By Sherry Cohen, Jacques Lamarre and Lauren Yarger
Connecticut always is home to some of the finest regional theater around and 2012 was no exception. The task of trying to pick the "best" has generated lots of discussion with a slew of productions vying for our attention since the calendar year actually covers parts of two different seasons.
We have enjoyed everything from an actor playing eight characters in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder to forbidden love in February House to 1950s Neil Sedaka hits in Breaking Up is Hard to Do to a disgruntled elf sharing his experience in The SantaLand Diaries - and a lot more in between.
We decided to give a shout out to Bell Book & Candle and its bewitching star, Kate MacCluggage, but took it out of the competition when we decided our format would be to name a top pick for each theater. Since this particular production ran both at Long Wharf and Hartford Stage, it seemed unfair to have it compete against itself.
Also eliminated from consideration, for obvious conflict of interest reasons, was Jacques' own box-office smash hit I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti over at TheaterWorks, Hartford, starring the bubbly and hard-working Antoinette Lavecchia, who dished up a made-from-scratch pasta dinner for stage-side diners at each performance.
Special shout outs also go to the really fabulous, restaged 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserable starring J. Mark McVey as Jean Valjean that stopped by the Bushnell and to Flipside at the edgy HartBeat Ensemble, which is a professional theater, but not Equity. Also noteworthy are two community Theater Productions, Boy in the Bathroom at Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich and Metamorphoses at West Hartford's Playhouse on the Park.
So, here's what we came up with (and it wasn't easy) for our favorite offerings this year at the state's professional theaters:
Best of 2012 Connecticut Theater:
Connecticut Repertory - Odysseus D.O.A.
Ivoryton Playhouse - Always . . . Patsy Cline
Goodspeed - Carousel
Hartford Stage - The Whipping Man
Long Wharf - Satchmo at the Waldorf
Music Theatre of Connecticut - Next to Normal
Seven Angels - Miracle on 34th Street
TheaterWorks - Red
Westport Country Playhouse - Into the Woods
Yale Rep - The Realistic Jonses