Special Reports

TheaterMania's Favorite Regional Shows of 2015

Our critics round up their top picks from across the country.

We've been loading you up with lists of our favorites from this year's Broadway and off-Broadway rosters, but as 2015 draws to a close, we thought we'd take a moment to acknowledge some of the best stage offerings beyond New York City. Take a look at the list of productions our regional critics from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Hopefully, they’ll land in your city in 2016.

Natasha, Pierre, Spring Awakening, Dear Evan Hansen, and Burning Bluebeard made TheaterMania's regional favorites of 2015.
Natasha, Pierre, Spring Awakening, Dear Evan Hansen, and Burning Bluebeard made TheaterMania's regional favorites of 2015.

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812American Repertory Theater
"Harvard University's Russian scholars will have some new ideas after watching American Repertory Theater's spectacular production of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 that has transformed the Loeb Drama Center… Already scheduled for Broadway next September, featuring many members of the original off-Broadway cast, Great Comet has been expanded to fit a larger space… The creative innovations by the artistic team, the exuberance of the cast, a score that captures the mood and the period, and especially the emotional resonance of Tolstoy’s characters, combine to make this an unforgettable theatrical experience that resonances long after the stage lights have faded."
—Iris Fanger

Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them — Company One
"There has been no shortage of tales about spunky, abandoned children since Hansel and Gretel first followed a trail of breadcrumbs into the forest. However, playwright A. Rey Pamatmat has updated the tradition in Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them… Pamatmat has given contemporary theater an endearing pair of children who grow up in spite of obstacles put in their way by the clueless adults supposedly protecting them."
—Iris Fanger

Burning BluebeardDen Theatre
"The Ruffian's genre-defying production is at once a comedy and a tragedy, a drama infused with dance, circus stunts, music, and traditional dialogue. And unlike many holiday offerings, it is celebratory without being sentimental."
—Catey Sullivan

Red Handed OtterA Red Orchid Theatre
"Directed by Dado for its Chicago premiere, Red Handed Otter is a simultaneously grim and hilarious exploration of the trauma that comes with the loss of a beloved pet, be it a scuttling crustacean or a diffident feline. The 90-minute piece is everything you expect from an A Red Orchid Theatre Company production: A bit bizarre, darkly comic, and filled with characters who evoke empathy even when they travel to the farthest edges on the bell curve of normal human behavior."
—Catey Sullivan

Los Angeles
Guards at the TajGeffen Playhouse
"When you set sail on a journey with playwright Rajiv Joseph, you can expect turbulence, mind-blowing questions, the grimmest of humor, and the certainty of uncertainty. We don't know where this ship is heading or how it will arrive, but whatever cockeyed star Joseph is following, theatergoers should want to board that vessel. So it goes with Guards at the Taj, which, in its Los Angeles premiere at the Geffen Playhouse, demonstrates that the playwright's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was no fluke. Directed by frequent Joseph collaborator Giovanna Sardelli, this tale of two regular-guy imperial guards in 17th-century Agra is as intellectually satisfying as it is disquieting."
—Evan Henerson

Spring AwakeningWallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
"Last year's production of Spring Awakening, downtown at Inner-City Arts, won several awards, including a Los Angeles Drama Critics award for Spencer Liff's choreography. Now the production has moved to the elegant Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and is as stirring and inventive the second time…Arden's genius turns sign not only into choreography, but into an expression of rage. Arden does not treat the deaf actor as interchangeable substitutes for the hearing. Their deafness becomes part of the characters."
—Jonas Schwartz

Washington, D.C.
Dear Evan HansenArena Stage
"The first musical of Arena Stage's 2015-2016 season is refreshing in both message and medium…Michael Greif's direction is clean and spare, letting the complicated story unravel easily. He takes [Steven] Levenson's distinct characters and makes them shimmer with energy and credibility. Above all, he creates an ensemble show, where the scenes move quickly, where Danny Mefford's choreography sizzles, and Pasek and Paul's score deepens the story through a vibrant, neatly blended mix of rock, pop, blues, and jazz."
—Barbara Mackay

Apple Family Cycle (Sorry and Regular Singing) — Studio Theatre
"In both Sorry and Regular Singing, director Serge Seiden turns the swirling observations, questions, and replies into intimate conversations, full of twists and turns that ultimately make a sensible pattern…There is something richly fulfilling in Nelson's writing, its graceful naturalism laced with energy and credibility as the dialogue rockets from the banal to the spiritual. And there is a delightful solidity to this family. There may not be a fifth play in the Apple Family Cycle, but it seems as though the family will always be there in Rhinebeck, waiting for the next reunion."
—Barbara Mackay

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Burning Bluebeard

Closed: January 10, 2016