To no one’s surprise, “Hamilton” was the clear winner in a Daily Gazette poll aimed at picking the top ten Proctors’ musicals of all time.
We asked 25 avid theater fans for their top three favorites over the years at Proctors, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical masterpiece about Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers was by far the leading vote-getter, finishing with a nine-point margin over another huge Broadway hit, “Les Miserables.”
“Hamilton” received seven first-place votes from the 25 poll participants, so while it wasn’t everyone’s favorite, it was a convincing choice as No. 1. Schenectady native Sue Caputo, who has been on area stages around the Capital Region for more than 20 years, had it as No. 3 on her personal list, but wasn’t at all surprised to hear it was No. 1.
“Of course, ‘Hamilton,’ ” she said. “When you see something even though you doubt it will live up to the hype…. and you leave changed forever.”
“Hamilton” was No. 1 on Kathleen Carey’s list. She called it “absolute genius from start to finish.”
“Les Miserables” was an impressive runner-up in the voting, earning four first-place votes, while in third place, just three points behind “Les Miz,” was “The Phantom of the Opera.” It was the 2006 production, a month-long run, which solidified Proctors’ role as a prominent player in securing national touring productions on a regular basis. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, like “Les Miz,” earned three first-place votes in the Gazette poll.
Next was “The Book of Mormon,” which played before packed houses in October of 2015 and May of 2019. “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “War Horse” tied for fifth place in the poll, while five shows occupied the final five spots in the top ten.
“Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “The Producers,” all huge successes at Proctors, failed to register among the top three in any of the participants’ opinions. “Hair,” meanwhile, was selected by two people as their favorite, but they were referring to two completely different productions, the second being a revival.
Paul Lamar and Matthew Moross are long-time reviewers for The Daily Gazette, and have been part of the Capital Region theater community for more than three decades. Here’s what they had to say about their favorites.
“The Drowsy Chaperone.” A clear homage to musical theater, with a play-within-a-play structure, delightful music and wacky characters.
“The Band’s Visit.” A quiet musical – no, not a contradiction in terms – that stops your racing 21st century impulse and simply asks you to look, listen, breathe and think. You will experience the whole range of human emotion. Really.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Occasionally we like to look back at the careers of performers who have meant a lot to us. To that group add, “Beautiful: The Carol King Musical,” a stunning national touring production at Proctors.
“Big River” (from 1988). A completely satisfying and tremendously tuneful adaptation of an American classic stacked with a smashing cast and design.
“Chess” (from 1990). So much better than the incoherent mess of a production that landed on Broadway the year before, this national tour featured Carolee Carmello in the cast and was directed by Des McAnuff who brilliantly rethought the show and staging. One of the best things I have seen on the Proctors stage.
“Once.” I found it to be just about perfect. Delicate yet wild with passion when called for, it was a brilliant and visceral feast.
Photos by Matthew Murphy and Joan Marcus
The voting results
Based on 3-2-1 point system; first-place votes in parentheses
No. 1 — “Hamilton,” 26 (7), Aug. 2019.
No. 2 — “Les Miserables,” 17 (4), April 2013 and Feb. 2018.
No. 3 — “The Phantom of the Opera,” 13 (3), May 2006, May 2014 and April 2019.
No. 4 — “The Book of Mormon,” 10 (1), Oct. 2015 and May 2019.
No. 5 — “The Drowsy Chaperone,” 6 (2), Nov. 2007.
No. 6 — “War Horse,” 6 (1), Jan. 2014.
No. 7-11 — “The Band’s Visit,” 5, March 2019.
No. 7-11 — “Spring Awakening,” 5 (1), Jan. 2010.
No. 7-11 — “Once,” 5, April 2016.
No. 7-11— “The Color Purple,” 5, Oct. 2009 and Oct. 2017.
No. 7-11 — “Fun Home,” 5, Nov. 2017.
Major snubs: No votes for “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “The Producers.”
Individual voting by our panel
The people making up our list are actors, directors, choreographers, journalists, teachers and Proctors season subscribers and personnel. Here are their Top 3:
Bill Buell, Gazette features writer — Les Miserables, The Book of Mormon, Newsies.
Kathleen Carey, actor — Hamilton, Spring Awakening, The Addams Family
Sue Caputo, actor — Hair, Hearts of Fire, Hamilton
Jean Carney, actor/director — Hamilton, Once, The Band’s Visit
Michael Eck, musician/writer — Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Man of LaMancha
Chris Foster, actor/director — Spring Awakening, War Horse, Something Rotten
Lisa Franklin, actor/teacher — Fun Home, Camelot, Peter Pan
Jeffrey Haff, Gazette features editor — Memphis, The Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot
Bill Hickman, actor — Hamilton, Fiddler on the Roof, Hearts of Fire.
Karen Christina Jones, actor/director — The Book of Mormon, The Color Purple, The King and I.
Paul Lamar, Gazette theater critic — The Drowsy Chaperone, The Band’s Visit, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Cristine Loffredo, actor/director — The Phantom of the Opera, Fun Home, The Book of Mormon.
Val Lord, actor/teacher — The Drowsy Chaperone, The Band’s Visit, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
Matthew Moross, actor/former Gazette theater critic — Big River, Chess, Once.
Philip Morris, Proctors CEO — Hamilton, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera.
Steve Nissen, season subscriber — Les Miserables, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Million Dollar Quartet.
Sara Paupini, actor — The Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon, School of Rock.
Deb Pigliavento, choreographer/teacher — Hamilton, Billy Elliot, Les Miserables.
Orlando Pigliavento, direcotr/teacher — Hamilton, Anastasia, Jersey Boys
Betsy Sandberg, season subscriber — Les Miserables, Hamilton, Once.
Marilyn Sassi, theater historian — The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Carousel.
Theresa Smith, season subscriber — War Horse, Million Dollar Quartet, Fiddler on the Roof.
Gail Sparlin, director/teacher — Hair, The Color Purple, Once.
Rick Stellrecht, season subscriber — Les Miserables, Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera.
Patrick White, actor/director/teacher — Fela!, Jersey Boys, The Color Purple.