Theater Thursday: The Best Theater Things That Happened in 2015

Ah yes, the last Theater Thursday of 2015! By gosh, this year went by fast! We went to some Fun Homes, got a history lesson with Hamilton, danced with the King of Siam, and even went about Finding Neverland. So as a way to say goodbye to this year, and say hello to the new, here’s a look at some of the best theater moments from 2015. Let’s “Ease On Down,” shall we? (Hurhur, see what I did there?)

10) Audiences Phones vs. Theater Behavior

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2015 somehow seemed to usher in a whole new trend–audience members being children. How so? Well from a person plugging their phone charger into a set piece at Hand of God, to someone making Patti LuPone pissed, and even my own personal experiences, 2015 definitely proved that theater goers sometimes are the true villains in the world of Broadway. And with shows like Hamilton that have their cheapest ticket being $250 on the aftermarket, do we really want to pay that much to sit next to people that don’t have any manners? Here’s hoping 2016 will ring in a sense of respect.

9) John Cameron Mitchell Injures Knee–Still Crushes It as Hedwig

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If you’ve been reading Theater Thursday, you’ll know we are pretty big Hedwig fans. And so, it is pretty clear some bit of Angry Inch epicness has to make this list. And what was the best thing that happened in terms of this show? John Cameron Mitchell returning to the greatest role he ever played/created? Obviously. And did we mention the man managed to injure himself midway through, but still kept doing? Mitchell is one of the only creative people I know that was able to take a flaw such as a bad knee and make a show, that was already amazing, even better. The “Knee Capped” version of Hedwig was among one of the best theatrical experiences I had in 2015, and it will always remain that in my memory. Bless JCM, always.

8) Epic Les Miserables Mash Up

The 2014 revival of Les Mis has had some bumps here and there, but has definitely produced more good than bad. First it got Ramin Karimloo noticed by the public at large, it produced an awesome amount of beautiful color-blind casting, along with also getting Alfie Boe to come back to Broadway. So how can you celebrate two of those things in the best way possible? Make a mash up of course. Yep, that’s right, there’s an official mash up of Ramin and Alfie singing “Bring Him Home” and it is beautiful. Sorry Wicked mashup, this one has got my favorite vote all the way.

7) The Epic Diva Showdown

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At this year’s Tony Awards, we had not one, not two, but three heavy hitting divas going up against each other in the Best Actress in a Musical category. First, there was Cheno, representing On The Twentieth Century, then Chita for The Visit, and Kelli O’Hara for King and I. Everyone and their mother debated who would take the crown, who’s blood would be shed, but when the moment arrived, it was Kelli–who was always a nominee but never a winner–that took home the gold. And it was a moment we’ll never forget.

6) Kelli O’Hara Does The Worm

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Speaking of that moment, we also got to hear about the shocking fact that Ms. O’Hara can in fact, do “The Worm.” After the win we got to see her prove this talent on several occasions, and though it is a simple dance, it is something that just made the entire Broadway world a lot better. Kelli is a treasure of the stage, and this proved it big time.

5) Cheno and Cumming Hosting The Tonys

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But Cheno didn’t go away completely empty handed that night, because she came out with the applause and love she deserved. How? By hosting the event (brilliantly), right next to her pal (and one of my biggest Broadway crushes) Alan Cumming. Watching these two go at it was like witnessing your drunk aunt and uncle have a blast at Thanksgiving while playing board games–it was seriously brilliant beyond measure. Laughing and smiling from ear to ear, this was a Tony ceremony I will cherish for years to come.

4) Paper Mill’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is Amazing–But Doesn’t Transfer

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2015 also allowed for some dreams to come true. One of those was shared by both Kayla and myself, and that was to see Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame be brought to the stage. And though the crime of no transfer to Broadway happened (due to the large size of the choir and the costs it involved, among other things), getting to see this production at the historic Paper Mill Playhouse was truly magical. And thankfully, the cast album will be released in January 2016 (close to my birthday, might I add!) Hopefully down the line, this show can get a bit of retooling, and actually make it to the Great White Way. It deserves to, trust me.

3) The Wiz LIVE!

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Finally, NBC got what they had been missing with these live musicals: Passion. Yep, The Wiz LIVE! was by far the best NBC live musical the station has done thus far. From the brilliant casting, particularly of Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelly, to the fantastic costumes and staging, this was a live musical like all the prior ones should have been. Here’s to hoping NBC picks another interesting show for 2016. Because it can, and should, only go up from here.

2) Hamilton Opens/Lin-Manuel Takes Over The World

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It’s hard to talk about 2015 without mentioning the juggernaut that is Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda has taken Broadway by storm, and given any doubters a kick in the gut, especially considering the popularity of the show in ticket sales. But profit aside, Hamilton is a musical that is truly important in so many ways–from the casting, to the music, to the message, it is a game changer. One that I haven’t seen myself, but have listened to the cast recording several times at this point. And because of its success, the world is finally getting to properly meet one of my heroes, Miranda himself, who is probably my favorite lyricist since Howard Ashman. The man is a genius, and deserves all the praise he gets, and more. If you have the chance to see Hamilton, don’t throw away that shot.

PS: Special shout out to the various amazing “Ham for Hamilton” performances that have taken YouTube, and my heart, by storm. Especially those Schuyler Sisters. Yus, Mama, yus–work it Darcy James!

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1) Fun Home Wins Best Musical

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Another musical that truly made a mark on 2015 was Fun Home, the winner of the Best New Musical Tony. Telling a story that is both familiar and perfectly on the cusp of our time, Fun Home is as important as Hamilton, but for a very different reason. Fun Home talks about themes that are darker than most currently on Broadway, ones that hit close to, well, home–for a lot of people. I can’t say I would go see Fun Home again, and not because it isn’t a beautiful piece of art–but because it is so incredibly real. A kind of realness Broadway hasn’t had in a long, long time. I hope both shows live long, for we need this kind of diversity and representation of our world on the Great White Way.

So those are my favorite Theater Thursday approved moments of 2015. What are yours? Is there a musical that we didn’t talk about? Is there something here that shouldn’t have been on the list? How many times have you tried to get tickets to Hamilton? Comment below and tell us all your feels. And from all of us at Theater Thursday, Happy Holidays and have a Happy New Year!

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