
Best Ensemble Performance: The Cripple of Inishmaan

Andy Propst, Contributing Writer
Best Dramatic Production: Chair
Best Musical Production: Billy Elliot
Best Individual Performance: Martha Plimpton (Pal Joey)
Best Ensemble Performance: Blasted (Reed Birney, Marin Ireland, Louis Cancelmi)

Scott and Barbara Siegel, Contributing Writers
Best Dramatic Production: reasons to be pretty (MCC Theater)
Best Musical Production: South Pacific
Best Individual Performance: Elizabeth Marvel (Fifty Words)
Best Ensemble Performance: The Cripple of Inishmaan