HWTS’s Top Shows Of 2016

With four theater reviewers, HowWasTheShow.com is covering more theater than ever. We herewith wrap up an excellent year with How Was the Show’s first ever annual favorites list. Some of the plays weren’t even reviewed! But when they were, helpful links are provided.



Gypsy, by Theater Latté Da.999706_10200557694886484_933960870_n

The year’s best show; an all-around triumph and an unforgettable showcase for the formidable talents of mother-daughter duo Michelle Barber and Cat Brindisi. Read the Berglunds’ review here.


The Passage or What Comes of Searching in the Dark, 7th House Theater.

A moving journey into the inner life of a child that brimmed with creative energy and surprising insight. By exploring serious issues with humor and compassion, this show served as a visceral reminder of life’s dual messiness and joys – in every way an exciting step forward for this young company, and a new artistic height for local composer/writer David Darrow, as well as a showcase for a couple truly gifted youngsters. Not reviewed on HWTS.


Disgraced, at the Guthrie.

An in-your-face exploration of American prejudices and cultural anxieties that felt both timely and urgent. Acted with passion by a superb ensemble and expertly crafted to maintain tension, this show was a rollercoaster I will not soon forget. Reminded me of the unique power of theater to challenge its audience’s expectations and worldviews. Not reviewed on HWTS.


Now or Later, by New Epic Theater.

A stand-out Fringe contribution, and therefore surprise winner at this year’s Ivey Awards; a fully-realized and deeply human study of the troubling dynamics of behind-the-scenes political calculations, as well as the pressures it places on those directly involved.



Pericles, at the G.olive-245-ce-resized-2

Beautiful: the design, the performances (all the actors were out-of-towners, which added a delicious frisson to the show). And the exquisite direction: Joseph Haj’s debut. Read John’s review here.


Lasso Of Truth, Workhaus Collective.

Carson Kreitzer’s play is a tad clunky but there is enough raw creativity in it to keep you totally riveted. Kreitzer is a master. Tragically, Lasso was Workhaus’s swan song. Review here.


Me For You For Me, Mu Performing Arts.

Mia Chung’s amazing play was funny, heartfelt, tragic. A gorgeous (and much needed)  portrait of North Korea. Everything came together perfectly: direction, design, performances, writing. Yowza. Review here.


The Magic Flute, Minnesota Opera.

Astonishing visuals. Animations such as you’re unlikely to ever see again. Fold into this heady mix the rapturous music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and you have a recipe for boffoness. John’s review is here. A review by David and Chelsea Berglund is here.



Disgraced, at the Guthrie.

Outstanding writing, directing and acting. Every flawed character in the play came off as beings deserving of sympathy in a contentious world. The set designer solved the problem of the overly large Maguire Stage by building out the sides of the set and bringing all the action to the front by adding a street scene to the upstage. Kudos all around. Not reviewed on HWTS.


Jitney, at Penumbra.

A great example of a production that brings to life a lesser work by a gifted playwright. Ensemble acting at its best. Please read Mari’s review here.


2 Gentlemen of Verona and Le Switch, at the Jungle.

A tie for third place. Two shows too good to choose between. Fell in love all over again with pink, and lavender. John Olive’s review of the 2 Gents can be accessed here. Mari’s review of Le Switch is here.



The Crucible, Theater Coup d’Etat.janet1

I have scaled back my reviewing so much in the last year that my list will be short. In fact, I’m going to offer just one, and I didn’t even review it. Theater Coup d’Etat set their production of The Crucible in a very old, gothic-style church in an even-older St. Paul neighborhood. This was their “holiday” offering this year. The creaky wooden pews, the hollow sound of the high ceiling, the steps leading to an altar … underscore, underscore, underscore for powerful, classic acting and smart direction. Well done!



1 comment for “HWTS’s Top Shows Of 2016

  1. December 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I was present at a reading of Jitney, lo, these many years ago, at the Playwrights Center. Fast and funny is my memory. I also remember thinking that here was a writer of real power. A writer with a future.

    Latté Da has become the most accomplished purveyor of music theater in MN. Gypsy and (in 2015, ergo not eligible for this list) the astonishing Sweeney Todd. I wish they would change the name of the theater. “Latté Da” is jokey and silly.

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