The Bitter Lemons' Top Rated Los Angeles Theater Productions of 2015


Bitter Billy has been watching...

Okay, folks, this is the sumbitch that actually demands some work. And math. Nasty, nasty nasty math. I don’t like math. But I do like you, LemonHead, so I’m pushing through the pain, shaking hands with the demons, and making this list for y’all for the FIFTH YEAR IN A ROW because that’s how we roll here at the Lemon.

Deep breath. And release.

These are the Top Rated Los Angeles Theater Productions of 2015, pulled directly from our LemonMeter, the ones that the critics liked the best, as indicated by their supreme 100% Sweetness on the Meter. There’s no subjectivity with this list, folks, these are not our “opinions,” it’s all percentages and numbers, objectively culled, dispassionately calculated.

While it’s true that our Best Of LA Theater and our Best Stories of LA Theater and our forthcoming Wish List for LA Theater in 2016 are all completely subjective and mostly fabricated, this list consists of shows that held up under the scrutiny of YOUR Los Angeles Theater Critics and came out raving, roaring and redeemed.

The categories have been divided thusly: Premiere of a Play (LA or World), Revival of a Play, Premiere of a Musical, Revival of a Musical, Solo Show and Season.

As always the main criterion that needed to be met before a show could even be considered for this vaunted analysis were 1) A show must have garnered AT LEAST SIX PRESS REVIEWS and 2) A show must have received A PERFECT 100% RATING and 2a) We also took into consideration THE QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL REVIEWS themselves; e.g. a show that received 20 reviews and kept its 100% Sweetness tops a show that received 6 reviews and kept its 100% Sweetness, likewise, a show with 20 full-out-raves skews better than a show that received 20 good-but-not-great reviews and to even be giving a second look for the Top Rated Season category a theater company needed to have produced at least 3 shows that received LemonMeter Ratings in the calendar year of 2015. 


Now some numbers:

- Currently in 2015 there are AT LEAST 293 people writing reviews for Los Angeles Theater. Yep. 293. And there are approximately 90 or so review outlets currently publishing reviews for Los Angeles Theater. Out of that number I’d say maybe 50 of those writers are worth reading. The rest, unfortunately, are churning out crap. Well-intentioned crap, yes, but crap nonetheless. I leave you to sort out that conclusion in any way you so desire.

Approximately 750 shows were listed with Bitter Lemons in 2015. I’m guessing there were closer to 1000 shows produced in totum in Los Angeles in 2015; Equity, Non-Equity, one-offs, limited runs, fringe shows, and everything in-between, but all I know is that approximately 750 different shows appeared on our site in one form or another. That felt like a rise from 2014. Ponder at your leisure.

- Out of those approximately 750 shows, we calculated and published exactly 363 LemonMeter Ratings in 2015. Free of charge. Yep. All on our own dime. No, really, it’s okay, don’t mention it, you rarely do and we appreciate the consistency. These were the shows that garnered at least three credentialed press reviews during their run in 2015. And when I say “credentialed” I mean that YOU gave them free tickets to your show. Again, I will let you sort out that conclusion as you so desire.

- 363 LemonMeter Ratings in 2015 is up a bit from 2014 when 313 were tabulated, which was down from the previous years, 401, 415 and 440, respectively in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Again, I think this is a healthy trend; a slight contraction in output, crap gets culled, leading to some slight growth. Smells like sound economics to me. Shivers.

- The total LemonMeter rating for Los Angeles Theater as a whole in 2015 was 84% Sweet. Yeah, we were actually able to do that through our top secret algorithm and the result was…exactly the same as last year’s! I kid you not. The dial has not budged: 84% in 2013, 84% in 2014, 84% in 2015. We are nothing if not a consistent artistic community.

Double gasp.

Okay. What else? Oh yes!

Congrats to all who unknowingly participated and contributed to these dastardly data deeds and an especial huzzah to all those that reached the heights of critical consensus in 2015. When Western Civilization collapses, the LemonMeter Ratings for Los Angeles Theater circa 2008-2015 will still be here. And that is a very horrifying thought indeed. 

Alrighty then. Think I’ve covered just about…yup.

So now, without any further Freddy Adu (look him up), here are…

The Bitter Lemons’ Top Rated Los Angeles Theater Productions of 2015

Premiere of a Play

1) The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek (Fountain Theatre)

2) Four Clowns Presents The Halfwits Last Hurrah (Four Clowns)

3) A Small Fire (Echo Theatre)

4) Guards at the Taj (Geffen Theatre)

5) Booty Candy (Celebration Theatre)

6) Lifeboat (The Wallis)

7) The Trouble We Come From (Falcon Theatre)

8) The Temptation of St. Antony (Four Larks)

Honorable Mention: Trevor (Circle X): 97%

Revival of a Play

1) Awake & Sing! (Odyssey Theatre)

2) The Homecoming (Pacific Resident Theatre)

3) Hellman vs. McCarthy (Theatre 40)

4) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (The Group Rep)

5) Four Clowns Presents Hamlet (Four Clowns)

6) To Kill a Mockingbird (Theatricum Botanicum)

7) Urban Death (Zombie Joe’s Underground)

8) August: Osage County (Theatricum Botanicum)

9) The Gospel at Colonus (Ebony Rep)

10) Perfect Timing (Theatre 40)

Honorable Mention: Uncle Vanya (Antaeus): 97% (with 18 reviews), Picnic (Antaeus): 95% (with 21 reviews!)

Premiere of a Musical

1) Sondheim Unscripted (Impro Theatre)

2) Shakespeare’s Last Night Out (Orgasmico Theatre)

3) Loch Ness, A New Musical (Chance Theatre)

Honorable Mention: None.

Revival of a Musical

1) Jesus Christ Superstar (DOMA)

2) Santa Claus is Coming to Motown (Troubadors/Falcon Theatre)

3) Cinderella (Center Theatre Group)

4) Singing in the Rain (Musical Theatre West)

5) Sweeney Todd (Kelrick Productions)

6) Nunsense (Crown City Theatre)

Honorable Mention: American Idiot (DOMA): 97%

Solo Show

1) Shakespeare’s Last Night Out (Orgasmico Theatre)

2) The Money Fi$H (Hudson Theatre)

3) Not that Jewish (Jewish Women’s Theatre)

4) A Carlin Home Companion (Falcon Theatre)

5) ’57 Chevy (Latino Theatre Company)

Honorable Mention: None.


1) Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group: 96%

2) Theatre 40: 94%

3) Falcon Theatre: 93%

4) Independent Shakespeare Company: 93%

5) Chance Theater: 92%

6) Theatre of NOTE: 92%

7) Echo Theatre Company: 92%

8) Road Theatre Company: 92%

9) Antaeus Theatre Company: 91%

10) Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum: 90%

Honorable Mention: Son of Semele: 89%, Theatre West: 88%, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts: 87%, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts: 86%, Fountain Theatre, 86%, Coeurage Theatre: 86%, Theatre Unleashed: 86%, The Group Rep: 85%, South Coast Repertory: 85%. Eclectic Company Theatre: 85%.

Special Mentions: (for their indefinable nature and their 100% Sweetness): Urban Death: Tour of Terror, Kurios, Sondheim Unscripted. Shakespeare’s Last Night Out.

Comments (2)

U 48854 t 6648760

Thanks for doing this, Colin! And a Happy Holidays to one and all at Bitter Lemons, and across the LA Theatre scene. What a treat to be part of so much variety and Kulcha!

U 35088 t 4659361

Welcome. Best to you as well. See you in 2016.

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