The Best Theatre of 2019 – As Chosen by the Broadway Stars of 2020

Lists   The Best Theatre of 2019 – As Chosen by the Broadway Stars of 2020
 
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Phylicia Rashad, Matt Doyle, Paula Vogel, and more look back on the year of theatre before their own shows bow in 2020.
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When reflecting on the greatest offerings of Broadway and Off-Broadway this past year, who better to ask than theatremakers themselves? Playbill asked creators and stars from productions opening in the spring of 2020 to look back on 2019. Here, we hear from a Theater Hall of Famer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, as well as Tony-winning performers and fan favorites—who all return to Broadway in 2020—as they name their top theatrical experiences of 2019.

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Phylicia Rashad Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Phylicia Rashad, director of Blue (Performance details TBA)
Select credits: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, August: Osage County, Cymbeline, Gem of the Ocean (Tony nomination), A Raisin in the Sun (Tony Award)
Chooses: A Christmas Carol (Broadway)
"My favorite show of 2019 is A Christmas Carol. The whole audience was connected. There was not a dry eye in the house. And afterwards, it made you want to go out and just love everybody."

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Andy Truschinski and Jessie Mueller Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Jessie Mueller, Ms. Johnson in The Minutes (Begins performances February 25 at the Cort Theatre)
Select credits: Carousel (Tony nomination), Waitress (Tony nomination), Beautiful (Tony Award), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Tony nomination)
Chooses: A Christmas Carol (Broadway)
"I was so moved by A Christmas Carol. I’ve always loved the story and this new adaptation made me see it in a whole new way. It was such a testament to how powerful good storytelling can be! And I think it’s a message we need to hear every year!"

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Colton Ryan Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Colton Ryan, Gene Laine in Girl From the North Country (Begins performances February 7 at the Belasco Theatre)
Select credits: Dear Evan Hansen, Alice by Heart
Chooses: Octet (Off-Broadway)
“Hard to choose one, but with the unexpectedly personal Octet, Dave Malloy presented the Phone Problem with such reverence for tradition that it became urgently fresh. From the first slide into eight-part vocal wizardry, he confronted the evolutionary issue of our devices with their inevitability, which I think, deep-down, we all know, but choose to forget.”

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Matt Doyle

Matt Doyle, Jamie in Company (Begins performances March 2 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre)
Select credits: War Horse, The Book of Mormon, Bye Bye Birdie, Spring Awakening
Chooses: The Sound Inside (Broadway)
“I was profoundly moved by The Sound Inside. Mary-Louis Parker and Will Hochman were stunning. Adam Rapp’s gorgeous text was meticulously directed by David Cromer for the most engrossing night of theatre I experienced all year. Like a fantastic novel, I walked around still dwelling on all of it for days. Outside of that phenomenal play, I feel the need to give a loving shout out to the two musicals Alex Timbers staged so brilliantly this year. In a time as depressing as the one we are living through right now, it was quite a relief to escape into the pure, ecstatic joy of both Beetlejuice and Moulin Rouge!.

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Adrianna Hicks Evgenia Eliseeva

Adrianna Hicks, Catherine of Aragon in SIX (Begins performances February 13 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre)
Select credits: The Color Purple, Aladdin
Chooses: Hadestown (Broadway)
“Where do I even begin! First off, I was deeply inspired by the musical's creative take on telling a Greek mythological story that left me proud to be a part of the musical theater community. The cohesiveness between the technological usage of the stage, music composition, singing, acting, dancing, and direction reminded me of what the power of unity can bring to an audience. Nowadays, it is refreshing to walk out of a show thoroughly satisfied by every detail conveyed throughout, and I'm happy to say that Hadestown was that show for me this year.”

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Paula Vogel Marc J. Franklin

Paula Vogel, playwright of How I Learned to Drive (Begins performances March 27 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)
Select credits: Indecent (Tony nomination), How I Learned to Drive (Pulitzer Prize)
Chooses: What the Constitution Means to Me (Broadway)
“It's not even close in my book: What The Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck. I went in, saw the matinee, canceled my evening ticket to another show, and went to see it again that evening. It is a beautifully crafted play that achieves the most emotional discussion of the right to choose by using Heidi Schreck's empathic performance with the lyrical persuasion of her argument and courage."

