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Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Grooviest Theater, Music, Comedy & Dance of 2015

Here are my theatrical favorites of 2015 in order of preference:

6) Gotta Dance
I'm not sure if Broadway will embrace this new musical about the first-ever senior citizen hip-hop dance troupe, but I had a good time at the Chicago production (which runs through January 17). The talented cast includes Lillias White, André De Shields, Haven Burton, Lori Tan Chinn, Nancy Ticotin and Hart to Hart's Stefanie Powers - but it's Georgia Engel (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) who steals the show with her amusing performance.

5) Bette, Live at the Continental Baths
It wouldn't be an end-of-the-year "Grooviest" list without a show from Hell in a Handbag Productions, who gave us this steamy trip down "mammary" lane with the divine Caitlin Jackson as Bette Midler (click here to read my review).

4) First You Dream: The Music of Kander & Ebb
I was lucky enough to see a dress rehearsal of this PBS special, which was filmed last summer at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. The stellar cast included Kate Baldwin, Heidi Blickenstaff, James Clow, Norm Lewis, Julia Murney and Matthew Scott.

3) City of Angels
I've always loved Cy Coleman's fabulous score for this Tony Award-winning musical, so I was very happy to finally see a production of the show, courtesy of The Marriott Theatre. Kevin Earley and Rod Thomas were wonderful as the two leads.

2) Bad Jews
The best play I saw in 2015 was Joshua Harmon's dark comedy, which featured some outstanding performances from Ian Paul Custer and Laura Lapidus.

1) On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan
I was never a big Gloria Estefan fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pre-Broadway Chicago production of her autobiographical musical, which featured terrific performances by Alma Cuervo, Andréa Burns and Ana Villafañe (as Gloria).

Worst Show of 2015: First Wives Club The Musical
Not even the marvelous Faith Prince could save this stinker of a show - but I did have a nice meal beforehand so the evening wasn't entirely wasted.

And below are my favorite music, comedy and dance performances of 2015:

Grooviest Concert of 2015: John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jane Monheit

Grooviest Concert Runner-Up: Mary Chapin Carpenter

Grooviest Concert Honorable Mention: Dianne Reeves

Grooviest Comedy Performance of 2015: Paula Poundstone

Grooviest Comedy Performance Runner-Up: Paul Reiser

Grooviest Dance Performance of 2015: River North Dance Chicago

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