Best Broadway shows 2018: Mean Girls, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The best plays and musicals of 2018

When we look back on 2018 in the world of theatre, marquee names (and properties) will come to mind. Films like Mean Girls, Frozen, Network, and Pretty Woman all made their way to the stage, the songs of Cher and Donna Summer and The Go-Go’s filled Times Square, and Playbills boasted a deep roster of famous faces from film and television: Chris Evans, Laurie Metcalf, Kerry Washington, Andrew Garfield, Bryan Cranson, Armie Hammer, and Joshua Jackson, just to name a few. And, as if anyone could forget, it was also the year that Harry Potter cast a spell on New York theatergoers.

Now, before the year officially takes its final bow, EW’s Jessica Derschowitz and Marc Snetiker are naming their 10 favorite stage productions of 2018. Keep reading to see what made the list.  

10. Head Over Heels

A frothy medieval musical featuring the songs of ’80s rockers the Go-Go’s (and produced by Gwyneth Paltrow— who knew?!) wasn’t splashed across the papers, but it ought to have been for its e ortless LGBTQ inclusion, its spunky use of beloved tunes like “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and its instant-star performance by Broadway newcomer Bonnie Milligan, for whom we easily fell head over heels. —Marc Snetiker

9. Girls & Boys (Off Broadway)

Carey Mulligan went solo for Dennis Kelly’s one-person play, delivering an unforgettable per- formance as an unnamed woman sharing parts of her life — vignettes about meeting her future husband and interactions with her children — which then veer into something much darker. It’s a good thing Mulligan was the only person on stage: She made it near impossible to look away for the entire 90 minutes. —Jessica Derschowitz

8. Mean Girls

Tina Fey’s teen masterpiece made a smooth if imperfect transition to the stage in this musical hit, which caught partic- ular fire with the Tumblr crowd. As its actors deftly wield Fey’s wit and the story’s timely updates (which smartly incorporate social media), the show itself wears its good intentions and heartfelt final message proudly on its sleeve — which, we’re happy to report, comes in other colors than pink. —MS

7. The Waverly Gallery

At 86, the iconic comedian Elaine May — who last appeared on Broadway 50 years ago — gives the most heartbreaking dramatic performance of the season as a vivacious woman drifting into dementia in the revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s memory play, supported by equally nuanced performances from Joan Allen and Lucas Hedges as her daughter and grandson. —JD

6. Mike Birbiglia’s The New One

Mike Birbiglia’s latest one-man show was such a smash Off Broadway that it transferred uptown this fall, and with good reason. The Sleepwalk With Me comedian’s hilarious and poignant observations about becoming a parent and the ways his life changed after the birth of his daughter — the “new one” in this scenario — make for some of his best and most heartfelt work yet. —JD

5. My Fair Lady

This lush revival of the classic Lerner and Loewe musical proved why the show’s still a gem, giving us a revitalized Eliza Doolittle to root for in 2018 (as originally imagined by a fiery Lauren Ambrose). Surround her with a sartorial candy dish of gorgeous costumes and an excellent original Broadway cast (Harry Hadden-Paton! Norbert Leo Butz! Diana Rigg!) and it’s all downright loverly. —JD

4. Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song

Michael Urie will make you laugh and cry (sometimes simultaneously) in this touching revival of Fierstein’s landmark dramedy about a lovelorn gay man living in 1970s and ’80s New York, with an incredible Mercedes Ruehl matching Urie’s standout performance beat for hilarious and heart-wrenching beat when they face off as only mother and son can. —JD

3. The Ferryman

Moments after you meet them in their bustling countryside kitchen, the fascinating and foul- mouthed Carney family (elegantly drawn by Jerusalem playwright Jez Butterworth and brought to life with performances from stars Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly) sweeps you up into their rich, eerie past and uncertain future as the tension of this Irish thriller unravels. —MS

2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

On its surface, Broadway’s Tony-winning Best Play achieved the impossible with its game-changing technical stage magic, but its greatest trick was in weaving a hugely emotional new story (about a grown-up Harry and his overshadowed son) from inside the tricky coils of a gargantuan commercial property. Magical doesn’t even begin to describe it.—MS

1. Angels in America

It was a banner year for plays, but the return of Angels felt like a gift from on high. A quarter century after Tony Kushner’s two-part, seven-hour-plus magnum opus first stunned Broadway, its 2018 revival was a rebirth and a homecoming all at once — the play’s themes as timely as ever, lofted by a stunning cast (including Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane) and a few celestial beings. After the ’80s-set epic unfolded on its neon-hued stage, it was impossible not to leave feeling uplifted, thankful to have witnessed a vital piece of theater given a gorgeous new retelling. It’s enough to remind you that even in times when everything feels askew, the world — and its great work — only spins forward.—JD

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