We asked some of our reviewers to give their top productions that they had seen in 2017, not necessarily ones that they reviewed for us. Here's what they came up with.

Othniel Smith (Cardiff)

Colin Davison (Midlands / South West)

Russians and Romans dominated my theatre-going in 2017 between Stratford-upon-Avon and Cardiff with points in-between and occasional forays beyond. There was a flurry of remarkably good touring productions toward the end of the year. Is the high standard of live relays from the National Theatre and elsewhere having a similar effect on productions and on audience expectations that live relays from Covent Garden and the Met have undoubtedly had on the quality of opera generally, I wonder.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Imperium – RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

    A suitably ambitious and original climax to the RSC’s Roman season—all played within a traditional setting, refreshed by great performances. Robert Harris’s epic was over-long at 7 hours, but the stamina and range of Richard McCabe as Cicero made him my actor of the year.

  • Khovanshchina – Welsh National Opera, Cardiff

    The year included an excellent realisation of Frank Martin’s Le vin herbe, and a worthy Madama Butterfly revival, but it was the following Russian season that stood out, thanks to the excellent WNO chorus, especially in production of Khovanshchina, Mussorgsky’s sprawling epic given new meaning in David Pountney’s riveting, immediately post-Revolutionary setting.

  • The Weir – English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre, Colchester, on tour at Everyman, Cheltenham

    An Irish country pub where nothing much ever happens, and the regulars tell unlikely tales of ghostly goings-on. Tales of the supernatural leave me cold, but each story reveals a darker undertow, with a hint—no more—of redemption to come. A superb play that confounds expectations.

  • Nell Gwynn – English Touring Theatre, Festival Theatre, Malvern

    A tough call for comedy of the year, against a revival of How the Other Half Loves (Bill Kenwright productions, on tour at Everyman, Cheltenham) and The Hypocrite (Hull Truck and the RSC), which however wins Joke of the Year for its Shakespearean gag: “I’ve just started reading Romeo.” “And Juliet?” “I don’t know. I’ve only just started it.” Nevertheless Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn wins narrowly for its exuberance, and successfully mixing musical, romance, history and farce.

  • Twelfth Night – RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

    Exuberant, witty, spectacular. Director Christopher Luscombe repeats his trick of staging a Shakespeare comedy in a replica of a local stately home, but what made this the best production of the play I’ve seen in 20 years, were the little touches that made Adrian Edmondson’s Malvolio just this side of credibility. Others took objection to his Music Hall ebullience—but given the Victorian setting this seemed a perfect parallel to what original audiences would have enjoyed.

Sally Jack (Midlands)

Also, a great pleasure to enjoy a double dose of Layton Williams in two very different roles: Angel (Rent) and Seaweed (Hairspray).

Mark Smith (Yorkshire)

  • The Darkest Corners – RashDash at Transform Festival, Leeds

    This will smack somewhat of self-fulfilling prophecy—or “I told you so”—but in my 2016 pick of the year I pointed towards RashDash’s then-forthcoming site-specific musical about violence, fear, and gender relations as something to look forward to. The production as it turned out was an eye-opening, riotous race round a dingy Leeds car park, with tongue-twisting lyricism and genre-bending musicianship pinpointing contemporary anxieties and arguments while avoiding worthiness or preachiness—and offering hope. I’m still wishing that they’ll release the soundtrack one day.

  • The Tin Drum – Kneehigh, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse

    This adaptation of Günter Grass’s sprawling novel had it all: a folk / operatic / electronica score which was catchy yet full of sharp edges, endless moments of madcap comedy from a fantastic ensemble, and wonderful puppetry work with a central figure who was adorable but deeply unsettling. A barmy, gleefully nihilistic tale.

