2011 marked dozens of musicals, comedies and dramas lighting up local and area stages. From this critic's perspective, here, in no particular order, are my delightful dozen of the most notable, nifty and nicely staged productions of the past year:
1. "Love, Sex and the I.R.S." (Millbrook Playhouse) - Notable as the opening attraction in the Cabaret. Outrageously funny, this farce triggered a reprise at season's end.
2. "Chicago" (Community Theatre League) - A professional-looking musical with plenty of razzle dazzle. Jason Moyer, Tess Bower Gist and Becky Marshall followed Jaquie Engel's direction and produced all that jazz.
“Love, Sex and the I.R.S.” was performed at Millbrook Playhouse this year and Sun-Gazette theater critic Jack Felix named it the best local theatrical production of the year.
3. "Doubt" (Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble) - John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a nun's suspicions of child abuse from the parish pastor got riveting performances from ensemble members Daniel Roth and Elizabeth Dowd.
4. "Hairspray" (ACT-UP) - This summer's collaboration between the Community Theatre League and the Community Arts Center wowed audiences as a huge cast of high school students danced their way in a high-energy production with Tess Bower Gist's choreography drawing lots of applause.
5. "Five Guys Named Moe" (Penn State Centre Stage) - The slickly produced musical featured five top-notch vocalists. The score of blues and jazz favorites got the audience willing to dance and strut in the aisles.
6. "The Music Man" (Hamilton-Gibson Productions) - The tiny Warehouse Theater stage was expanded to hold all the River City residents as Harold Hill came to Wellsboro in a highly entertaining colorfully-costumed production.
7. "Annie" (Millbrook Playhouse) - Anchored by a professional young actress, "Annie" kicked off Millbrook's summer season. A mix of professional actors and community "orphans" made "Annie" everyone's family favorite musical.
8. "Voice of the Prairie" (Lycoming College) - A funny and poignant tale of a young storyteller in Nebraska who becomes a celebrity as radio was in its infancy in the pre-depression Midwest. Unique staging on the Mary K. Welch stage added to the entertainment value.
9. "Annie Get Your Gun" (Community Theatre League) - Last season's finale hit the bull's eye. Irving Berlin's "warhorse musical" entertainingly proved "there's no business called show business."
10. "All My Sons" (Penn State Centre Stage) - Arthur Miller's powerful tale of two families confronting an unspeakable crime during WWII was a powerfully staged drama mixing Penn State's theatre students and Equity actors.
11. "Fat Pig" (Millbrook Playhouse) - Notable as Artistic Director Mary Kate Burke picked this contemporary show highlighting the downside of dating and falling in love with a hefty girl.
12. "The Ghostwriter" (Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble) - A unique take on creating or finishing a novel after the writer's demise featured James Goode as the deceased novelist and Cassandra Pisieczko as his loving assistant. This May production closed BTE's 33rd season with thoughtful entertainment.