Last year at this time everyone knew that 2015 had been the year of Hamilton. Now the wealth is spread a bit more evenly. Broadway musicals continue to evolve and experiment: Witness the thrilling success of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (starring Josh Groban and Denée Benton) and Dear Evan Hansen (with a star-making turn by Ben Platt). Those shows will surely do battle at the Tony Awards next June. As for the rest of the list, it’s an excitingly diverse group: all-too-timely dramas about disgruntled factory workers (Sweat); Shakespeare in traditional form (King and Country) and radically re-imagined (Othello); fresh new playwrights (Sarah DeLappe with The Wolves); and great work from writers we’ve loved for years (Adam Bock with A Life). Below is our consolidated and ranked list, followed by honorable mentions. For David Cote's individual top-ten list, click here; for Adam Feldman's individual list, click here.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to best of 2016
Best theater of 2016
Four years after its Off Broadway debut, Dave Malloy’s exuberant, elegant and tuneful Russian-themed pop opera expands to Broadway in a gorgeous production that brings caviar to general audiences.
David Hyde Pierce was poignantly lost in Adam Bock’s wise and shocking play, which began as a chamber piece and then pulled the floor out to offer a cosmic perspective on love, time and connection.
Daniel Craig’s reptilian Iago and David Oyelowo’s heroic but traumatized Othello were the main reasons Sam Gold’s production sold out, but the modern-day military staging is a thing of brutal beauty.
Opening five days before the election, Lynn Nottage’s gritty, big-hearted portrait of factory workers in rural Pennsylvania was a wake-up call about class, poverty and rage. Now the message goes to Broadway.
Sarah DeLappe’s debut play, a deep-focus portrait of nine teenage girls on a soccer team, depicted aggression, insecurity, friendship and competition with remarkable freshness, assisted by a terrific young ensemble cast.
Ben Platt earns all the critical superlatives that have rained upon him for his stunning performance in this electrifying and thoughtful new musical, about a teenage outcast caught in his own web of lies.
Jessica Lange brought billowing layers of manipulation, delusion and faded beauty to her role as a mother and dope fiend in this engrossing and heartbreaking revival of Eugene’s O’Neill’s great family drama.
Print journalism may be waning, but this sharp-elbowed, fast-talking satire from 1928 won’t go gentle into any good night. Exquisitely cast (Nathan Lane! John Slattery! Jefferson Mays!) Jack O’Brien’s revival gleefully broke the news—into pieces.
Egyptians and small-town Israelis meet cute in this humane and soulful musical with a sinuous score by David Yazbek (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). For those tired of Broadway’s hard sell, it makes a delightful detour.
Playwright Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman conjured the ghosts of Yiddish theater in an evocative look at the history of Sholem Asch’s controversial 1906 drama God of Vengeance.