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Tracie Bennett Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tracie Bennett, Alice in Hangmen (Begins performances February 28 at the Golden Theatre)
Select credits: End of the Rainbow (Tony nomination)
Chooses: Tootsie and To Kill a Mockingbird
“It is nearly impossible to choose just one show as my favorite thing I saw last year, so I've gone ahead and picked one play and one musical. Tootsie is musical comedy at its finest in a way that has not been seen on Broadway in ages! Santino Fontana is giving a sensational, not-to-be-missed performance and the entire company is absolutely fabulous. Scott Ellis, David Yazbek, Robert Horn, and Denis Jones created musical theatre magic and if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you get yourself over to the theatre before their final performance January 5. Then, To Kill a Mockingbird. I knew it would be a treat to see this seminal novel adapted for the stage, but Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's classic is utterly sublime in every way. This story feels more prescient and timely than ever and the experience of seeing this play is seared into my mind.

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Carmen Cusack Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Carmen Cusack, Clare Booth Luce in Flying Over Sunset (Begins performances March 12 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre)
Select credits: Bright Star (Tony nomination), Wicked tour
Chooses: Slave Play
“I was able to get a ticket to Slave Play. The performances were shocking and brilliant! I left feeling slapped, shaken, and thankful for it!”

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Jesse Tyler Ferguson Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Mason Marzac in Take Me Out (Begins performances April 2 at the Hayes Theater)
Select credits: Fully Committed (Drama Desk Award), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Drama Desk Award)
Chooses: Oklahoma!
“It’s a musical I thought I knew but after seeing Daniel Fish’s brilliant reimagination, I’ll never be able to see it the same way again. It permanently shifted something in me and I had to see it three times to fully digest how a work written 76 years ago could possibly feel this relevant and fresh. The uniformly brilliant cast was a revelation, and I confessed to them that watching their performances made me wildly jealous of not only their talent but their opportunity to be part of such a groundbreaking revival. The work of the entire company was aspirational to me. It reminded me that the power of theatre is enormous and reconfirmed what a gift it is to be a part of the Broadway community.”

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Brad Oscar Alan Perlman

Brad Oscar, Frank Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire (Begins performances March 9 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre)
Select credits: Something Rotten! (Tony nomination), The Producers (Tony nomination)
Chooses: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, Off-Broadway
“A revelatory production of a piece I have known and loved most of my life. (One of my first times on stage was as a 12-year-old Motel at the JCC of Greater Washington!) I was transported to the world of my ancestors in a way I have never been before, and Steven Skybell‘s performance was masterful. And it certainly confirmed that Fiddler is one of the greatest pieces of American musical theater ever created.”

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Bess Wohl Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Bess Wohl, playwright of Grand Horizons (Opens January 23 at the Hayes Theater)
Select credits: Small Mouth Sounds, American Hero, Make Believe
Chooses: Hurricane Diane, Off-Broadway
“Out of a season packed with inspiring work, the moment that stays with me the most vividly is when Mia Barron, through sheer force of acting, transformed into a ferocious and vengeful god-slash-demon in Madeleine George's Hurricane Diane. Under the sharp direction of Leigh Silverman, George's hilarious and terrifying play looked at our sick relationship to nature, stealthily shining a light on the impending climate catastrophe. Not to mention, the play featured a cast of kick-ass women led by the magnetic trans performer, Becca Blackwell.”

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Laura Linney Marc J. Franklin

Laura Linney, Lucy Barton in My Name is Lucy Barton (Begins performances January 4 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)
Select credits: The Little Foxes (Tony nomination), Time Stands Still (Tony nomination), Sight Unseen (Tony nomination), The Crucible (Tony nomination)
Chooses: The Inheritance
“I saw The Inheritance in London. It’s not just a wonderful theatrical experience, it’s one of the best I’ve had in my life. I mean, it just slayed me completely. I loved it.”

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