Top Theater Productions of 2015 | Megan Washausen

2015TheRestLike the characters of Into the Woods, I had a wish: I longed for an opportunity to see this show live.





It’s been a year of many theatrical firsts for me. From attending a one-man show to finally making it to a Stages St. Louis production, 2015 has been quite a versatile ride. Of the shows I had the pleasure of attending, I’ve selected my top 10 standouts. The bar has been set rather high, and it will surely be hard to top, but bring it on, 2016!

  1. Wicked | The Fabulous Fox Theatre
    The witches of Oz flew back to St. Louis just in time for the holiday season, and the Fox Theatre couldn’t have given patrons a greater gift! I nearly screamed in the middle of Panera when I learned this show was on the 2015–2016 season lineup, and the wait since that fateful April day was long but totally worth it. As I said in my review, I’ve seen this show a handful of times, but there are so many gems tucked into it that I catch something new with each viewing. Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba) and Amanda Jane Cooper (Glinda) gave the quirkiest, most memorable portrayal of the show’s leading ladies that I’ve ever seen.
  2. The Phantom of the Opera | The Fabulous Fox Theatre
    I have listened to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera enough times to know most of the lyrics by heart, but nothing could have prepared me for the incredible experience of (finally) seeing this classic live. The Phantom of the Opera is a mesmerizing visual feast. As I wrote back in March, the set design, lighting, props, and special effects are like characters in their own right, truly lending themselves to the enchanting complexity of this unforgettable show. 
  3. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical | The Fabulous Fox Theatre
    A couple of months have passed since I had the pleasure of seeing this show, yet my imagination has been tingling ever since! Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is surprisingly dark and refreshingly deep, leaving audience members with a lovely motivational message: “Just because you find that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.” There were a few young girls sharing the role of the precocious, five-year-old Matilda, and, while I’m sure each shined in their own right, Mabel Tyler’s portrayal was spectacular. Honestly, I think Tyler was vocally stronger than the actress on the London original cast soundtrack, so consider yourselves lucky if you were fortunate enough to catch her while she was here.
  4. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast | The Muny
    Disney’s Beauty and The Beast is the best production I’ve ever seen on the Muny stage, hands down. There’s nothing simple about bringing an animation to life, but the Muny team pulled it off down to every last enchanted detail.
  5. Disney’s The Aristocats | Stages St. Louis
    I was ecstatic to make it to my first Stages St. Louis show this year, and Disney’s The Aristocats made for an excellent first impression of what this incredible group is capable of producing. I’ve seen several Disney shows onstage, and, as insane as this may sound to some of you, I enjoyed this simple, small stage production more than all the others—the only exception being #4 on this list. This film lives in the shadows of Disney’s blockbuster animations The Lion King and Aladdin, but it’s always been one of my favorites, and Stages’ production stayed true to the original storyline. Although my love for this show may be highly nostalgia-motivated, the fact that even its youngest audience members were enthralled with the fabulous felines onstage makes it more than deserving of a place on this list.  
  6. I and You | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
    The Repertory Theatre’s studio production I and You succeeded at one thing no other show ever has: It made me bawl my eyes out. It served as the perfect example that you don’t need a large cast, a long show, or a lot of wiggle room onstage to pack a powerful punch. To echo my review, Lauren Gunderson’s I and You is clever, witty, cheeky, comical, insightful, and moving.
  7. Buyer & Cellar | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
    The title alone makes me laugh as my mind floods with memories of this hilariously quirky, one-man show. Its inventive premise is just as bizarre as it is brilliant. The fact that writer Jonathan Tolins learned Barbara Streisand had transformed a space of her home into a series of little shops, and let his imagination lead him to this play in which a store clerk is hired to work there, just blows me away. I love the way this man thinks, and I would jump at the opportunity to see Buyer & Cellar again (especially if Jeremy Webb were to reprise the role of Alex, because he was fabulous).
  8. Million Dollar Quartet | The Fabulous Fox Theatre
    Back in February, I spent an evening with Carl Perkins (Gabe Bowling), Johnny Cash (Scott Moreau), Elvis Presley (Jacob Rowley), and Jerry Lee Lewis (Colte Julian), and I raved about the occasion long after. Million Dollar Quartet gives audience members a glimpse back in time at a history-making jam session. From the first note of “Blue Suede Shoes” to the last note of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” I was in love.
  9. Kinky Boots | The Fabulous Fox Theatre
    As I debated which 2015 shows deserved a spot on this list, Kinky Boots was a no-brainer; however, I include it much more for its themes, casting, and spectacular costuming than I do for its music. Don’t get me wrong: The music is great in the moment—I meant it when I wrote it was a breath of fresh air in my March review—but I have no desire to listen to the soundtrack in my free time. I truly did adore this show, though. It’s very much a production centered on learning to love yourself as well as those around you despite their differences, and what’s not to appreciate about that?!
  10. Into the Woods | The Muny
    Like the characters of Into the Woods, I had a wish: I longed for an opportunity to see this show live, and the Muny made that dream a reality in 2015. While I must admit it didn’t fully live up to my expectations, it was a memorable production nonetheless. Heather Headley’s stunning portrayal of the Witch was one of my favorite casting decisions of the year. | Megan Washausen

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