This list is not meant to pay tribute to the 10 best shows of the past 10 years or my personal favorites, but what are the most significant musicals and plays, including both premieres and noteworthy revivals.
1Wicked – Love or it hate it, “Wicked’ became Broadway’s first mega-hit since the late 1980s. “The Producers” instantly lost its luster once Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick left, while “Wicked,” which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary, is still going strong.
2Assassins – There have been a whole lot of Sondheim revivals over the past decade, some better than others, but the first Broadway staging of this brave and unconventional musical, which had been scheduled two seasons earlier but got delayed after 9/11, was a triumph on every level.
3Doubt – John Patrick Shanley’s smart and engaging drama about a priest who may or may not have sexually touched a young boy and the nun (played brilliantly by Cherry Jones) determined to take him down proved was the well-constructed American drama in years.
4Jersey Boys – Even if you wanted “The Drowsy Chaperone” to win the Tony that year, as I did, this Franki Valli-Four Seasons bio musical, which is still running, brought respectability to the other vapid genre of jukebox musicals in which a famous pop composer’s songbook is exploited.
5Stuff Happens – David Hare’s attempt to break down the behind-the-scenes politics that led to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq was certainly the most ambitious political drama of the past 10 years. Produced Off-Broadway at the Public Theater, it never made it to Broadway.
6Spring Awakening – Based on a turn of the century German drama about troubled adolescents, Duncan Sheik and Steve Sater’s musical adaptation was the most exciting rock musical in decades. It also launched the careers of Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff and John Gallagher Jr. and led the way for the success of “Next to Normal.”
7Hair – It started as an elaborate three-night concert in the summer of 2007 at Shakespeare in the Park. It subsequently returned the next summer for an extended run and finally transferred to Broadway. No matter when you saw it, Diane Paulus’ exuberant revival brilliantly evoked the politically charged passions of 1960s youths.
8The Merchant of Venice – While there have been countless high-profile Shakespeare productions, Dan Sullivan’s cutting staging of this classic problem play (led by Al Pacino as Shylock) was undoubtedly the most gripping. It premiered at Shakespeare in the Park and then played Broadway for a limited run.
9The Book of Mormon – Musical comedy, which enjoyed a mini-renaissance from “The Producers” (2001) through “The Drowsy Chaperone” (2006), came roaring back in this wildly hilarious and original piece by Trey Parker and Matthew Stone (“South Park”) and Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”).
10Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark – No doubt the worst show to merit a place on this list, “Spider-Man” caught the public eye due to its scandal-ridden, extended preview period and unprecedented cost, making Broadway look like a corporate-branded freak show. And the drama isn’t over. A tell-all memoir by the show’s book-writer is about to be released, and a newly injured chorus boy injured is filing a lawsuit.