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Review Round-Ups

Top 10 reviewed shows for 2019

We round up ten of our favourite shows over the last 12 months

A Table Tennis Play
© The Other Richard

With the new year nearly upon us, we thought it might be a good time to have a look back at some of the best productions we saw over the last twelve months. Featuring musicals, dramas, old stories and new across the entire country, here is to hoping for more of the same in 2020!



Come From Away

Come From Away
© Matthew Murphy

Come From Away was first reviewed by WhatsOnStage right at the start of 2019 and what a year the musical has had. Depicting a remote Canadian community's overwhelming kindness in the face of the 9/11 attacks, it is now booking to May 2020.


Downstate

(L to R) ensemble member Francis Guinan (Fred), ensemble member Glenn Davis (Gio), Celilia Noble (Ivy), Eddie Torres (Felix) and ensemble member K. Todd Freeman (Dee)
© Michael Brosilow

Co-produced by the National Theatre and the esteemed Steppenwolf Theatre Company based in Chicago, Downstate was another triumph in the career of Bruce Norris. A mediation on how society should treat sex offenders, it reminded us of his skills as a playwright ahead of the tenth anniversary of his Pulitzer prize-winning Clybourne Park that returns to London next year.


Death of a Salesman

Wendell Pierce in Death of a Salesman
© Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

This production starring Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke was so successful it earned a transfer to Piccadilly Theatre once the initial run at the Young Vic had finished earlier this year. Transforming Miller's original script into an African-American tragedy, this was praised as a creative and heart-breaking reimagining.


Hobson's Choice

Shalini Peiris (Durga Hobson),Tony Jayawardena (Hari Hobson) and Esh Alladi (Ali Mossop) in Hobson's Choice
© Marc Brenner

The Royal Exchange has a reputation for superb theatre but even by their own high standards Hobson's Choice was a stunning piece of work. Tanika Gupta adapted the 19th century play to focus on immigrant experiences in Manchester, which worked seamlessly with a soundtrack boasting acid house, bhangra and New Order.


The Doctor

The Doctor
© Manuel Harlan

Not only has Juliet Stevenson been nominated for a 2020 WhatsOnStage Award to recognise her starring role in The Doctor, but the production's success has also earned it a West End transfer next year. Shifting identity and gender politics gave a thrilling edge to a story about a Jewish doctor refusing a priest access to the bedside of a dying patient.


A Table Tennis Play

A Table Tennis Play
© The Other Richard

Responsible for one of our favourite productions from this year's Edinburgh Fringe, Sam Steiner's reputation as a deft playwright with an eye for humorous dialogue continues to grow. Having built his name at the festival with original and imaginative storylines, Steiner makes his London debut in January next year with You Stupid Darkness!.


Dear Evan Hansen

Sam Tutty in Dear Evan Hansen
© Matthew Murphy

One of the most relevant and current musicals, Dear Evan Hansen reflects on the huge potential, both positive and negative, of social media in modern society as well as teenage anxiety and depression. This production had built up an enormous reputation by the time it landed in the UK – it did not disappoint.


The Boy in the Dress

The cast of The Boy in the Dress, directed by Gregory Doran, designed by Robert Jones, Royal Shakespeare Theatre. This show featured Jackson Laing as Dennis, Arjun Singh Khakh as Darvesh, Asha Banks as Lisa James, Zachary Loonie as John.
© RSC, photo by Manuel Harlan

With music from Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers, ''The Boy in the Dress' is David Walliams' celebrated story about a 12 year-old school football star named Dennis – who happens to really like wearing a dress. A celebration of individuality, this show was a huge success when it debuted at Stratford last month.


Life of Pi

Hiran Abeysekera (Pi) and Richard Parker the Tiger in Life of Pi
© Johan Persson

Another play on this list that is transferring to London next year, Life of Pi blew us away when we first saw it over the summer. Yan Martel's Booker-winning novel about a young boy surviving on a stranded lifeboat with a tiger was brought to life on stage in a triumph of colour and puppetry.


Cyrano De Bergerac

James McAvoy in Cyrano de Bergerac
© Marc Brenner

The most recent of this list, Jamie Lloyd's new production of Cyrano de Bergerac has garnered universal praise since it debuted a little over a week ago. The story of a legendary 17th century poet and sword fighter is brought to life by the performance of an inspired James McAvoy.


Honorable mentions:

The epic Pride and Prejudice pop music karaoke mash-up hybrid from Blood of the Young opened in Bristol, Sheffield Theatres has a brilliant season with Guys and Dolls and Standing at the Sky's Edge, the National's Dorfman managed to programme some epic hits – The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Antipodes and Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear while Amélie is given the musical production it deserves on tour.

Speaking of five-star musicals, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Operation Mincemeat got rave reactions on the same day, oh, and a small little show called & Juliet broke our Awards record.

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