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Our performing arts critic's top 10 Tampa Bay shows of 2017

The cast of Disgraced, Ayah Akhtar's Pulitzer-winning play at the Heather Theatre, includes (from left) Peter Alexander Kostis, Lynn Single, Shrey Neil, and Krystal Nicole Watts. Photo courtesy of the Heather.
The cast of Disgraced, Ayah Akhtar's Pulitzer-winning play at the Heather Theatre, includes (from left) Peter Alexander Kostis, Lynn Single, Shrey Neil, and Krystal Nicole Watts. Photo courtesy of the Heather.
Published Jan. 3, 2018

Highlights of Tampa Bay's performing arts scene this year ranged from solo shows to intense dramas to musicals. They all brought realness to the stage, sometimes in fanciful dimensions. And they surpassed expectations, in so doing creating the most delightful experience for a theatergoer — that of being surprised.

Here's my top 10 list for local professional theater in 2017.

10 Grounded (Tampa Repertory Theatre)

Emilia Sargent's one-woman show about a pilot fighting PTSD burned, laserlike, into memory.

9 Joe Turner's Come and Gone (American Stage, St. Petersburg)

The whole was greater than the sum of the parts in this 10th play of the August Wilson "century cycle" for American Stage, making American Stage only the 12th theater in the world to have completed all 10.

8 Marie Antoinette (Freefall Theatre,
St. Petersburg)

The costumes and lighting alone were two cuts above. This understated show about conspicuous wealth and cluelessness was simultaneously rich, tacky and marvelous.

7 The Invisible Hand (American Stage)

In a climate of terrorism, a band of opportunists kidnap an American finance expert, who teaches them to play the stock market. Grimly funny rendering of a play by Ayad Akhtar.

6 Fun Home (David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa)

Alison Bechdel's coming-of-age (and coming out) musical makes small cruelties seem normal without losing humanity.

5 The Aliens (Stageworks Theatre, Tampa)

Slackers ponder things, endure long silences and die unexpectedly in this perfectly tuned Annie Baker play.

4 Finding Neverland (Straz)

We try not to pay attention to hype, only to be disappointed when a show doesn't measure up. This charming story about creativity had none and benefitted.

3 Gloucester Blue (Jobsite Theater, Tampa)

Another reason to be angry at playwright Israel Horovitz, whose alleged worst actions according to nine women have deprived us of his best for the foreseeable future.

2 Squeeze My Cans (solo, performed
at Stageworks)

Cathy Schenkelberg's one-woman show about her two decades in Scientology, which she performed at Stageworks, should move anyone with a heart and an unchained mind.

1 Disgraced (Heather Theatre, Tampa)

The tiny theater served up a taut and finely acted psychological thriller (a Pulitzer winner by Ayad Akhtar) disguised as a dinner party.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, shown here in the 1978 film "Grease," will make an appearance in Tampa on Dec. 14 for a film sing-along and meet and greet with fans. [AP]
    The forever Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko will reunite for a sing-along screening on Saturday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre.
  2. Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman, arrives for a Comic-Con panel in 2011 in San Diego. [GREGORY BULL  |  AP]
    The actor (Pee-Wee himself!) will accompany the 35th anniversary celebration at Tampa Theatre.
  3. Charlie explains to his parents and sister, Beth, that the best thing about church is that there are no Herdmans there. Pictured, from left: Sarah Krug as Mother (Grace Bradley), Amber Marino as Beth, Frank Miller as Father (Bob Bradley) and Jude Mys as Charlie. [Kristina Mitten]
    Live Oak Theatre presents ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever'
  4. Benjamin Ismail, left, and Susan Maris star as Peter Shaw and Henrietta Leavitt in American Stage's "Silent Sky." [Joey Clay Photography]
    Parts of it play like a romantic comedy, but you will learn a thing or two about the woman who mapped the universe. | Theater review
  5. Sutton Foster accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical at the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York in 2011. [JEFF CHRISTENSEN  |  AP]
    Plus, the Florida Orchestra, ‘Straight Up With Stassi’ Live and ‘A Tuna Christmas.’
  6. Nick Offerman will perform at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Dec. 7. [Matt Winkelmeyer]
    The ‘Parks and Recreation’ star, who performs at Tampa’s Straz Center on Saturday, knows his face is everywhere. He can’t stop it.
  7. The cast of "The Lion in Winter" at Freefall Theatre: Eric Brandon Davis, Joseph Michael-Kenneth, Alicia Thomas, Rob Glauz, Robert "Spence" Gabriel, Stephanie Dunnam and Joe Lauck. [Courtesy of Thee Photo Ninja]
    Freefall Theatre’s production of James Goldman’s script tells a medieval tale of family dysfunction. | Review
  8. Joel Hodgson and his robot pals - from left, Gypsy, Crow and Tom Servo - will bring their live tour of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" to the Straz Center in Tampa on Dec. 3. [Shout! Factory]
    The show creator’s final live tour hits the Straz Center in Tampa on Dec. 3.
  9. Chris Tucker will perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Nov. 29. [Courtesy of Mahaffey Theater]
    ‘Nutcracker’ shows, an ‘America’s Got Talent’ star and other holiday performances fill out this week’s calendar.
  10. Ephraim Sykes participates in the 73rd annual Tony Awards "Meet the Nominees" press day at the Sofitel New York on May 1 in New York. [CHARLES SYKES  |  Charles Sykes/Invision/AP]
    ‘MJ’ will open July 6 at the Neil Simon Theatre.
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