  • (the fall of) The Master Builder – West Yorkshire Playhouse

    Some found Zinnie Harris’s interventions into the Ibsen classic too intrusive, feeling that they undermined the central ambiguity of this tale: a master craftsman whose success sits uncomfortably alongside his unsavoury exercise of power over young women. But the timing of the play’s run—it opened just before the Harvey Weinstein revelations broke, and I saw it a day or so later—gave the story a sense of incredible urgency, and in my view Harris preserved Ibsen’s central concerns and mechanisms with a piercing intelligence, while refusing to flinch from probing contemporary contexts and societal ills.

  • Barber Shop Chronicles – West Yorkshire Playhouse, National Theatre, and Fuel

    This was such a fizzing, energising production that the delicate craft of its composition became almost taken for granted. Inua Ellams’s script covers a range of political and personal subjects with growing momentum, driven by a fantastic, music-fuelled production and a touching, comic, and sensitive set of performances. I found particularly moving the various depictions of male friendships and family bonding.

  • Cock & Bull – West Yorkshire Playhouse and Live Art Bistro

    Nic Green, Rosana Cade and Laura Bradshaw’s piece was created around the 2015 Conservative Party conference, but I first saw it this year and it had lost none of its bite, force, beauty or strange inspirational power. Building impossibly slowly, accreting soundbites and choreographies, the performance left me in an impressionistic, imaginative haze which, given Cock & Bull’s subject matter of the vapidity and repetitiveness of current political discourse, was a memorable achievement. As I put it at the time: “agonising, hypnotising and entrancing”.

Steve Orme (Midlands)

Sandra Giorgetti (London)

This year will go down as a vintage one for Sondheim productions thanks to the magnificently extravagant Follies which I had the privilege to see twice. Lavish though it was, it was not the only Sondheim on the block and hasn’t erased the pleasures of the rarely seen Frogs at the Jermyn Street Theatre or the summer concert at Cadogan Hall.

Months on I am still smiling inwardly at new musical comedy The Sorrows of Satan and the charming We Are Brontë, whilst mourning the god of rain's interference with my visits to Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. I was also sorry to miss out on Papatango New Writing Prize-winning Trestle at Southwark Playhouse and King Tut at the King's Head, but you can't have it all.

On the whole, though, it has been a great year for me with the brilliant outnumbering the good and the good outnumbering the not very good.

High spots that haven’t made "the best of list" include A Bit of Bite in which a talented and youthful cast looked at the role of young people in contemporary politics as part of Battersea Arts Centre's Homegrown festival, new musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie with music by Dan Gillespie Sells and book and lyrics by Tom MacRae, and the 20th anniversary production of Jonathan Larson's Rent – the third and best production of this show that I have seen.

I could add a few more but it is I think now preferable to look forward to the highlights of next year and wish everyone a happy and theatre-filled 2018!

Highlights of 2017

Best musical revival:

Best musical:

Best play revival:

Best play:

Best adaptation:

Simon Sladen (Panto)

My top 5 pantos of the season, in no particular order:

  • Peter Pan – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury (Evolution Productions)

    Evolution Productions place comedy firmly at the centre of their pantomimes and always ensure a good helping of slapstick. Ben Roddy is one of the best Dames in the business with this year's production featuring an impressive set and non-stop narrative. A successful pantomime rendering of J M Barrie's tale.

  • Beauty and the Beast – Derby Arena (Little Wolf Productions)

    One of the most exciting newer production companies, Little Wolf really does set the standard for regional pantomime. Their scripts capture the essence of the genre and deliver a slosh scene—a rarity in Pantoland today. Little Wolf's costumes and sets are second to none, so much so that Morgan Brind co-designed Evolution Productions' Peter Pan at the Marlowe Theatre and Mother Goose at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield. Derby Arena marks their second venue and hopefully the first of many more.

  • Cinderella – Greenwich Theatre (Greenwich Theatre)

    Andrew Pollard is one of the greatest pantomime practitioners of the 21st century. This year he was touring the country in Around the World in 80 Days, but Cinderella retained its Pollardian approach. His scripts always deliver something fresh and new, with this year's Cinderella seeing her arrive at the Royal Ball via rocket due to the piece's astronomy theme given Greenwich's location.

