Tuesday, December 24, 2019


During 2019, Theatre’s Leiter Side reviewed nearly 260 shows, 19 of them covered by guest reviewers Elyse Orecchio and Aron Canter. My own 240 or so reviews were distributed among four sites, Theatre’s Leiter Side, The Broadway Blog, edited by Matthew Wexler; Theater Pizzazz, edited by Sandi Durell (with great assistance from J.P. Clarke), and Theater Life, edited by Barry Gordin and Patrick Christiano. My lists of the year's best are below.

The list represents only shows I covered between January 1 and December 31, 2019 (there are two more to go, so I’ll adjust it if necessary). Elyse and Aron’s reviews aren’t included in the tallies.

Each show I review is given at least three grades, some getting as many as four. First there’s the thumbs-up or -down system where Samoji, as we’ll call him, offers two thumbs up for shows in the 85-100 range, one thumb up for the 70-84 range, arms crossed indecisively for the 50-69 range, one thumb down for the 30-49 range, and two thumbs down for anything below that.

Through the goodness of his heart, Samoji gave only two shows (Midnight Street and God of Marz) a two thumbs-down rating in 2019. That matches the total for the previous year. Last year I posted all the titles with one thumb down, but won’t be doing that this year.

If you look closely at Samoji’s shirt, you’ll see he also rates shows by a star system, ranging from one for the worst and five for the best. Thus, two thumbs up gets ***** while two thumbs down gets *.

Until the middle of 2019, Show-Score.com, where online reviews are excerpted, used a numerical grading system. When too many critics neglected to provide such grades, the site abandoned the practice, reserving it for general member reviews. Thus, the numerical average now posted on Show-Score represents only the grades submitted by the many theatregoers who’ve signed up with the site, but not the professional reviewers.

Finally, Theater Life has its own star system for which I provide another star grade.

The Best Plays of 2019 list represents all shows to which I gave two thumbs up.

New Plays
A Christmas Carol
Accidentally Brave
Ain’t no Mo’
Colin Quinn Red State Blue State
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain
Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo
La Bute New Theater Festival
The Black History Museum . . . According to the United States of America
The Lehman Trilogy
To Kill a Mockingbird
Toni Stone
We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time
What the Constitution Means to Me
Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom

New Musicals
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations
Anything Can Happen in the Theatre: The Musical World of Maury Yeston
Broadway Bounty Hunter
Dog Man: The Musical
Moulin Rouge
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Revivals of Plays
Fires in the Mirror
for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf
Juno and they Paycock
The Crucible
The Plough and the Stars
The Secret Life of Bees
The Trial of the Catonsville Nine
We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time

Revivals of Musicals
Fiddler on the Roof
Kiss Me, Kate!
Little Shop of Horrors
The Sorceress