In live theatre, there are hundreds of elements that go into making a story come to life on stage. From the lighting design to the sound design to the talent of the actors themselves, there are so many moving parts that form the piece as a whole. If everything works in harmony with one another, you’re going to end up with a great show.
Throughout the past six years, I’ve seen a lot of great shows, some I would even call my favorite of all time. However, there have been five productions that stick out as the most unique theatre experiences I’ve ever seen.
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
I loved absolutely everything about this show. As a musical snob, I was wary about being fully entertained throughout an entire two hour play, but you have my word that Curious Incident absolutely keeps you engrossed. Though the lighting design is exceptional and the story is fascinating, the elements that really made this show for me were the sound design and scenic design. I thought it was genius how the set stored the props for the show inside its cubes, and I never would have thought a play could incorporate music the way Curious Incident did. Had the American Theatre Wing not revoked the award for Best Sound Design the year before, I have no doubt that Curious Incident would have taken home that award.
2. Once On This Island 2017-2018 Broadway Revival
Having just won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, I came into Once On This Island with very high expectations. The exact moment I walked into the Circle in the Square Theatre and saw the set design, I was floored. I had never seen a stage that was covered in sand, had a small pool of water, and farm animals milling around. If the scenic design wasn’t enough, the choreography and music grabbed you by the neck the moment the show began and didn’t let you go until the bows. Overall, creative direction choices, incredible instrumentals, and otherworldly vocals made this production an absolute standout. It’s a real shame that this production closed.
3. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
You’ve probably already heard this about this show, but let me reinforce: SET DESIGN. LIGHTING DESIGN. Great Comet made use of a standard Broadway theatre in a way I’ve never seen before. More than anything, I absolutely loved how the actors interacted with the audience and with the actual space of the Imperial Theatre. In fact, I’d never been to a show where the cast interacted that much with the audience members. While the story could have used improvements, the production design and the score more than made up for it. Despite closing prematurely on Broadway, I sincerely pray that this show lives on (which it’s already doing in Tokyo).
4. In The Heights West End
The very first time I went to London was in 2016, and naturally, I made plans to go see two shows. One of these shows ended up being the West End production of In The Heights at the Kings Cross Theatre. It was no doubt one of the coolest theatre experiences I’ve ever had, and not just because I was seeing it overseas. The stage at Kings Cross is in the middle of the room and the audience sits on either side. This way, not only did everyone have a great view of the stage, but the intimacy of the space allowed you to connect with the story even more than if it had been on a classic stage. I also recall loving the lighting design during “Blackout”, which transformed from a pitch black stage to colorful lights flashing to mimic fireworks.
5. Pippin 2013 Broadway Revival
Before I saw Once On This Island’s Broadway revival, the 2013 version of Pippin was my favorite revival of all time. I saw this production a total of three times (once on Broadway, twice on tour), and I absolutely love what they did with this 1972 musical. In every scene and every song, there was something spectacular to admire. Maybe it was the lighting, the dancing, the storytelling, or the sheer talent of the actors. Any way you look at it, the only thing I loved more than the acrobatics was that this production wasn’t scared of color and creativity.
What have been some of your favorite theatre experiences? Comment below!