  • Jack and the Beanstalk – York Theatre Royal

    Berwick Kaler's pantomimes may be affectionately referred to as "a load of old rubbish", but Kaler knows exactly what he's up to—delivering the most unique pantomime in the country year after year. In this way, he upholds the very essence of Victorian pantomime which saw characters venturing to Mars in amongst other madcap escapades. His resident cast are like family and this year's slapstick scene featuring a dangerous shed was a lesson in the art of pantomime. Interestingly, 2017 saw the Theatre Royal join many other pantomimes in dispensing with the Fairy—perhaps a new moral of our time? In an age of Brexit and austerity, there is no magic wand to help us on our way.

  • Jack and the Beanstalk – Lyric Hammersmith

    Whilst the Lyric continues to suffer from narrative problems, no-one can argue that the theatre manages to conjur up the most electric environment of any pantomime. There is always an incredibly contemporary feel to the production, which is celebratory for the genre and Hammersmith itself. With a glorious cross-dressed Villain in the form of Vikki Stone, the Lyric continues to set the agenda for what pantomime should and can be.

Karen Bussell (South West)

Stand out for me in 2017 were:

Georgina Wells (North West / Dance)

My top 5 productions (four dance, and one dance-inspired visiting studio production) are:

  • Song of the Earth/La Sylphide – English National Ballet

    A contrasting double bill that perfectly showcases the company's versatility and skill, pairing MacMillan's poignant, sombre meditation on life and death with Bournonville's romantic, tragic Scottish fairytale.

  • Illuminate – Company Chameleon and guests

    An immersive, exhilarating and versatile programme of short dance pieces inspired by the seven basic plots, combining athletic choreography with their beautiful Central Library setting.

  • No Miracles Here – The Letter Room

    A moving and original exploration of mental health issues and an electrifying blend of live music and dance, this part-play, part-gig hybrid is a testament to this young company's incredible talent.

  • Leviathan – James Wilton Dance Company

    This unique contemporary dance piece reimagines the story of Moby Dick for our age, with breathtakingly physical choreography and a powerful environmental message.

  • Cinderella – Birmingham Royal Ballet

    David Bintley's gorgeous, glittering production of this fairytale ballet delivers on style and substance, with spectacular set design, excellent performances and choregraphy that suits Prokofiev's music like an enchanted glass slipper.

Liam Blain (London)

  • Borders – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

    A simple and stunning story told by two actors using two stools. Henry Naylor's hour long piece followed two different characters: a crusading Syrian refugee desperately fleeing from the war-torn country after falling unexpectedly pregnant and a young photographer who, while trying to save the world, ends up embroiled in the glamour industry. With no showbiz glitz and glamour getting in the way, the hard hitting and fast-paced storyline became the focal point and only as I left the venue did I manage to get my breath back from what was such an impressive piece of theatre.

  • Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika – National Theatre

    Marianne Elliott's epic eight-hour-long extravaganza was heralded by the masses and both parts were phenomenal beyond doubt. Yet it wasn't until the second part that I was utterly blown away by the production. It was a fast-paced, emotional and stunning piece of theatre that brought colour, integrity and at times lightness to a horrific period in history for the LGBTQ community of the 1980s.

  • The Kite Runner – Playhouse Theatre, London

    After finding out Adele had cancelled one of her London gigs, I picked this show at random to fill an empty evening. Not only did it tug at the heart-strings enough to render Adele a distant memory but it induced enough tear drops to fill Wembley Stadium twice over. Narrated by Amir, a boy who becomes a man still haunted by an incident in childhood where he betrayed his best friend, he goes on an unprecedented journey to try to right this wrong. This takes him into war-torn Kabul and in doing so puts the audience on the edge of their seats. The suspense and drama held within the piece holds every spectator on a knife edge and on leaving the theatre you can't help but feel you had lived through an event, not just a two-act play.