Top 10 Musical and Plays Feature
Paul Kolnik, AP, Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Lauren Margit Jones for TIME

Top 10 Plays & Musicals

Dec 10, 2015
Lazarus
Lazarus.Jan Versweyveld—AP
11

Lazarus

Late Addition

David Bowie wrote the terrific rock score (a mix of old and new songs) for this new off-Broadway musical, in which Michael C. Hall plays the stranded space alien — now a melancholy, gin-swilling hermit— that Bowie portrayed in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Busy director Ivo Van Hove's staging, which features video screens, balloons, a tone of glam alienation, and a parade of characters whose significance (and even existence) is not entirely clear, is as mesmerizing as it is confounding.

10

Wolf Hall

The tony Masterpiece Theatre style of historical drama has gone out of fashion on Broadway, and this two-part adaptation of Hillary Mantel's novels about political intrigue in the court of King Henry VIII wasn't the hit in New York that it was in London. Yet the lushly staged Royal Shakespeare Company production was a top-flight example of RSC polish, acting and storytelling skill.

Finding Neverland.
Finding Neverland.Walter McBride—Getty Images
9

Finding Neverland

The critics had the hook out from the start for this Broadway musical from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, based on his 2004 film about J.M. Barrie and the creation of Peter Pan. Against all odds, it turned out to be a spirited, tuneful and nimbly staged delight — a marked improvement over the movie, and the very model of a modern family musical.

John.
John.Matthew Murphy
8

John

A young couple try to hold their fraying relationship together while staying at an oddball Pennsylvania inn, run by a dotty proprietor (Georgia Engel) and populated by a few ghosts. Playwright Annie Baker (The Flick) has perfected a kind of methodically paced, darkly comic hyperrealism, and the play lasts a patience-testing 3 1/2 hours. But under Sam Gold's astute direction for the Signature Theater, it was strangely enthralling.

Constellations.
Constellations.Walter McBride—Getty Images
7

Constellations

Nick Payne's one-act play, which originated at London's Royal Court Theatre and arrived for a brief Broadway run last winter, charts a couple's relationship in short, time-jumbled scenes that keep rewinding and replaying in alternate versions. Never mind the scientific mumbo-jumbo about a "quantum multiverse"; Michael Longhurst's precision staging and two fine stars, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, made this theatrical high-wire act fly.

The Visit.
The Visit.Walter McBride—Getty Images
6

The Visit

John Kander and Fred Ebb's last musical collaboration, based on the Fredrich Durrenmatt play about a wealthy woman who returns to her hometown seeking revenge, had been circling Broadway for years. When it finally arrived last spring, it gave theater legend Chita Rivera one of her greatest roles and New York audiences a chance to hear one of Kander and Ebb's most beguiling scores. Yet the story, adapted by Terrence McNally and staged by John Doyle, was too dark for Broadway theatergoers, and the show departed quickly. A shame.

The Christians.
The Christians.Joan Marcus
5

The Christians

The minister of a thriving mega-church, in an unnamed American city, announces a spiritual revelation from the pulpit and prompts a crisis in the congregation. Lucas Hnath's knotty, thought-provoking play, directed by Les Waters at off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons, dramatizes the aftermath in a stylized, presentational manner — even intimate dialogue is spoken into hand mikes — as it explores issues ranging from church politics to the very nature of Christian faith.

The King and I.
The King and I.Paul Kolnik
4

The King and I

The acclaimed Lincoln Center revival, directed by Bartlett Sher, has it all: spectacle, heart and beautiful voices (especially those of Tony winners Kelli O'Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles). Add to that Rodgers & Hammerstein's beloved score and a book — about a proper British tutor's encounter with a Siamese ruler struggling to embrace modernism — with both relevance and tragic heft, and this production makes a good case for The King and I as the best of all the R&H classics.

Arthur Miller revivals, View from the Bridge and Incident at Vichy.
Arthur Miller revivals, View from the Bridge and Incident at Vichy.Walter McBride—Getty Images; Joan Marcus
3

Arthur Miller's Centennial

The playwright's 100th birthday was marked by two outstanding revivals. On Broadway, avant-garde director Ivo Van Hove reimagined Miller's oft-revived family drama A View From the Bridge as a blood-soaked Greek tragedy. Off Broadway, the Signature Theater offered a more conventional but equally fine production of Incident at Vichy, Miller's 1964 drama about a group of men rounded up in occupied France — a schematic but powerful expression of Miller's moral vision.

Hamilton.
Hamilton.Charles Sykes—AP
2

Hamilton

The man on the ten-dollar bill is suddenly everyone's favorite Founding Father. And Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop musical — which recounts Alexander Hamilton's rise from West Indian immigrant to key architect of the new American government and the nation's banking system — is now everyone favorite's Broadway sellout. Historically, the show tends to exalt Hamilton at the expense of his contemporaries (poor James Madison!), but Miranda has created the most entertaining history lesson in the annals of Broadway.

King Charles III.
King Charles III.Walter McBride—Getty Images
1

King Charles III

Prince Charles ascends to the throne, at last, and all hell breaks loose. Mike Bartlett's speculative drama, written in Shakespearean blank verse, has a sharp grasp of politics, the private lives of very public figures, and the logical absurdity of the British monarchy. Tim Pigott-Smith gives an empathetic and convincing performance as Charles, without resorting to crude impersonation, and Rupert Goold's production, transplanted largely intact from London, is riveting. One of the great political plays of our time.

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