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The 10 Best of 2010

TheaterMania's editors and contributors choose their top New York theatrical experiences of the year!

Stark Sands and company in American Idiot
(© Paul Kolnik)
As always, New York's stage, from the bright lights of Broadway to the deeper depths of downtown, gave theatergoers plenty to savor and think about this past year. TheaterMania asked 10 of its editors and contributors to choose their top theatrical experiences of the year, and the list may both surprise and enlighten you!

American Idiot
Green Day's Grammy Award-winning 2004 album is brought to vibrant life in a Broadway musical that employs the band's songs in some rather ingenious ways. This portrait of the Bush era's disaffected youth features powerful central performances by John Gallagher, Jr., Stark Sands, Michael Esper, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Tony Vincent. The magic will continue into 2011 as Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong temporarily takes over the role of St. Jimmy. --Dan Bacalzo

Anyone Can Whistle
Any opportunity to see this legendary musical is memorable. But when it's served up with the kind of vivacious style that was the hallmark of Casey Nicholaw's staging for City Center Encores!, it ends up being the year's high point -- particularly when the likes of Donna Murphy, Sutton Foster and Raul Esparza are on hand to bring the kooky universe of Arthur Laurents' book to life with panache while also delivering some sublime Stephen Sondheim songs with power. --Andy Propst

Eddie Kaye Thomas and Tracee Chimo
in Bachelorette
(© Joan Marcus)
In Leslye Headland's comedy, which premiered at Second Stage Uptown, children of privilege now in their 20s are having a bachelorette party for a bride-to-be -- of whom some are jealous. Meanwhile, you wish you could afford the hotel suite they've rented. Sex, drugs and rock are only the start of a work that's blacker than a wedding dress is white. Consequences and comeuppance eventually occur, but not before Tracee Chimo and Celia Keenan-Bolger deliver riveting performances. --Peter Filichia

A Disappearing Number
Who would think a play about pure math could be a scintillating season highlight? Simon McBurney, that's who. The artistic director of the never-fails-to-mesmerize London-based Complicite troupe found the perfect theatrical equation for combining the mystery of prime numbers with the concomitant mystery of the human heart. The multi-media story of a contemporary math genius and her math-challenged boyfriend braided with early 20th century friendship between a professor and an Indian savant proved both head-turning and heart-stopping. --David Finkle

Kudos to Manhattan Theatre Club, which presented the New York premiere of this sharp piece of historical fiction about King James I commissioning a play from William Shakespeare. It's not just a smart and funny look at how Shakespeare approached playwriting -- which ends up basically deconstructing Macbeth in the process -- but it poignantly explores the role of the artist in an oppressive, torture-loving society. Feel free to draw parallels to current events. --Andy Buck

Christopher Evan Welch and Elizabeth Marvel
in The Little Foxes
(© Jan Versweyveld)
The Little Foxes
Ivo Van Hove's revival of Lillian Hellman's drama, presented at New York Theatre Workshop, throws us right into the ferocious action as the Hubbard family claw at each other to assert their own identities and preserve their empire. The production, featuring the always superb Elizabeth Marvel as Regina, works on many levels: as a sprawling southern drama, a scathing commentary on race and class relations, and an unflinching look at greed that speaks to the recent financial meltdown. -- Chris Kompanek

The Merchant of Venice
Pulling off the emotional and political nuances of Shakespeare's tragedy is one of the theater world's trickiest balancing acts, but director Daniel Sullivan's revelatory production explores both the unexpected depths of the play and, most notably, its complex characters. Al Pacino's mulit-faceted Shylock and Lily Rabes brilliant and completely human Portia take top honors; but the entire cast -- including Byron Jennings and Jesse L. Martin -- contribute to carrying out Sullivan's singular vision. --Brian Scott Lipton

Passion Play
Epic in scale, yet subtle and affecting, Sarah Ruhl's trilogy about three passion plays in different eras and locales -- Renaissance England, pre-World War II Germany and 1980s South Dakota -- was brave, gentle, and wildly inventive as it questioned politics, faith, morality and mortality while characters collided with historical figures. That the work was presented in the tatty confines of a former Brooklyn Sunday school made the three-and-a-half-hour production even more wonderfully human and divine. --Diane Snyder

The Scottsboro Boys
In what would be their final collaboration, John Kander and the late Fred Ebb intentionally created a double indignity. In recounting an especially egregious instance of Southern-style "justice" -- the 1931 conviction of nine black teenagers for a rape that never occurred -- they opted to up the outrage (as well as the pathos potential) by framing the victims' tale within the shameful tradition of minstrelsy. The acidulous result, under Susan Stroman's intense direction, re-etches history. --Sandy MacDonald

A View From the Bridge
Before this revival opened in January, people said Liev Schreiber was too young to play Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller's brilliant working class tragedy and that movie star Scarlett Johansson, making her stage debut on Broadway, could hardly be expected to carry her own weight (as his niece Catherine) in a show of this depth and power. But this emotionally piercing production, beautifully directed by Gregory Mosher, was all the more searing thanks to Schreiber's explosively perfect performance and Johansson's stunning work -- Barbara & Scott Siegel


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