The 10 Best Stage Shows of 2015
The Year's Best of Broadway
Founding fathers, funeral homes, and British royalty dominated this year’s best Broadway productions. Check out the top 10 musicals and plays that defined the season on stage.
10. The Color Purple
This adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker novel and beloved film features the Broadway debuts of powerhouse Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo (who originated the role in London), and Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks. The stripped-down production, helmed by innovator John Doyle, is as mesmerizing as it is meaningful.
9. The King and I
Six-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara deservedly scooped up her first statue — finally! — as the titular “I” opposite Ken Watanabe in Lincoln Center’s lavish sentimental revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.
8. A View From The Bridge
As Arthur Miller’s tragic hero in Ivo van Hove’s urgent, primal, minimalistic production, British actor Mark Strong (The Imitation Game) is as tense as a thick steel cable stretched to its breaking point. And as dangerous.
7. Wolf Hall
This two-part epic history about Henry VIII’s court avoided a drowsy premise with hypnotizing performances and swift, chilling action, slicing through a whopping six-hour run time like a theatrical guillotine.
Broadway was lucky to get lost in the boiling throes of Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy’s turbulent winter romance in David Hare’s showy drama, which won the year’s Tony for Best Revival of a Play.
5. The Audience
Grand dame Helen Mirren transforms herself once again into Queen Elizabeth II, revealing more captivating layers to the monarch and even more of Mirren’s astounding ability to inhabit royalty.
4. An American in Paris
It’s no petite feat to reinvent a beloved Gene Kelly musical for the stage, but thanks to leading hoofers Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, this American leaped with the grace of a prima ballerina.
3. King Charles III
This Olivier-winning London transfer imagines the British royal family (sadly sans appearances by Prince George and Princess Charlotte) in turmoil following Queen Elizabeth II’s death and her son’s ascension to the throne. Mike Bartlett’s future-history play is a suspenseful swirl of Shakespearean ethos — and our early pick for this Tony season’s Best Play.
2. Fun Home
“Come to the fun home,” sings graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, whose youth in her closeted father’s funeral home is touchingly chronicled in this year’s Tony-winning Best Musical. The invitation wasn’t misguided: Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s show about Bechdel’s coming-of-sexuality was the year’s most honest and crowd-pleasing heartstring tug.
Believe the hype: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop history of the American revolution is a masterpiece of musical theater. Centered on enigmatic — and, until now, oft-underrated — Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (played by Miranda himself), the ambitious show is built on a score that seamlessly corkscrews its way through decades of rap and Broadway sound, delivered with pulsing, passionate energy by a color-blind-cast ensemble of stage veterans and newcomers. (Dynamite breakouts are half the thrill, with star-making turns from Daveed Diggs as a jazzy Thomas Jefferson and leading ladies Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry as Schuyler sisters Eliza and Angelica, Hamilton’s wife and unrequited lover, respectively.) With actors, designers, and Miranda’s genius libretto all operating on every cylinder of creative power, Hamilton is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime production that changes the genre, the theatergoer, and the whole damn conversation.