But first, some ground rules. Well a ground rule: only two performers, one male and one female, from any one production are allowed in this list. This may seem really arbitrary, and it is, but blame Angels in America. You see, thanks to the embarrassment of riches that was the Angels cast when I originally wrote this list down it was essentially just Angels cast. And that’s a bit boring, however justified it may be. So, with apologies to Andrew Garfield, James McArdle and Russell Tovey in particular, I have my rule and I’m sticking to it.
1. Nathan Lane
Roy Cohn, Angels in America
No one else was ever coming close to the top of this list. As I seem to recall writing in my review, it’s not that Lane’s performance in Angels is in a different league to everyone else, he’s playing an entirely different sport. Peerless.
2. Bertie Carvel
Rupert Murdoch, Ink
A joyously old school, physical, intricately detailed piece of work. The joy of Carvel’s Murdoch is two fold: 1) he makes you forget everything you think you know (or feel) about Rupert Murdoch and 2) he simultaneously makes you forget you’re watching Bertie Carvel. No mean feat. Still my favourite actor. (Also his eyebrows in this production deserve an award all of their own.)
3. Paddy Considine
Quinn Carney, The Ferryman
In an ensemble piece like The Ferryman it’s difficult for a single performer to stand out but Paddy Considine absolutely did with his controlled and naturalistic Quinn. Basically impossible to believe that this was his stage debut.
4. Imelda Staunton
Sally Durant, Follies
I mean, it’s Imelda Staunton in a Sondheim show so you know it’s good. The tender sadness Staunton put into her Sally was so beautiful. Her rendition of Losing My Mind is a standalone highlight of my 2017 theatrical year.
5. Omid Djalili
Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof
The speed with which Djalili convinced this sceptic that his casting was not only 100% correct but indeed there was literally no one else that could play this part was frankly alarming. His If I Were a Rich Man is now my brain’s go to version.
6. Tracy-Ann Oberman
Golde, Fiddler on the Roof
A first rate Tevye deserves a first rate Golde and Djalili found his in Tracy-Ann Oberman. The second half of Chichester’s production was entirely hers and dear god she broke my heart. Possibly the most I’ve ever cried in the theatre, which is going some.
7. Cyril Nri
Emmanuel, Barbershop Chronicles
Beautiful, sad, nuanced and completely controlled. Cyril Nri has been great in everything I’ve seen him in but really lit up the stage here. And, yes, I’m still crying about his last scene.
8. Susan Brown
Hannah Pitt (amongst others), Angels in America
Brown seemed to be everywhere all at once in Angels, but it was her deeply moving performance as Hannah that’s really stuck with me. It takes a very special actress indeed to take a role played by Meryl Streep on screen and improve on it. Brown did exactly that.
9. Ciaran Hinds
The non-singer in a musical could have been a very unsatisfying part but Hinds made it into something incredibly effective and affecting. A haunting study in loneliness and regrets.
10. Clare Halse
Peggy Sawyer, 42nd Street
I’ve never seen a triple threat like Clare Halse in real life before. I sort of thought they only existed in Hollywood’s collective imagination to be honest. An absolute superstar in the making if there’s even an ounce of justice left in the world.