Favorite concerts and stage shows of 2015

Goodspeed Opera House's production of
Goodspeed Opera House's production of "La Cage aux Folles" ranked as a staff favorite stage performance this year. Here, The Cagelles take the stage. (Photo by Diane Sobolewski)

“Staff Favorites of 2015” lists The Day’s features staff’s favorite releases, programs, events and other moments in the arts and entertainment world. As we can’t possibly take in everything that’s been released or performed this year, we can only call these selections “favorites.” Here, staff writers note their favorite concerts and stage shows from 2015. 

John Oliver

Foxwoods’ Grand Theater; Jan. 24

Here’s the best review you can give a standup show: I laughed so much, I was in physical pain. At Oliver’s gig here, my face hurt from grinning and my stomach hurt from guffawing. Oliver may be known for his topical humor on TV, but there wasn’t much of that to be found in his live show. That didn’t matter. (I crack up every time I recall his imitation of a pigeon striding confidently through Newark airport.) My fondest wish is that Oliver comes back soon.

— Kristina Dorsey 

“Les Liaisons Dangereuses”

Flock Theatre at the Shaw Mansion, New London; February

Flock’s shows inside the historic Shaw Mansion are always a midwinter treat, but “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” is one of its best productions there — which is saying something.

— Kristina Dorsey 

“La Cage aux Folles”

Goodspeed Opera House; June through September

Chances are, you left the theater smiling and singing, “The best of times is now ...”

— Kristina Dorsey 

Garth Brooks

TD Garden, Boston; January

Boston was the closest The Garth got to our region this year, but it was well worth the road trip. The joy Brooks takes in performing didn’t dissipate in the decade and a half he took off from touring (he stepped back from the music industry to raise his daughters). And the audience was just as jubilant as the performer. Fans, take note: Brooks plays Worcester’s DCU Center in February.

— Kristina Dorsey 

The Band Perry

Mohegan Sun Arena; Sept. 25

In concert, Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry are rock stars. What fun.

— Kristina Dorsey 

Stomp

Garde Arts Center, New London; Feb. 22

“Stomp” is always a live wire of a show, but this production was special beyond that: its cast featured Kris Lee, a New London native who returned to the city with this performance. The hometown audience was very happy to have her back.

— Kristina Dorsey 

Idina Menzel

Mohegan Sun Arena; July 11

Menzel has the voice of an angel and the personality of a broad (and I mean that as the highest compliment). That combo made for a hell of an entertaining show.

— Kristina Dorsey 

Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra; Garde Arts Center; January

In January, Toshi Shimada and the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra took on the biggest challenge of their season, with an unforgettable performance of Prokofiev’s huge Symphony No. 5. This symphony tests all the elements that make an orchestra go: cross-cutting rhythms and complex counterpoint to test strength of ensemble; countless crucial moments exposing principal soloists; and a mile-wide expressive range that cuts from gut-wrenching wartime emotion to rude sarcasm. Lesser orchestras often flag in this long symphony, running out of gas before the tidal wave of a final movement. The ECSO was at its best when it counted most, and the post-concert buzz among the musicians confirmed the obvious: They gave it their all and it all worked fabulously.

— Milton Moore 

Steven Wilson

Best Buy Theater, New York City; May 30

Go get a thesaurus. Now, look up superlatives such as “wonderful,” “miraculous,” “nonpareil,” “visionary” and so on. Apply any and all of them to Wilson’s show late last spring in support of his “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” album. The visuals and surround sound were superb, and the musicians in his band are among the finest in the world. That they’re clearly and emotionally invested in Wilson’s heartbreaking and singular material is a testament to his genius. And fans were giddy when he threw is a few Porcupine Tree gems as well as material from earlier solo stuff. The superlative of “wow” is “wowest,” right?

— Rick Koster 

Julia Glass

La Grua Center, Stonington; Oct. 23

Yes, Glass won the National Book Award for “Three Junes” and is a force in American literature with four other renowned novels. She also blessed the region as a writer in residence at Stonington’s James Merrill House and, as such, delivered a wonderful reading to a crowd of clearly delighted fans. I don’t know how it could have been otherwise. Glass was witty, self-effacing, anecdotally congenial — and dazzled with excerpts from an untitled manuscript-in-progress. I guarantee you everyone in attendance that night has memorized the pub date for the new book.

— Rick Koster 

Ace Atkins

Mohegan Sun Cabaret; May 18

Yes, I was part of this presentation when I questioned Atkins about “Kickback,” his fourth book in the Spenser series. Handpicked by Robert B. Parker’s widow and family, Atkins’ Spenser novels have consistently delighted critics and decidedly hard-to-please fans. But in the Cabaret, it was all Atkins as he wittily and profoundly discussed Parker’s legacy, the privilege and pressures of carrying on the series, and the difficulty in capturing Parker’s rhythm and tone as opposed to the more innate style of his own brilliant but very different Quinn Colson series. Me? I had a better than front row seat. I was right next to him.

— Rick Koster 

Bearstronaut

I AM Festival, New London; Sept. 19

The Boston New Wave-redux act — boasting New London native Dave Martineau on lead vocals — was perhaps the finest of several acts that appeared on several stages as part of another strong bill at the I AM Festival. With an exuberant and polished stage show, Bearstronaut ignited the Plaza Stage with dance-happy and hook-clustered tunes that recall the finest of OMD, Duran Duran and Soft Cell without for a moment distracting from their own originality. Bonus news: The band’s officially completed mixing their impending “Telecoast” album and should release the long-awaited CD very soon.

— Rick Koster 

Bearstronaut's performance at New London's I AM Festival landed a spot on The Day's list of staff favorite stage shows and concerts.
Bearstronaut's performance at New London's I AM Festival landed a spot on The Day's list of staff favorite stage shows and concerts.

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