Andrew G. Cooper
The Top 10 Theatre Shows I Saw in 2022
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
It's the end of the year, people are wrapping up their holidays and getting ready for the new year. And you know what that means? My annual theatre review of all the plays I've seen in the last twelve months!
After two years of a gruelling pandemic (and only listing my top five shows for those years), I'm very happy that the world of live performing arts has returned. It's been so lovely seeing so many wonderful pieces of theatre again. This year, I was also very fortunate to go to New York City for the very first time—which means I saw my first ever Broadway shows! In total, I attended 43 performances this year. I'm so grateful to be witnessing live theatre again year round.
If you're interested in my reviews/lists from previous years, you can check them out here: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017.
So without (much) further ado, here's my top ten list for 2022 in ascending order.
10. Naughty...but Nice, Nine Lives by Joe Slabe & JP Thibodeau (Forte Musical Theatre Guild)
It's been a couple years since this annual show happened live (we all know why), so it was great seeing it in all it's glory again! Every year, this show gets better and better. I loved the new numbers (and there were many more than I was expecting) and hearing the old ones as well. The performers were also stunning—what voices!—and 3/4 of them were new to the show! Plus the production was much more queer. The addition of a song about the non-binary experience was a personal favourite. And you know what? I had Baileys for breakfast this year because of this show and it was a lovely treat. The eighth rendition of this show was also on my list last year, so I'm already looking forward to the big tenth anniversary year!
9. YABBER: A Folk Opera co-created by KP Smith, Genevieve Pare, Ali DeRegt, Nia Devetziss, Lindsey Zess, Monica Ila, Lane Shordee, and Kit Benz (Mudfoot Theatre)
This show was so filled with joy! It was so fun. The presentation was a workshop production, but even with the show still being in development, I was wowed! The masks were so simple (cardboard) but so effective, and the puppetry was simply top-notch. It was all the more impressive because of the found object/junkyard aesthetic. The show was a fun and very clowny ride, and I came out with a huge smile on my face. I believe this show is coming back as a full production in 2023, and I already can't wait to see what the talented team has in store.
8. Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express by Ken Ludwig (Vertigo Theatre)
Another classic murder mystery done right at Vertigo Theatre. There were actually a lot of great shows from this company in 2022. Clue and Cipher both almost made my list and Sherlock Holmes and the Vanishing Thimble wasn't far behind either. This show was, however, a step above the rest. The story itself is marvelously crafted (Agatha Christie at Vertigo Theatre was also on my list last year, so apparently I'm a fan!), and the design team all did marvelous work. The entire ensemble was superb, but Elinor Holt in particular really knocked it out of the park. That's a performance to remember! It was a great night out at the theatre and exactly what I was looking for.
7. Dora Maar: The Wicked One by Beth Graham and Daniela Vlaskalic (GAL Productions with Hit & Myth)
I love me a good solo storytelling show and this one really soared. Daniela Vlaskalic was excellent on stage and kept me tightly wrapped in the story the entire time. And what a story it was! A compelling combination of myth and visual arts that explored obsession in a fascinating way. Very neat. I've also been a huge fan of Daniela and Beth Graham since The Drowning Girls, and this duo did not disappoint.
6. Parts & Labour, a live documentary by Col Cseke (Fieldwork Theatre)
This show surprised me at every turn. It was so fresh, extremely educational and thought-provoking, and funny to boot! Filling out a survey at intermission? Wonderful idea and very enjoyable. Overall, I came out wanting to know more about strangers and wanting to be a better Canadian. The song at the end was beautiful and very moving. There was so many unique things that I loved. I've never enjoyed a verbatim piece of theatre so much, and I'm now on the look out for more of Col and Mieko's work.
5. Goblin: Macbeth by Rebecca Northan and Bruce Horak (The Shakespeare Company, Hit & Myth Theatre)
Shakespeare, improvisation, and GOBLINS?! What's not to love?! MacBeth is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays and this trio did an incredible job with the text—with quite a few surprises thrown in. It was a wonderfully funny and refreshing retelling of a classic. I loved the improv and the audience interaction, it was so purely theatrical and wickedly weird. The masks alone are worth seeing, but the engaging music and kickass performances kept me wanting more and more. I think this show is heading across Canada soon. Go and see it if you can!
4. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (Theatre: Calgary)
This production was delightful. I haven't laughed so hard in the theatre in years. The actors were on their 'A' game and just having so much fun up on stage. I loved seeing that. Emily Howard in particular brought a subversive and unexpecting twist to Gwendolen that really shone. There was so much life to this production. Improv, physical comedy, fun, and mayhem! The costume design (Ralamy Kneeshaw) was brilliant too. This is a classic script that I've loved since studying in my undergrad (and my third time seeing it live), and what I loved the most was the show didn't take itself too seriously. It looks like I'm a fan of director Bronwyn Steinberg because her first show that I saw was my number one pick last year. I look forward to what she does next.
3. Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Broadway Across Canada, The Public Theatre)
In terms of text, music, and lyrics, this is still the best show I've ever seen, heard, read, and watched. Even six years on, Hamilton feel vibrant and pulses with activity and energy. It's been a few years since a Broadway Across Canada tour has made my list, but it's hard to go wrong with this production. Seeing the musical live for the first time really highlighted for me the beautiful stage and the kinetic and powerful choreography. The Canada touring cast was great and this still remains one of my favourite shows and musicals of all time. Alas, to have seen it with the original cast in New York!
2. Misery by William Goldman, based on the novel by Stephen King (Vertigo Theatre)
This production was epic and one of the most thrilling plays I've ever seen live. Remember up at number 8 on this list when I said Vertigo theatre was great? Well, here's another reason why. This was an outstanding production of an excellent script. Masterfully directed by Jamie Dunsdon, it was a rollercoaster of horror and pain sprinkled with moments of hilarious comedy and genuine emotion. The performers really gave it their all and both of the leads (Haysam Kadri and Anna Cummer) drove through the play with the gusto and abandonment of a runaway train. There were also technical wonders on stage that I'd never seen before (sledgehammer, anyone?) that were such a treat to witness. I love Stephen King and haven't read this book or seen the movie so this was a wild and thrilling ride for me. And William Goldman too? Come on! A treat all around.
1. Hadestown by Anais Mitchell (Jujamcyn Theatres, The National Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop)
This was honestly one of the most powerful and moving performances I've ever experienced. The last show that left me like this was when I saw Matilda in 2018. The music is transcending. Having listened to the cast album many times over the last few years, I felt I really appreciated the storytelling on stage from the performers. It was a treat seeing André De Shields (his last weekend in the role actually), Patrick Page (who I loved in Apple TV+'s Spirited this holiday season), and Calgary's very own Tara Jackson stepping in for the role of Persephone. The staging, direction, and design elements were exemplary. This show was alive and shot through the theatre like lightning. I was struck in my seat. I probably cried more than when I saw my first big musical Wicked. I'd see this show again in a heartbeat, and I love the music even more now that I've seen the musical in person.
Here's a list of all the shows I saw in 2022 in chronological order:
AMPLIFIED • Cipher • STRUCK • Chandelier Burlesque • The Water Engine • The Anthropology of Blackness: a response in movements • Screwball Comedy • Alberta Kitchen Party • YABBER: A Folk Opera • Goblin: Macbeth • The Gold Rush: Redux • The Green Line • The Great Alberta Sound Bath Experience • Cantana • The Pirates of Penzance • Shark Bite • Clue • Dora Maar: The Wicked One • Hadestown • A Strange Loop • Heaven • Priscilla Queen of the Desert • Parts & Labour • Hamilton • Sherlock Holmes and the Vanishing Thimble • A Different Kind of Magic Show • Legally Blonde • Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill • O'KOSI • The House of Bernarda Alba • Misery • Driving Miss Daisy • Guilt • Gender? I Hardly Know Them • Cowgirl Up • Hookman • The Importance of Being Earnest • Constellations • The Jungle Book • Naughty...but Nice Nine Live • Home for the Holidays • Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express • Little Women