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TOP 10 Theatrical Wonders of 2010

A theatre year with a tipsy crew, a zoo, a shrew, and lots of cross-dressing

By Robert Faires, Fri., Jan. 7, 2011

<b><i>The Drowsy Chaperone</i></b>
The Drowsy Chaperone

1) 'THE DROWSY CHAPERONE' (ZACH THEATRE) A speakeasy's worth of cocktails couldn't match the intoxicating lift of this spoofy toast to musicals. A dream team of Zach all-stars – Martin Burke, Jill Blackwood, Meredith McCall, Jamie Goodwin, et al. – masterfully mined comic gold from every line, while the show's open-hearted embrace of the frivolous provided a tender lesson in the worth of guilty pleasures.

2) 'ALL SHOOK UP' (TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DANCE) With this jukebox musical of the King's hits (lifted out of the Wurlitzer by a book slyly riffing on the Bard's Twelfth Night), Kaitlin Hopkins proved Texas State's musical theatre program even better than the buzz. Gifted students, showing show-biz shine and polish beyond their years and exhilarating ensemble work, made the playhouse rock.

3) 'PAVED PARADISE REDUX' (JOHN KELLY AT FUSEBOX FESTIVAL) Immersed in the persona of Joni Mitchell, John Kelly was mesmerizing and captivating. And in the final number, shedding the wig and dress to reveal himself as he sang, he was transcendent.

4) 'THE DIFFICULTY OF CROSSING A FIELD' (UT DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE & DANCE) "Difficulty" doesn't start to describe the act of penetrating David Lang and Mac Wellman's dense, opaque opera, but stunning design work and the committed cast made it worth the effort. The reward? A truly haunting meditation on race, loss, and history.

5) 'THE RED BALLOON' (TONGUE AND GROOVE THEATRE) The adorable orb floated back onstage this year, with all of the 2008 production's abundant charms, whimsy, and sense of wonder intact, which provoked a state of pure childlike delight all over again.

6) 'MACHINAL'/'BAAL' (PAPER CHAIRS) This pair of post-World War I tragedies from Dustin Wills' new troupe may have served a double shot of bleakness regarding humankind, but they were among the year's most theatrically invigorating shows, rich in surprises and daring performances from fearless ensembles.

7) 'AT HOME AT THE ZOO' (PALINDROME THEATRE) Edward Albee's dramatic time warp – two one-acts with the same character written 45 years apart – was knitted together with impressive, affecting sensitivity by Jude Hickey, Robin Thompson, and Nigel O'Hearn.

8) 'THE TAMING OF THE SHREW – ORIGINAL PRACTICES' (HIDDEN ROOM THEATRE) Beth Burns' approach was old-school, casting all guys, but the Bard's troubling comedy felt fresh thanks to a sense of play and Ryan Crowder's fine turn as Kate.

9) 'A WESTERN' (ACTION HERO AT FUSEBOX FESTIVAL) In an Eastside bar, two young Brits conjured the ultimate movie Western with just their words, a bike, and a lotta ketchup. A charmer that took dead aim at cinematic romance and theatre and nailed 'em both with a single shot.

10) 'BIOGRAPHY OF PHYSICAL SENSATION' (RUBBER REPERTORY) A theatrical experiment that reduced one woman's life to components of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, and in transferring them to an audience, expanded it into a something surprisingly communal, rich in connections and shared humanity.

Honorable Mentions

'BECKY'S NEW CAR' (ZACH THEATRE)

'RENT' (ZACH THEATRE)

'EMERGENCY PROM' (UT DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE & DANCE)

'THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP' (OWEN EGERTON/LES MCGEHEE/ZACH THEATRE)

'MELANCHOLY PLAY' (PALINDROME THEATRE)

'THE ATHEIST' (HYDE PARK THEATRE)

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