The Bitter Lemons’ Top Rated Los Angeles Theater Productions of 2012

Diarra Kilpatrick and cast in “In the Red & Brown Water” at the Fountain Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

Okay, earlier we had our personal Best Of 2012 list as well as our Top Stories of 2012 and now we bring you the Top Rated of 2012. These are pulled directly from the LemonMeter, so basically, these are the most critically acclaimed productions of 2012. Literally. Objectively. Empirically. These are the shows that the professional theater critics – in totum – liked the best.

As we did last year, certain criterion had to be used to cull the herd; first a show had to have received at least 6 reviews total to even be considered, secondly a show had to have received a perfect 100% Sweet on the LemonMeter to be considered, and finally the quantity and quality of the reviews also had to come into play. What I mean by that is that a show that received 25 reviews and achieved a 100% Sweet has to carry more weight than a show that received 6 reviews and achieved a 100% Sweet. However, let’s say two shows received exactly 20 reviews and achieved a 100% Sweet, how to distinguish one from the other? The quality of the reviews. Yes, this obviously demands a lot more work from me (groan) but there are differences between a “rave” and a “recommend with reservations”. Both can be considered positive or sweet reviews, but one has to carry more weight than the other.


I’ve split the shows into five categories, Premiere of a Play, Revival of a Play, Premiere of a Musical, Revival of a Musical, Solo Show and Best Season. I’ve added some Honorable Mentions in certain categories, these were production that received 100% Sweet ratings but had a very limited number of total reviews. I didn’t add the 90 percenters like I did last year because there were just too many of them and their inclusion would have degraded the honor of the mention. There were many meritorious productions that fell into this category, a show that maybe received a single Bittersweet review and therefore tarnished their absolute sweetness, everything from the Broad’s Our Town to Antaeus’ You Can’t Take it With You to Rogue Machine’s A Bright New Boise to ICT’s Ghost-Writer to the Deaf West and Fountain Theatre’s Cyrano to CTG’s Krapp’s Last Tape to the Falcon’s The Gronholm Method fell under this very well-reviewed-but-not-quite-supremely-sweet category, and so they have sadly been left out of the final tally.

Double gasp.

325 shows in Los Angeles received LemonMeter ratings in 2012.

Wait. Hold on. Let me write that again.

325 shows in Los Angeles received LemonMeter ratings in 2012.


I believe there were only some 400 LemonMeter ratings tallied in our first four years, so this realization is quite staggering.

Let me take a moment.

Okay, I’m back.

Out of those 325 these top rated productions received the best critical praise of the year. I’ve limited it to the top ten in each category – some categories didn’t even manage ten – in descending order, top rated first.

Triple gasp.

Okay, without further adieu – and further gasping – here are your…


Premiere of a Play

In the Red and Brown Water

Three Views of the Same Object

The Car Plays

Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 And Over

Death of a Salesgirl


The Girl Most Likely To

Cafe Vida

The Belle of Belfast

Smoke & Mirrors

Honorable Mention: Faith: Part 1 of a Mexican Trilogy, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Chekhov & Twilight Zone Unscripted, The Sleeper, Hearts Like Fists, Absolute Black


Revival of a Play

Waiting for Godot (CTG)

God of Carnage (Old Globe)

Heartbreak House (Theatricum Botanicum)

Intimate Apparel (Pasadena Playhouse)

Cobb (Group Rep)

Glengarry Glen Ross (La Jolla Playhouse)

Moon Over Buffalo (Open Fist)

Beauty Queen of Leenane (Production Company)

Blood of Macbeth (Zombie Joe’s Underground)

Top Dog/Underdog (South Coast Rep)

Honorable Mention: Anna Lucasta (Latino Theatre Company), Collected Stories (Group Rep), As You Like It (Shakespeare Center of LA), God of Carnage (ICT), Much Ado About Nothing (ZJU)


Premiere of a Musical

The Book of Mormon

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS

Two Gentlemen of Chicago

Doomsday Cabaret

Honorable Mention: None


Revival of a Musical

Avenue Q (DOMA)

The Color Purple (Celebration)

West Side Story (Chance Theatre)

Man of La Mancha (Musical Theatre West)

A Snow White Christmas (Pasadena Playhouse)

Annie (Glendale Center Theatre)

Fiddler on the Roof (Glendale Center Theatre)

Honorable Mention: None


Solo Show

Fruit Fly

A Child Left Behind

Robert E. Lee: Shades of Gray


A Jew Grows in Brooklyn

Going Green the Wong Way

Honorable Mention: None


Best Season


Center Theatre Group

A Noise Within

Celebration Theatre

Fountain Theatre

Rogue Machine Theatre

The Antaeus Company

South Coast Repertory

Glendale Center Theatre

Group Rep

Honorable Mention: Pasadena Playhouse, International City Theatre, Chance Theatre, Falcon Theatre, Latino Theatre Company, Theatre of NOTE, Sacred Fools

Filed Under: colin mitchellFeaturedPonderings


Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Steve Fife says:

    Glad to see “Rise” on your list. What happened to “Bright New Boise” and “Dirty Filthy Love Story”?

  2. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    “I didn’t add the 90 percenters like I did last year because there were just too many of them…”

    … and yet there are some that still wonder if LA is a “theater town.”

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Another way to interpret the glut of 90 percenters is that the professional critics were being way too easy on many mediocre shows. I saw several of these productions and in my opinion they did not deserve the over-abundance of praise that they received.

  3. Enci says:

    Nice collection, Colin! This is wonderful!

  4. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:


  5. Douglas Clayton says:

    Book of Mormon is a ‘Premiere’?

  6. Douglas Clayton says:

    LA Premiere I guess… Feels more revival-ish.

  7. Congratulations to all our felllow shows and companies on a fabulous year of theatre in LA – and thanks so much to Bitter Lemons for for all of your suppport. Here’s to an even better 2013!
    Gowrie Hayden
    Zenith Ensemble’s RISE

  8. Don Shirley says:

    I was surprised to see Pool (No Water)on this list. I wrote two unfavorable paragraphs about it. Although you usually quote my remarks about shows, my opinions about this particular production weren’t among those you quoted in your roundup of reviews that led to a “100% sweet” score for that production. If they had been, it appears that your rules would have automatically eliminated this production from consideration for this list.

    Of course, as I acknowledged in my column, the production had just closed on the day before the column appeared. Do you not quote any reviews that appear after the closing night?

    Anyway, here’s the column:

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Didn’t see it. And we try to include all reviews even those that are tardy.

      You know, Don, you could always send the link when you write a review. I only have 60+ sites that I have to scour on a daily basis. Obviously yours is at the top of that list but I’m just sayin’…

      Sorry Pool No Water, folks. Say bye-bye to your top rated status.

  9. Steven Stanley says:

    Touring productions should be given a separate category. They are imports, not L.A. theater.

  10. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    Something brilliant like “best presented”? The Book of Mormon has never played in Los Angeles, it has just broken Pantages records in sales and could potentially run for another six month and has had nothing by raves by 20+ theater critics. The LemonMeter gives it an unequivocal “Top Rated”.

  11. It’s gratifying to see “Robert E. Lee-Shades of Gray” amongst the list of top solo performances. Theatre Forty highly respects “Bitter Lemons” and the LA critics at-large. We are striving to see more of our productions listed in the coming years.

  12. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    Many thanks, Robert. Heard the show was great. Sorry I missed it.