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Wisconsin theater: Best productions of 2017
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Melisa Pereyra and Jim DeVita perform in American Players Theatre's production of "A View From the Bridge." Reviewer Mike Fischer deems this his favorite Wisconsin theater production of 2017.(Photo: Liz Lauren)

Among the nearly 250 shows I’ve seen in 2017, here are the 10 from Wisconsin I liked most, ordered by preference.

1. “A View From the Bridge”: I loved Ivo van Hove’s recent Tony-winning revival of Miller’s great play. But the American Players Theatre production, directed by Tim Ocel and featuring an unforgettable performance by Jim DeVita, was even better.

2. “Silent Sky”: David Cecsarini directed a Next Act cast led by Deborah Staples that gave Milwaukee its first look at one of the best plays by Lauren Gunderson, a playwright receiving more U.S. productions this year than anyone not named Shakespeare.

3. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: APT unveiled its new stage by turning to the first play it ever performed, through director John Langs’ inclusive and insightful take on an old play that felt exuberantly young.

4. “Great Expectations”: With hefty assists from adapter Gale Childs Daly, a splendid design team and a solid Milwaukee Chamber Theatre ensemble, director Molly Rhode delivered a thrillingly theatrical production that would have made Dickens proud.

5. “Sweeney Todd”: Director Matthew Ozawa gave the demon barber and all his victims credible backstories, adding flesh to the freshets of blood in Skylight Music Theatre’s production of this Sondheim classic.

6. “Candide”: Proving anew that it’s among the best of all possible places to see Wisconsin theater, director James Valcq’s eight-actor Third Avenue Playhouse cast delivered a fun and musically superior production of Bernstein’s classic operetta.

7. “The Glass Menagerie”: Director Mark Clements’ quartet of actors made clear why the events in Williams’ play continue to harrow Tom and haunt us, in a devastating Milwaukee Repertory Theater rendition of one of this country’s two greatest plays (the second, “Our Town,” will be staged by the Rep in April).

8. “The Few”: Director C. Michael Wright’s Milwaukee Chamber Theatre cast gave Milwaukee its overdue introduction to Samuel D. Hunter’s gallery of the losers and the lost, struggling to get by in an increasingly mean-spirited America.

9. “Twelfth Night”: Led by Elyse Edelman’s achingly vulnerable Viola, Joseph Hanreddy directed the best Door Shakespeare production I’ve seen, joining the APT “Midsummer” in reminding us that smart directors and good actors can make the Bard’s most familiar plays seem new.

10. “Victory Farm”: Northern Sky Theater’s timely and beautifully rendered return to this musical, about German POWs in Door County, reminded us of all we share – even when divided by a world at war.

Honorable Mention: Arranged alphabetically by title, 10 more shows seen in 2017 that stood out for me: “Animal Farm” (First Stage Young Company); “Annie” (Skylight Music Theatre); “Carnival” (In Tandem Theatre); “Disgraced” (Milwaukee Repertory Theater); “Hot Mikado” (Skylight Music Theatre); “I and You” (Forward Theater Company); “The Maids” (American Players Theatre); “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” (Luminous Theatre); “The Sound of Music” (Marcus Center); “Three Sisters” (American Players Theatre).

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