Time magazine picked the musical Rent as number one on its annual survey of The Best Theatre of 1996 -- one of the few mass-circulation magazines to offer such a survey. Five of the shows on the list were seen on Broadway.
The unbylined story continued with the following list:
2) The Beckett Festival presented Off-Broadway by Dublin's Gate Theatre.
3) Chicago: The Broadway revival directed by Walter Bobbie and starring Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, James Naughton and Joel Grey. Originated at Off-Broadway's "Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert" series at New York's City Center.
4) By Jeeves: The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Alan Ayckbourn musical that had its US premiere at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre in Connecticut. 5) Venus: Suzan-Lori Parks' drama about the so-called "Hottentot Venus" who titillated 19th century London. Presented at the New York Shakespeare Festival.
7) Buried Child: Gary Sinise's revival of the Pulitzer-winning Sam Shepard drama, which transferred from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre to Broadway.
8) Randy Newman's Faust: David Mamet reportedly helped Newman on the libretto of his new musical that updates the Faust legend to the world of contemporary football.
9) One Flea Spare: Naomi Wallace's portrait of life during the 1665 London plague, as presented in the new American plays festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, KY.
10) Bring in 'da Noise/ Bring in 'da Funk: Savion Glover's and George C. Wolfe's survey of a century of black life in America -- as told through dance, especially tap.
Time exulted, "What a year for musicals!"
Want to write your Top 10 -- or just your favorite theatre experiences of 1996? Playbill On-Line will post them here! E-mail your list to Robert Viagas at email@example.com. Results will be posted starting Dec. 28.
-- By Robert Viagas