Why limit my favorite memories of 2012 theater outings to just 10 choices? Here are a dozen of my personal 2012 picks in no particular order. Please note that some shows are still running so you can still see what the fuss is all about.
War Horse, Cadillac Palace Theatre, now through Jan. 5. This is a magnificent show that must be seen to be truly believed. South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company and the forces of the National Theatre of Great Britain have teamed to create an emotionally resonant and theatrically magical drama about a British boy and his beloved horse experiencing the horrors of World War I. The ending may betray its source as a children's novel by author Michael Morpurgo, but don't be surprised if you're moved to tears throughout the show.
The Book of Mormon, Bank of America Theatre, now through June 2. If you love the Comedy Central series South Park, then you have got to see this hilariously blasphemous and equal opportunity-offending musical. South Park co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have collaborated with Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez on a show that lovingly spoofs musical theater as it tells the tale of two young missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reacting to the squalor and violence of Uganda. The Book of Mormon definitely deserves to become the next Loop long-running hit, like Wicked and Jersey Boys.
The Iceman Cometh, Goodman Theatre, April 21-June 17, 2012. One of the theatrical events of the year was this revival of Eugene O'Neill's epic tavern drama of New York lowlifes facing up to their untenable illusions. Director Robert Falls returned to the piece again with star Brian Dennehy, though this time he took on the disillusioned anarchist Larry Slade while Nathan Lane assumed the pivotal role of a newly sober Hickey. Lane may not have fully satisfied in his climactic confession scene, but the rest of the ensemble truly worked together wonderfully.
Good People, Steppenwolf Theatre, Sept. 13-Nov. 17, 2012. Director and Steppenwolf ensemble member K. Todd Freeman directed the perfect cast for Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire's comic and hard-hitting look at economic and class disparities in Boston during the recent "Great Recession."
Elektra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Oct. 6-30, 2012. Director Sir David McVicar stunned the audience's senses with a new production of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's hulking 1909 operatic take on ancient Greek tragedy. Soprano Christine Goerke truly wowed in the marathon title role, and she was admirably supported by Jill Grove as the murderous mother KlytÃ¤mnestra and Emily Magee as her "good-girl" sister, Chrysothemis.
Three Sisters, Steppenwolf Theatre, June 28-Aug. 26, 2012. Some people complained that Tracy Letts' adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic drama sounded "too modern." But I felt that Letts brought a breath of fresh air to this sobering tale of three sisters who face a lifetime of wasted ambition and dashed hopes. Director and Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro drew out rich performances from the cast.
A Little Night Music, Writers Theatre, May 12-Aug. 1, 2012. Director William Brown led a powerhouse cast, including Tony Award-winner Deanna Dunagan and Shannon Cochran, in an exquisitely and intimately staged production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's sophisticated and romantic 1973 musical.
My Kind of Town, TimeLine Theatre, May 1- July 29, 2012. Veteran investigative journalist John Conroy drew from his many years of reporting on the Chicago Police torture scandal to create this powerful world-premiere drama that questions the ethics of coerced confessions and prods audiences to think what they might have done if they were in the characters' conflicted situations.
What's the T?, About Face Youth Theatre, July 13-Aug. 4, 2012. Playwright Sara Kerastas and the About Face Youth Theatre ensemble devised a very timely comic drama that explores many of the up-to-the-minute issues facing minority youths who hang around Chicago's Boystown neighborhood.
Sunday in the Park with George, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Sept. 26-Nov. 11, 2012. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical inspired by the life of post-Impressionist artist Georges Seurat triumphantly returned to Navy Pier, this time in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Courtyard Theater space in a new production directed again by Gary Griffin. Co-stars Jason Danieley and Carmen Cusack powerfully sang and performed their respective roles of Georges/George and Dot/Marie.
Disgraced, American Theater Company, Jan. 27-March 11, 2012. Ayad Akhtar's world premiere examined the struggles of a modern Muslim-American lawyer who must re-examine his identity once his seemingly successful life comes crashing down around him. This acclaimed production directed by Kimberly Senior laid the groundwork for its subsequent production for New York's Lincoln Center Theater.
Hit the Wall, The Inconvenience at Steppenwolf Garage, Feb. 3-April 22, then at Theater on the Lake, July 25-29, 2012. Ike Holter's world-premiere hit drama skillfully played with the mythologies that have grown up around the 1969 Stonewall Riots and combined them into a powerful theater piece about the birth of the modern movement for LGBT rights. Hopefully, a daring New York theater (preferably the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village), will snap up Hit the Wall and present it near its historic roots.