Tina Fey, King Kong and Harry Potter all made their marks in New York theater in 2018, with varying degrees of success.
There were no perfect musicals. On Broadway, Fey’s sly humor made “Mean Girls” a kicky enough high-school hen party, but “Frozen” left me cold and “Pretty Woman” showed its age. Campy antics and a serious social message clashed in “The Prom,”and top-flight performances in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” were sunk by its cruise-show feel.
New plays ran the gamut. Both the wondrous “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and the newly revived “Angels in America,” starring Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield — who deserved their Tony Awards, while another excellent revival — Edward Albee’s icily elegant “Three Tall Women” — starred an unforgettable Glenda Jackson.
Here, alphabetically, are my other five favorite shows of the year.
“The Cher Show”: This celebration of the one-named pop wonder may not be the cream of the crop of jukebox biomusicals, but sometimes all you crave is a superfun glitter bomb. Done!
“The Ferryman”: Irish tropes spill out like yellow moons and green clovers from a Lucky Charms box, but Jez Butterworth’s operatically scaled saga of private and political tumult in 1980s Northern Ireland is a dramatic feast.
“Hangmen”: Martin McDonagh’s black comedy — set in ’60s Britain, when the noose had just been outlawed — was typically quirky and creepy. Johnny Flynn’s turn as a sexy psycho was a big bonus.
“The Waverly Gallery”: Kenneth Lonergan’s funny-sad story of a family in crisis boasted a 40-karat cast led by Elaine May and Lucas Hedges. Altogether, it added up to something indelible. (Through Jan. 27 at the John Golden Theatre.)
“What the Constitution Means to Me”: Read any good founding documents lately? Heidi Schreck’s whip-smart, transparently personal wake-up call may well make you take a look. (Through Sunday at the Greenwich House Theater)
As for this year’s stinkers: It’s bananas, but the brains behind the $35 million dud “King Kong” thought a two-story gorilla puppet, however impressive, would make a musical. Nope! We knew “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” was amateur hour as soon as its producer hopped on stage to shill for it. And not one — but two — plays about Joan of Arc misfired: The Public’s “Mother of the Maid,” in which the estimable Glenn Close was undone by a cartoonish script, while the Manhattan Theatre Club’s “Saint Joan” went down in flames. Leave Joanie alone!