In 2018, bigger really was better on Broadway. With ticket prices at an all-time high, the best shows in New York put that money to good use and dazzled audiences with cutting-edge stagecraft, grand orchestras, and giant casts. And it certainly paid off. Here's my list of the five best shows on Broadway. They range from big to ginormous. Check it out:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
This is one of those rare instances when a show flies into town on a jet stream of hype and still manages to exceed expectations. Set two decades after the events of J.K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter series, the new script by Jack Thorne brings back all of our favorite characters while endearing us to a host of new ones, including Harry's son Albus and his unlikely best friend, Scorpius Malfoy. Potter fanatics and theatermaniacs alike will revel in John Tiffany's astounding production, which features some of the best stagecraft on earth: Actors fly, disappear, and transform into other actors before your eyes, bringing the theater's most powerful magic to Broadway. Harry Potter is a genuine hit, and we expect it to be a fixture on Broadway for years to come.
2. The Prom
If you're in the market for a laugh-out-loud musical comedy, look no further than this hilarious story about a group of washed-up Broadway performers who descend on an Indiana town to militate for a young lesbian's right to attend the prom (but are really looking to score some publicity for themselves). Chad Beguelin (book and lyrics), Bob Martin (book), and Matthew Sklar (music) have created a show that features irreverent wit, high-energy dance numbers (choreographed by director Casey Nicholaw), and loads of heart. An old-fashioned showman of the highest caliber, Brooks Ashmanskas is giving the performance of a lifetime as the delightfully over-the-top Barry Glickman. This show will make you believe in the Broadway musical again.
3. The Ferryman
For something a little more adult than Harry Potter, consider this monumental drama by Jez Butterworth. It takes place in a modest farmhouse in Northern Ireland circa 1981, where the Carney family is haunted by dead relatives and living IRA thugs. Featuring 21 actors and several live animals, Sam Mendes' production teems with life as Butterworth artfully unveils a story about just how precarious life can be. Simultaneously enormous and intimate, The Ferryman embodies the full range of what drama can achieve. New plays like this are an endangered species on Broadway, so you'll want to see this one while you can.
4. Angels in America
The best revival of 2018 was indisputably the National Theatre production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. The two-part "Gay Fantasia on National Themes" felt especially prophetic in 2018 as it wove its tale of AIDS, climate change, religion, and toxic politics at the end of days. Director Marianne Elliott brought the heaven-and-earth-shaking stakes of the play into the Neil Simon Theatre with outsize design and unforgettable performances from Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. This is going to be one of those shows that people constantly reference.
5. My Fair Lady
Lerner and Loewe's beloved take on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is one of those shows that define musical theater, so it's hugely exiting that it was revived on Broadway in grand fashion. Between Michael Yeargan's detailed rotating set and Catherine Zuber's vibrant costumes, you'll be left gasping as the operatic grandeur of director Bartlett Sher's production. Add to that several memorable performances, including the grizzly razzle-dazzle of Norbert Leo Butz as Alfred Doolittle and the effortless arrogance of Harry Hadden-Paton as Henry Higgins. Tony winner Laura Benanti is currently winning hearts as Eliza Doolittle, while the 29-piece orchestra will send you home dancing.