Top 5 theater productions of 2015

A STITCH IN TIME: Samantha Stewart appears as rebellious Yetta in David Hopes' Washington Place Photo by Rodney Smith/Tempus Fugit Design

In a year of excellence in the WNC theater scene, it is a daunting task to narrow to the top five.

5. An Iliad was a tale as old as time, told in a sparse way on the bare stage of North Carolina Stage Company. Willie Repoley was dynamic as the sole actor on stage, recounting wars waged from ancient Greece to the 21st century. Accompanied by haunting music from lone pianist and composer Jan Powell, this show was stirring and mesmerizing. N.C. Stage’s strong year had many great shows, but the one that stuck with me the most was this partnership production with Immediate Theatre Project.

4. Art was a play I knew quite well, having been in the show myself once. The folks of The Actor’s Center of Asheville had a daunting task ahead of themselves in pleasing me with their production at Asheville Community Theatre’s tiny 35 Below space. Happily, the stellar acting trio of Dan Clancy, Robert Dale Walker and Kevin Patrick Murphy nailed it.

3. Asheville Community Theatre has cracked the code on what it takes to fill houses and grow audiences. This year, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein came alive as a Halloween treat for theatergoers. And despite being a nonprofessional community theater, the company gave us one of the most refined and professional productions of the year.

2. Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz closed out Flat Rock Playhouse’s 2015 season with a strong production that is ready for Broadway and Tony Awards. I feel strongly both could be in the company’s future. Flat Rock Playhouse has lived up to its designation as the State Theatre of North Carolina. It’s strong season also included the spectacular Tuskegee Airmen saga, Fly.

1. The Magnetic Theatre produces new works, which can be a daunting task. One show was simply the most moving and inspiring piece of theater I saw all year. It was a tale of the last day of the lives of the ill-fated women who worked in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. It also reminded me of just how wonderfully intimate theater can be. Local author David Hopes’ Washington Place was the best show of 2015.


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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 theater productions of 2015

  1. Big Al

    “Art” was awesome. Nuff said.

    Magnetic Theatre has had a good year and “Washington Place” was my favorite.

    I must say, however, that Magnetic Theatre has an annoying habit of inserting at least one gratuitous remark, joke or situation, usually involving sex, drugs or religion, that has no relation or purpose to the play itself (like the balls joke in “Washington Place”). Presumably, MT feels that inserting at least one such “gasp/monocle drops into champagne glass” moment is necessary to establish or maintain their street cred as an edgy company. If they were truly funny I would not protest, but they seldom raise more than a guffaw from the drunken lout in the front row. Instead, they are merely tedious and infantile and I wish Mr. Samuels and company would reconsider dragging their otherwise excellent work into he gutter.

  2. Theatre Lover

    An inspiring list from Mr. Messer. Any chance that Dr. Hopes’ “Washington Place” will be produced on video so those of us who missed it can see it? What about it, Magnetic? Is there an archival video that could be posted?

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