I was blessed to see a lot of terrific theater in New York City this year, but I also had to endure some unfortunate train wrecks as well. And the biggest disappointments often came when the expectations were sky-high due to the caliber of the talent involved or the loftiness (and lofty ticket prices) of the venue.
10. “Clueless” (Off Broadway) Amy Heckerling dumbs down her innovative 1995 film with a by-the-numbers musical adaptation that relies on ’90s hits reworked with sub-“Weird Al” Yankovic parody lyrics.
9. “Fire and Air” (Off Broadway) Terrence McNally does another deep dive into the making of a classic — this time Sergei Diaghilev and Sergei Najinsky’s ballet “Afternoon of a Faun” — but there’s no real fire here and the air is all stultifyingly hot.
8. “Pretty Woman” (Broadway) Roy Orbison’s song is missing from this musical adaptation of the uncomfortably dated-even-then 1990 rom-com starring Julia Roberts as a hooker who wins over an uptight Master of the Universe. So is any rationale for revisiting this icky story.
7. “Cyprus Avenue” (Off Broadway) Stephen Rea plays a Belfast Protestant who hates Catholics and women and blacks and just about anyone who isn’t like himself. But his descent into madness is both boring and repulsive, culminating in literal onstage overkill.
6. “Summer” (Broadway) Donna Summer is put through the biomusical wash cycle here, with all the awkward exposition and whitewashing of rough patches you’d expect. She deserves better than this misshapen mess. (At least the three actresses playing her, at various ages, can belt.)
5. “Good for Otto” (Off Broadway) David Rabe managed to lure some great talent to his wooden and laughably unbelievable new drama about a rural mental health clinic. But even Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, F. Murray Abrham and Rhea Perlman can’t save this turkey.
4. “King Kong” (Broadway) I can’t remember a time when a prop got the final bow during curtain call. But the one-ton, 20-foot title marionette gives the most expressive performance in this lumbering mess of a musical.
3. “Rocktopia” (Broadway) The Vegas-ification of Broadway continued with this staged concert mashing up classical music and pop-rock standards.
2. “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” (Broadway) Producer and book writer Ken Davenport unleashed the in-vainest of vanity projects in this musical about a middle-aged guy who heads home to Jersey and tries to reunite the garage band he led in high school.
1. “Escape to Margaritaville” (Broadway) Yes, it’s a Jimmy Buffett musical that plays like one long Triple-Sec-induced hallucination. That shaker of salt should just stay lost.