Night of the Living Dead (October) Stephen Gregory Smith and Matt Conner breathed new life into the tired zombie trope by going back to the source — George A. Romero's iconic film — and setting it as a hard-as-nails musical. New Line Theatre's ensemble cast conjured all the fear and loss bound into the polyphonic songs, but Zachary Allan Farmer and Marcy Wiegert were the twin cores of darkness at the heart of it all. Farmer's heroic Ben, fighting to save everyone trapped in the farmhouse, could neither comfort nor crack Wiegert's Barbra, a near-comatose woman who emerges only sporadically from her stupor to prophesy everyone's doom like a bouffanted Sybil. Director Scott Miller steadily ratcheted the tension, and then broke it all open with the single most harrowing moment to happen onstage in St. Louis this year. (PF)

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (November) Deanna Jent and her ten-man cast gave us our Christmas present early this year in All Is Calm at Mustard Seed. This a capella musical about the spontaneous truces that broke out on the front lines of World War I was as much about the power of song as it was about the spirit of Christmas. The steady barrage of folk songs and carols summoned old memories and warm feelings, even as it delayed the Great War almost 100 years ago. Though the war resumed soon enough, the feeling of peace and kindness lingered long afterward. (PF)

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