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Theater & Dance

Dallas Theater in 2015: Our Favorite Plays, Actors, and More

A look back at 2015, and a look ahead to 2016.

2015 was an interesting year in local theater, with a handful of brand new works brought to life and some old standards done to great effect.

Favorite Plays

Colossal was a huge score for the Dallas Theater Center, combining a unique concept with the Wyly Theatre’s flexible space to create an immersive experience that brought a little piece of Texas’ Friday night lights on stage.

DTC has put its Studio Theatre to good use this year, as well, using the black box space to connect deeply with audiences and let performers shine. The Mountaintop played perfectly in the intimate venue, with surprising twists of magical realism and well-executed effects that brought audiences to their feet.

Belleville at Second Thought Theatre was as heartbreaking as it was disturbing, filling the small theater next to Kalita Humphreys with a sense of foreboding that didn’t lift until the bows were taken. It was a haunting production that wasn’t easy to shake off, thanks both to Amy Herzog’s script and the actors who brought it to life.

Favorite Musicals

Hedwig and the Angry Inch was hotly anticipated by many a Dallas theater devotee, and it did not disappoint — the Uptown Players delivered an glittery, gritty, emotionally charged powerhouse of a production that had the audience on its feet.

2015 was the year of the classic for Dallas Summer Musicals, with beautifully rendered productions of favorite old shows. The King and Is dazzling sets offered quite the spectacle, and The Sound of Music featured a talented standout cast that left the mountains ringing with song.

Favorite Actors

Hassan El-Amin had a stellar year with the Dallas Theater Center, whether he was wowing audiences with his moving portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop or grinching his way through the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. El-Amin throws himself fully into every role in a way that is truly captivating to witness.

Amid much buzz earlier in the year for who would play the role, Kyle Igneczi took Kalita Humphreys by storm as the titular character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, owning the platforms, corset, and mile-high wigs like he was born to flaunt so fabulously. But it was his utter vulnerability, in bold contrast with the swagger and sass, that gave his performance the punch it needed and made him one to watch in 2015.

Second Thought Theatre artistic director and DTC resident artist Alex Organ sure played some sinister jerks this year, and he did it with flair and abandon, often as the character on stage who you love to hate. He brown-nosed it up as the creepy Iago in Othello, waited for his big break in The Droll, worked the box office in The Flick, and terrified the masses as Jacob Marley’s ghost. Through it all, Organ was always one thing — entertaining.

Favorite Actresses

Sally Nystuen Vahle was a powerhouse in Dallas Theater Center’s production of Medea, winning her the title of Best of Big D’s Actress of the Year. Her performance as the vengeful, wronged woman was passionate, angry, and raw in all the best ways. Vale was as unafraid to be honest and soft as she was to be mad with rage, making the character more human than monster.

Grace Neeley’s acerbic wit and fine sense of comedic timing lent itself well to her turn as the much-abused husband, roadie, and backup singer Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Neeley was the perfect subtle complement to her co-star’s powerful presence, and when she took her own star turn at the end of the musical, she showcased her powerful pipes and proved that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Jenny Ledel seemed to be everywhere, and everywhere she was a joy to watch. From a little flat in Paris in Belleville, to the canals of Venice in Othello, to the post-apocalyptic end of theater in The Droll, her performances in 2015 were equally funny, brash, and vulnerable. When Ledel makes a role her own, she is unafraid to strip away the artifice and get to the heart of a character.

Notable Shows Coming in 2016

Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2015-2016 season started off strong and promises to mix some interesting new productions, like 2014 Tony winner Bridges Over Madison County (February 2-14), among a few favorites like Wicked (April 20-May 22) and Ragtime (May 24-June 5). Let’s face it — it will be nice to see Wicked during this tour with the Music Hall’s much improved new sound system.

DTC has another new work in its schedule — Deferred Action (April 20-May 16) — that takes on some timely topics in the story of an undocumented immigrant trying to make a life in the States. Second Thought Theatre will revisit Amy Herzog with The Great God Pan (April 20-May 14), building on Belleville from this year’s season, and April will see Janelle Lutz once more channeling Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow with Uptown Players (April 1-17).