Another year, another decade.
Only time will tell if we’ll have another “Hamilton” on our hands. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary musical, mixing history and hip-hop, gave theater lovers two opportunities to catch our Founding Fathers spitting verses, with a three-month run at the Kennedy Center in 2018 before finally arriving at the Altria this past November. It’ll be back in D.C. this summer.
Last year offered a mixed bag of delightful productions from local and regional companies. There were emotional family dramas (“Fences” at Ford’s), uplifting stories about people helping people (“Come From Away” and “A Band’s Visit,” both at Kennedy Center) and a surprising amount of swashbuckling pirates (“The Pirates of Penzance or the Rascals of the Rappahannock” at Riverside and “Blackbeard” at Signature).
With the incredible wealth of theater in the area, it’s impossible to see everything. Before launching into another year of shows, let’s take a look back at some of the works that left a big mark—or smile—with this reviewer. Here are some of my favorites:
‘Come From Away’ (Kennedy Center)
One of the year’s best. Show creators David Hein and Irene Sankoff created this sweet musical gem, about the people of Newfoundland who cared for and comforted the crew and passengers of 38 planes after they were grounded on 9/11. Heartwarming, and oftentimes hilarious, “Come From Away” is truly something special. After missing its pre-Broadway run at Ford’s Theatre, I’m so glad to see this musical return to the area. If you’re looking for a show to see in New York City, make sure this one is at the top of your list.
‘The Band’s Visit’ (Kennedy Center)
Another heartwarming story about the kindness of strangers, “The Band’s Visit” follows a ceremonial police band from Egypt who arrive in a sleepy Israeli desert town due to a pronunciation mistake. This quiet musical makes no big waves and that’s where the beauty lies as these lonely souls from two different cultures find connection despite language barriers. And the music and performances are absolutely exquisite.
‘The Color Purple’ (Riverside)
Riverside Center for the Performing Arts goes straight for the heart with this one. Everything about this show was perfect. Powerful soul-stirring performances, especially from Kanysha Williams as Celie, really made Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic come to life.
‘A Chorus Line’ (Signature Theatre)
This beloved musical was definitely one of the year’s hottest tickets, with pretty much a sold-out run. Iconic and intimate, “A Chorus Line”—which featured dazzling choreography from Denis Jones—gives a glimpse into the tough audition process. With Signature’s immersive staging, we feel like we’re right there with the young dancers as they wait to hear if they make the cut.
‘Aladdin’ (Kennedy Center)
Big and blingy, this high-energy spectacle doesn’t disappoint. With its sweet tale starring the most adorable actors (Clinton Greenspan and Kaena Kekoa) and a fun-loving Genie, “Aladdin” is pure confection. Overstuffed with charm and vibrant musical numbers like “One Jump Ahead,” “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali,” it’s one of those shows that will leave you with a big smile on your face. And that magic carpet ride song (“A Whole New World”) is quite the stunner.