It's been a sleepy fall on Broadway, with few real surprises to galvanize the 2019-20 theater season. But enough strong holdovers from the spring nonetheless made it tough to carve out a list of just ten standouts.
The majority of the more ground-breaking works, as usual, have come from off-Broadway, some of them, like Oklahoma!, Slave Play and What the Constitution Means to Me, which made my Top 10 last year, moving uptown to expand their audience.
Other memorable plays have included Adam Rapp's hypnotic mystery The Sound Inside, about fictions written, read and lived, directed with a surgeon's precision by David Cromer and featuring probing work from Mary-Louise Parker at the height of her powers.
Despite its flawed third act, Samuel D. Hunter's Greater Clements is a shattering elegy for people and communities dissolving into a landscape chewed up and then abandoned by industry, driven by wrenching performances from Judith Ivey and Edmund Donovan as a single mother and her troubled son in an Idaho mining town.
In The Michaels, Richard Nelson continued his invaluable Rhinebeck Panorama, a micro-macro Chekhovian study of the personal and political questions of our time, marking the eighth play in this exquisitely naturalistic series, with one more to come.
For sheer exuberant entertainment, it was hard to top Moulin Rouge! The Musical, a show so gleefully inebriated on its own excesses that resistance was futile. And thanks to a genuinely funny book by Robert Horn that updated the material in smart, resourceful ways — not to mention a terrific ensemble led by Santino Fontana in the Dustin Hoffman role — Tootsie delivered more laughs than any show this year, making its underwhelming commercial performance a major disappointment.
Top of the roster of shows I'm looking forward to in early 2020 are an all-new West Side Story from iconoclastic director Ivo van Hove; Ruth Negga making her American stage debut in the title role of Yael Farber's production of Hamlet; Marianne Elliott's gender-flipped revival of Company, starring the sublime Katrina Lenk from The Band's Visit; and a chance to revisit Conor McPherson's Depression-era tone poem set to the songs of Bob Dylan, Girl From the North Country, when it moves to Broadway.