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The best and worst theater productions of 2013

matilda cast

matilda cast Credit: Joan Marcus

Except for the unusually large number of Shakespeare plays, 2013 was a typical year in terms of hits, misses, standouts and the occasional disaster or two.


1 Matilda
Although it inexplicably lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to the far inferior “Kinky Boots,” “Matilda” is an incredibly intelligent, heartfelt and entertaining work that, after achieving critical and popular success in London, arrived on Broadway last spring like a white knight.

2. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Christopher Durang’s smart, relentlessly silly comedy, which transported Chekhovian themes into the present day, turned out to be the playwright’s finest work to date, with knockout performances from David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and Sigourney Weaver.

3. Fiorello!
City Center’s much beloved Encores! series marked its 20th anniversary with a very satisfying new staging of this rarely seen 1959 musical, which was the first musical presented by Encores! back in 1994.

4. Twelfth Night/Richard III
In a fall season dominated by countless Shakespeare revivals, the Globe Theatre’s double bill, performed by an all-male cast led by Mark Rylance, with lavish costuming and in a setting evoking the Globe, stands out as thoroughly jubilant theatergoing and a lesson in classical practices.

5. Pippin
Following her excellent Broadway revivals of “Hair” and “Porgy and Bess,” director Diane Paulus offered a stunning, circus-themed production of this popular 1970s musical with plenty of “magic to do.”

6. 700 Sundays
It’s a pleasure to have Billy Crystal’s heartwarming and hilarious one-man tour de force exploring his childhood back on Broadway. For those unable to attend, it will be broadcast on HBO at a future date.

7. Buyer and Cellar
Barbra Streisand’s book about decorating her various homes inspired this satirical yet affectionate one-man comedy, featuring a dynamic performance from Michael Urie as an actor hired to maintain the old-fashioned shops in her basement.

8. Good Person of Szechwan
This production of Bertolt Brecht’s rarely seen 1943 morality drama, which premiered at La MaMa and received an encore run at the Public Theater, is the best production of a Brecht play in years.

9. Bad Jews
Joshua Harmon’s comedic drama about college-age cousins reuniting after their grandfather’s funeral is a welcome breath of fresh air to anyone who appreciates tight, neatly structured playwriting.

10. Fun Home
This musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about growing up around a funeral home and coming to terms with her sexuality and her family was no doubt the most inventive new musical of the fall.


1. Jekyll & Hyde
Watching clips on YouTube of David Hasselhoff in the original production was easier to endure than seeing Constantine Maroulis in this especially garish and nauseating revival of Frank Wildhorn’s overblown pop-rock musical.

2. The Two-Character Play
It was impossible to make sense of this experimental, rarely seen Tennessee Williams drama led by Amanda Plummer and Brad Dourif. Their efforts aside, this is a dreary, absolutely incomprehensible work.

3. Macbeth
Ethan Hawke’s mumbling, misguided turn in “The Scottish Play” surely marked the low point of the fall Shakespeare marathon. It was especially unnecessary to revive “Macbeth” just a few months after Alan Cumming’s one-man rendition of the play.

4. Let It Be
It was the latest in the never-ending parade of cheap, cheesy Beatles tribute concerts on Broadway that has previously included such titles as “Beatlemania” in the late 1970s and “Rain” just three seasons ago.

5. Little Miss Sunshine
Given the estimable credits of songwriter William Finn and director James Lapine, it was stunning to see just how bad their musical adaptation of this 2006 film comedy turned out to be.

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