"Of course, the big theater story this year — well, really the latest in an ongoing saga since Marion Garmel retired in August of 2002 — is The Indianapolis Star’s lack of coverage. However, even with no theater critic on staff at The Star any longer, I’m still here, folks, and doing my best to get the theater scene covered as fully as possible.

Here, then, is a list of my highlights from the last 12 months.

To begin with the best, the Hedwig/Gorey Stories/Bat Boy/Urinetown this year came not from the Phoenix Theatre (as three of those four originally did), but from Theatre on the Square with The Great American Trailer Park Musical in August/September. The terrific script and song lyrics were brought to hilarious heights by the stellar cast: Jeannie Logan, Vickie Cornelius, Rebecca McConnell, Juli Inskeep, Darrin Gowan, Niki Hurrie Warner and Justin Ivan Brown, with direction and choreography by Ron Spencer, vocal direction by Logan and music direction by Ray Lahrman. The celebration and parody of all things trailer-life and stage musical takes this year’s No. 1 slot.

TOTS had a second top contester with its production of Southern Baptist Sissies in January/February. This show, about being gay in the South and in the Baptist Church, was so well-received (the most successful show in TOTS’ 18-year history) that it will be re-staged with the original cast June 8-30 as a special added presentation to celebrate Gay Pride 2007.

Other top contenders included the sublime Ragtime at Indianapolis Civic Theatre (March/April), the deranged but fascinating Pillowman at the Phoenix (May/June) and the sassy and flashy Dreamgirls at the Madame Walker/Scottish Rite (June/July).

Worth noting (and remembering) are Intimate Apparel at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (January/February), True West at TOTS (an Actors Equity Association and Rough Magic Productions show) (March), the return of Urinetown to Indy via Footlite Musicals (March), The Spitfire Grill at Buck Creek Players (June), the very odd Sugar Bean Sisters at the Phoenix (June/July), another Gorey Stories by ShadowApe at Butler (August) and The Guys by CTI at the Wheeler Arts Community (August). A late-breaking addition is Accomplice, which closed Dec. 23 at the Alley Theatre.

There are at least 20 other shows I had marked to mention, but there is a limit to how many kudos I can hand out in this space. In spite of all the tripe that can fill the stages at times, this short lineup is proof that a variety of excellent theater is going on in this community. While I continue to pound the box offices in search of it, theater-goers have to do their part by spreading the word. Go see a show, and if you like it, tell everybody you know to go see it, too.

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