The Top 5 Shows I Saw in 2021
It's that time of year again! Time for my annual theatre review wrap up! Like last year, I'm only going to be including 5 shows on my list - mostly because (due to the ongoing pandemic) I've been seeing a lot less theatre over the last couple of years. The shows on the list are live, in-person theatrical productions that I saw over the last twelve months. (As a note, I also don't put shows on the list that I had an artistic involvement in.)
2020 and 2021 were tough years for theatre, there's no doubt about that. In 2021 I saw nineteen shows in total, four of which were pre-recorded digital productions. I really want to get back to seeing more live theatre. I really, really do. What will 2022 hold for us? Who knows. I'll still aim to see 52 plays over the year but if that's not possible again then it will be whatever it will be. At this point, I'm just thankful that I saw any live performances this year.
5. Joy Ride created by Estelle Shook & Jamie King with the Cast, based on Philip van Doren Stern's The Greatest Gift & Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (Caravan Farm Theatre)
A beautiful holiday story and a horse-drawn, open sleigh ride?! Yes please! Caravan Farm Theatre delivered again with their holiday show this year. It was very cold when I saw the show, but I still enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the excellent choral singing, and the thoughtful tale.
4. Naught... but Nice: Vaccin8! by Joe Slabe and JP Thibodeau (Forte Musical Theatre Guild)
Another holiday classic and this company really delivers. The show this year (now in their eighth season!) had the feel of a classic holiday TV special - and I had the wonderful opportunity of being part of the live, studio audience during the filming. The songs and scenes were a delightful combination of hilarious, heartful, satire, and uplifting. And the new cast members were great. It's my second year seeing the Naughty... but Nice! show and I'll definitely be back next year.
3. Bliss: the birthday party play by Jamie Dunsdon (One Yellow Rabbit, Verb Theatre)
This is a show that makes you feel as well as think. I love that in a good piece of theatre. Though I know Jamie Dunsdon as a director, they're one heck of a performer! This show would do GREAT at a Fringe Festival and it felt so very fresh. The show was self-aware, interactive, meta-theatrical, amusing, and very messy (in a delightful way).
2. Murder in the Studio by Agatha Christie (Vertigo Theatre)
There was so many reasons I loved this show. As an anthology, it was so great so see such a variety of thrilling mystery stories told on stage and very fun to see the breadth of the performers' talents in different roles. The design and technical execution of the show was brilliant too. The lighting, costumes, sound, (and the live foley sound of the radio-style play!) all worked together to create wonderful moments of theatrical storytelling.
1. All I Want for Christmas by Rebecca Northan (Lunchbox Theatre)
This show was so unexpected in all the right ways. Rebecca Northan's script was fast-paced, irreverent, and (most of all) downright hilarious. All three of the performers were rockstars and really made the already top-level script and design elements soar. It was fun, it was silly, and it was exactly what was needed for the end of 2021.
Here's a list of all the shows I saw in 2021 in chronological order, including the digital productions:
Annie: The Musical • The Merry Wives of Winter • Othello • Makambe Speaks • KNOW the RULES, WIN the GAME • Agape • Hello Friend... • Bliss: the birthday party play • Flesh & Ghost • The Mire • Naughty… but Nice: Vaccin8! • Frankenstein • Imperfect Symmetry • Murder in the Studio • All I Want For Christmas • Matilda • The Little Prince • In Wonderland • Joy Ride