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Beat's Best Shows of 2017

2017 has seen a veritable slew of top-tier shows take to the stage. After all, it's no secret that some of the world's best theatre, dance, comedy and circus happen right here in Melbourne. From re-appearing themes of dystopian futures, to light-weight and visually stunning productions that made us laugh so hard we collectively forgot about the clusterfuck that is modern politics - our city was spoiled for choice this year.

SHOW OF THE YEAR: The Book of Mormon
Following sell-out success and almost universal acclaim with runs on Broadway and London's West End – one of the most successful new musicals of the 21st century finally made its way to Melbourne in its Australian premiere. Expectations were high, but the resounding success of The Book of Mormon spoke volumes
 As the prologue began, it was immediately clear that The Book of Mormon was coming straight out of the gate as a well-oiled machine. The pace was set fast from the get-go, letting the audience know they were in for a no-holds-barred onslaught of wicked humour, scathing musical satire, and just enough sentimentality to tug on the heartstrings.
 The aptly titled Hello introduced the Mormons – characterised as squeaky clean, buttoned-up beacons of relentless optimism. As for the vocal performances on display? Nothing but world-class.
 Lyrically, the envelope of good taste is pushed a little further out as each number goes by. But let's be frank – 2017 has been a tasteless year. By the time you get to songs detailing frog-fucking, you barely flinch. Yes, this is a play filled with crass jokes and enough swears to make a pirate blush – but it's also explicitly clever in the way it is delivered and written.
  One of the greatest things about The Book of Mormon is the way it simultaneously approaches musical theatre with a deep love and respect for its traditions and tropes, while also ripping up the rulebook entirely. The result is something so idiosyncratic that it could bring even the most devout hater of the genre into a born-again fan.
  There's a reason why this musical has taken over the world. It's unlike anything else in its field and is significantly better off because of it. From the moment a standing ovation and deafening applause closed out The Book of Mormon's Australian premiere, the deal was done – Melbourne was utterly converted, and has been with every performance since.
 
HONOURABLE MENTIONS
 
The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets
The worlds of William S. Burroughs and  recovered boozehound Tom Waits collide in this stunningly twisted fairytale. The score is Waits to the core: it’s darkly humorous and Kätchen’s dad, played by Richard Piper, mimics the deep whiskey rumble of Waits’s voice to a tee. An undoubted highlight for 2017.
 
Macbeth
MTC's gripping production of Macbeth was transfixing for a multitude reasons. Whether it be the sublime quality of the set and costumes, the gritty dystopian outlook, or the top-tier performances throughout, Macbeth proved that the Melbourne Theatre Company can tackle Shakespeare on a world-class level.  
 
Backbone
To have backbone implies having steel in your bits metaphorically, and this young South Australian-based circus ensemble, Gravity and Other Myths, has it in spades. This show didn't just push the boundary of what’s physically possible, it smashes it. Even for punters who see a shedload of circus, Backbone was awesome in the truest sense of the word.
 
1984
The timing for 1984's return to the stage couldn't be more perfect, but the fact that it was executed with fearless commitment to Orwell's dystopia while offering something new is a resolute testament to its success. A gripping, visceral – and at times confronting – exploration of power gone mad, arriving in Melbourne at a time where art such as this is more important than ever.    
 
Becky Lucas
Becky Lucas' Little Bitch was like being privy to her intimate private diary; full of screwed up encounters and thoughts laid bare on stage told in an unapologetic Australian accent. Nothing was off limits and audiences basked in the glory  of uncomfortable squirms. Becky’s natural but slightly awkward stage presence proved a highlight of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.