2016: Top 10 Theatre Shows & Top 10 Concerts
So here are my top theatre and concert picks of 2016. To qualify for the theatre round it has to be a brand new show that I haven’t seen before or a new production & casting of an existing show.
Top 10 Theatre Shows:
- Hadestown @ New York Theatre Workshop, New York
There were a few other shows I thought about putting here (The Last 5 Years @ Redmond’s Second Story Rep, Violet @ Seattle’s ArtsWest, and School of Rock @ New York’s Wintergarden). However, Hadestown won out mostly because of the concept. There have been many ways the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice has been interpreted and this has been the most successful to me. I loved the folksy, New Orleans bluesy vibe of the music. The lighting and staging (in the round) were unique and the intimate atmosphere draws you into the tale.
- Assassins @ ACT Theatre, Seattle
I never thought this show would ever hit my list due to my fear of guns. Well, more the sound of a gun being fired. However, if I had to see it once I wanted it to be done right. This was such a production. The casting, the sets, and the lighting were all great. The shots were loud, but between all of the gunfire there were many songs that got stuck in my head. Although it deals with a lot of heavy subject matter there were parts where a touch of humor was added to help digest everything in.
- The Little Mermaid @ The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle
I couldn’t deny a spot to this show! The Little Mermaid’s story and songs (from the Disney adaptation) has been a fixture in my childhood. The stage version is not a direct translation from the movie, which added a bit more interest and excitement. It gave a larger understanding to the characters with new songs (that weaved in a bit better than other Disney musicals that had to add in more music to develop the plot). It was overall a fun show with some great staging effects (flying & swimming) and costumes.
- The King & I @ Lincoln Center, New York
I don’t really have too many classic musicals on my list, but I was really impressed by this production of The King & I. It was really bigger than life. I was so shocked to see this huge ship coming out at us in the beginning. The set was beautiful and the cast was amazing. I’m not just saying that because Jin from Lost was in there along with favorites from one of my other favorite shows, Here Lies Love. The show captured my attention from beginning to end.
- Waitress @ Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York
This show was based on one of the few movies that I’ve actually seen in a movie theatre. I had always thought it would make a cute musical. Thanks to Sara Bareilles that thought became a reality. This was Sara’s first venture into making a musical and I think she did really well with catchy songs that resemble those that you would find on her own cds. This was one of the few productions that invited audiences into the theatre with the sweet smell of pies. The presence of female power was also refreshing in these changing times and for the many young girls who come to the theatre. This was one of the few shows that had a mishap during our visit, but it was handled with grace and in character! The biggest issue I had with this show was the fact that I had listened to Sara’s concept album a lot before seeing Waitress so it was weird hearing and seeing the songs that were appropriated to the characters.
- Beautiful @ Paramount Theatre, Seattle
I thought this should would be solely focused on Carole King and the work she and her partner Gerry Goffin created, but it also featured the songwriting duo Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann quite prominently as their competition. Overall, King’s music highlighted her life events beautifully as we witness her growth from an optimistic young songwriter to a woman who became comfortable in her own skin and being.
- She Loves Me @ Studio 54, New York
I really adored this show. It was so cute and charming. The cast was fantastic in bringing out their characters. Working in retail I found that the main setting, a retail shop specializing in perfume, there would certainly be things brought up that I could relate to. One of the most hilarious parts of the show was the coming of Christmas and in the midst of the chaos one of the customers runs out with their display Christmas tree. The set was amazing! The level of detail that went into it there is no wonder that the show won a Tony for the best scenic design.
- Evita @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver BC
Evita was one of my first musical obsessions (as were most of those in the Andrew Lloyd Webber catalog). When my brother told me that Ramin Karimloo would be Che that sealed the deal. We ended up seeing the show twice making the trip up to Canada, because…why not? I was a little disappointed by the sound quality the first night that we went to see it, but it improved for the second performance. This has been by far the best version of Evita that I have seen. The Broadway revival production had it’s moments and it had some style, but Ramin’s portrayal of Che was better than Ricky Martin’s (he seemed to tap into the darker side of Che and had a stronger belt). The rest of the cast was also greatly talented as it featured two other Phantoms. Oh my!
- Pump Boys and Dinettes @ Village Theatre, Issaquah & Everett
I really had no idea what this show was going to be about and actually thought about skipping out on it. I’m glad that I didn’t though as it turned out to be the show that I frequented the most this year (6 times). Although there is not really much of a plot, the music brought to life by this 6 member cast was astounding and I was blown away by their talent. (Sara Porkalob’s sassiness was totally unexpected! There was also of my theatre crush, Levi Kreis, who was amazing on the keys). You could really tell that they fed off of each other and were really a cohesive collaborative force that complemented each other as they all sang and played a variety of instruments. The last show I went to see featured an understudy for one of the roles and the balance felt a bit off. However, it was still a very strong showing. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously and it was a joy to take in over and over again as a way to escape from the stresses of life. It was fun to see the little things they would change up or try out every night. I get parts of songs stuck in my head, but it’s hard to get it out by listening to the original cast recording because it is SO different. “Be good, or be gone!”
