Best, worst theater in 2015

This year was pretty great for theater in New York. Although one show in particular won the lion’s share of acclaim and commercial success, there were plenty of other noteworthy plays and musicals. There were also a few disasters, including one that just opened and stars one of the world’s most admired actors.

Below is a list of the year’s 10 best and five worst shows. The new Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” could not be considered since it does not open until Sunday night.


1. ‘Hamilton’ Simply put, this was the year of “Hamilton.” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dynamic hip-hop musical biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton premiered at the Public Theater and went on to take Broadway by storm. It is also breaking into pop culture consciousness.

2. ‘Fun Home’ Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s Tony-winning musical about a lesbian cartoonist looking back on her troubled relationship with her father is just as innovative as it is emotionally piercing. Like “Hamilton,” it came from the Public Theater.

3. ‘Spring Awakening’ This inspired revival made the 2005 adolescent rock musical fresh all over again by using American Sign Language and a cast made up of hearing and non-hearing actors.

4. ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ The current Off-Broadway staging of the 1959 fairy tale musical is a joyfully offbeat piece of burlesque, with a cast led by comic Jackie Hoffman and drag artist John Epperson.

5. ‘Sylvia’ Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford gives an unforgettable performance as a young female dog in A.R. Gurney’s heartwarming man-and-pet comedy.

6. ‘The Color Purple’ With a cast led by Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks and Cynthia Erivo, John Doyle’s stripped-down revival of the 2005 musical is far more powerful than the original production.

7. ‘Hand to God’ This raunchy, irreverent comedy about a teenage boy whose hand becomes possessed by a foul-mouthed, violent puppet is hilarious and seriously disturbing. The puppet sex sequence is unforgettable.

8. ‘The Flick’ Annie Baker’s Pulitzer-winning comedic drama about the underpaid workers of a run-down movie theater made a much-welcome return after its 2013 debut.

9. ‘The Christians’ In Lucas Hnath’s provocative and polarizing drama, a well-meaning pastor alienates his congregation and family with a sudden change of faith. Like “The Flick,” it came out of Playwrights Horizons.

10. ‘Incident at Vichy’ It may not be Arthur Miller’s finest play, but the Signature Theatre’s revival of his one-act Holocaust drama is incredibly well-acted and compelling.

Honorable mention: The excellent City Center Encores! concert productions of “Paint Your Wagon,” “A New Brain,” “Lady, Be Good!” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”


1. ‘China Doll’ Al Pacino and David Mamet crash and burn in this rambling, incoherent two-man drama about a billionaire businessman with a new airplane and tax problems.

2. ‘Gigi’ Whose idea was it to bring back the bland stage version of the 1958 MGM movie musical and to turn it into a star vehicle for Vanessa Hudgens?

3. ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’ A powerful Greek tragedy was reduced to rubble in this puzzling and off-putting Off-Broadway production at Classic Stage.

4. ‘It Shoulda Been You’ David Hyde Pierce made his Broadway directing debut with this painfully dated and unfunny musical about a wedding gone wrong.

5. ‘The Way We Get By’ Provocateur-playwright Neil LaBute’s 90-minute play about the aftermath of a one-night fling was the equivalent of 90 empty calories.