- Hamilton @ Richard Rodgers Theatre, New York
Well, duh. It would be Hamilton at the number one spot wouldn’t it? I admit when I initially saw the show I had only listened to the cast album no more than 3 times. After seeing the show…I was non-stop. Every song was memorable, even though I might not catch all the lyrics. I’m still learning and finding out new things about this show all the time. The thought that went behind this show is incredible and so unique. I am really thankful that I had the opportunity to see Hamilton with the original cast (with the exception of Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones), as the characters had essentially become a part of their being throughout the development of the musical. I love quoting, acting out scenes, and even the mere mention of Hamilton. Going in I was very skeptical about all the hype over this show (I mean Wicked turned out to be quite a disappointment for me), but now I can’t get enough Hamilton. The mixtape? The television specials? Yes! I need more Hamilton in my life! #Ham4Ham
Top 10 Concerts:
Ratings usually factor in the setlist, venue, audience, and overall experience. It was really hard to rank this year and I kept flip flopping my decisions. Well, here it is for now.
- Chris Mann @ Northshore Perf Arts Ctr, Bothell
I’ve seen Chris’ christmas shows last year and they were a lot of fun. Since then, he released his second full length album Constellations. His beautiful sweeping voice to me had more heart and emotion than the next guy on this list. Plus he makes an amazing Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera. I just wish he could have sung all night.
- Eric Hutchinson @ Neptune Theatre, Seattle
Compared to Eric’s other shows that I’ve been to this one’s setlist was the weakest for me. This could be because I only had a day to get familiar with songs from his latest cd. However, Hutchinson and his band always put 110% out there in their performances. I do miss the days of improvisation from his early days. I was also impressed by the opening act Magic Giant. They were this magnetic force and melting pot of sounds that I was totally unprepared for and they gained me as a fan.
- Train @ Washington State Fair, Puyallup
Train’s musical style has changed quite a bit from their humble beginnings so I was a bit wary when a majority of the band left, as I do prefer their older material. However, with Pat Monahan and Jimmy Stafford they managed to assemble a talented group of musicians to take their place. Yes, they played those newer songs but they also reached into their archives and played many old favorites. They also did several cover songs, which showcase how good their classic rock sound could be. My favorite part of the night was during “Drops of Jupiter” when a shooting star actually graced the sky.
- Pete Yorn @ The Showbox, Seattle
Pete has been one of my longtime favorite musicians. No matter if he goes solo acoustic or with a full band it always ends up being a special night. I have seen Pete plenty of times so generally there aren’t too many surprises to be expected. He also has the best fans making the show going experience such a joy.
- Sting & Peter Gabriel @ Key Arena, Seattle
Two legends for the price of one. This was nice in some respects, but I did with they would each tour here on their own. I own thousands of cds now, but in that original group of 25 was Sting’s “Brand New Day,” which I wore down pretty well. Being brought up on MTV one of the first videos I latched onto was Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” It was a gratifying experience to finally see both of them in concert with the bonus of Eddie Vedder.
- Josh Groban @ Chateau Ste Michelle, Woodinville
There was a time where I despised Josh Groban (being forced to listen to the same cd on a loop for about a month and a half at work). However, I decided to give him a second chance when I realized how versatile he could be (in not just performing his classical popera). His voice is powerful and beautiful and although I was way back in the venue he came through crystal clear. Another bonus of this show was that it comprised of a lot of show tunes to coincide with his latest cd, Stages, and for his future Broadway debut in The Great Comet. He made jokes with the crowd, but that wasn’t enough for some as the man next to me fell asleep and started snoring which ruined things a bit.
- Paul McCartney @ Key Arena, Seattle
Paul’s performance at the Key Arena was a step up from his show at Safeco Field. First of all I could actually see the guy with my own eyes and the sound quality was much better (well, at least in the lower half of Key Arena). He played songs spanning his career, which I had no complaints about. However, during “Live and Let Die” I almost needed new pants as the pyrotechnics scared me so much.
- Bruce Springsteen @ Key Arena, Seattle
This tour was to celebrate The River album so of course he played the whole thing (I particularly enjoyed “Hungry Heart” and “Point Blank.”) I have always wanted to go to a Bruce Springsteen concert, but had never been able to until now. The Springsteen community was going strong that night. The couple I was sitting next to turned out not to be a couple at all but two strangers who chatted away like old pals with the connection of the Boss’ music. The show went for a long time covering many other aspects of his career. Another highlight was hearing “The Rising.” Having Eddie Vedder come out for “Bobby Jean” was such a surprise, but nothing compares to capping off the whole Bruce Springsteen 2016 experience like meeting him several months later.
- The Midtown Men @ Benaroya Hall, Seattle
I love Jersey Boys and quite frankly a lot of the music from the 50’s and 60’s. When I was told about this show I knew I already loved it from the concept alone. Four guys who are each a fantastic talent coming together to sing some classic songs. It doesn’t get better than that.
- Levi Kreis @ Village Theatre, Issaquah & Everett
Levi makes it to the top of the list again this year. Sometimes when you see the same artist year after year you can expect more of the same. However, this time rather than expressing his journey through his own music he went on to share his journey with showtunes instead exploring his journey of how he became a performer and gave us a sampling of the various shows he had been in. This really connected with the local crowd as he had many local ties to the Seattle area. He was charming, funny, and delivered many heartfelt moments. My favorite moment was when he covered, “One Song Glory.” The night wasn’t all musicals though as he performed some of his solo songs to close out the shows. I can’t wait to hear his musicals album that is coming out soon. The way he rearranges some of those songs really make them his own. Really go out and see him if you get the chance.