Best Theater Company 2023 | GableStage | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Magnus Stark

In 2021, after the passing of Joseph Adler, GableStage tapped Bari Newport to lead the company into the future. Newport, who'd served as artistic director of the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor, Maine, for nine years, took over with the specter of the pandemic still looming over everything. Even then, she pulled off a well-received debut season with productions of Authur Miller's The Price, Claudia Rankine's The White Card, and Tanya Saracho's Fade. Newport flexed her theatrical muscles for the 2022-23 season, introducing South Florida audiences to We Will Not Be Silent by David Meyers, Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House Part 2, and El Huracán by Charise Castro Smith. The company recently announced its 2023-24 season — also its 25th anniversary — which will feature August Wilson's How I Learned What I Learned, the Miami premiere of Jon Marans' Old Wicked Songs, and the premiere of Alexis Scheer's Laughs in Spanish. With a lineup like that, a $180 to $360 season pass is more than worth it.

Photo by Maria Rodaz

As associate artistic director of Area Stage Company, Giancarlo Rodaz is a risk taker, unafraid to challenge his audiences, actors, and even plays. Take for instance the tale as old as time where Rodaz used his magical touch to transform Disney's Beauty and the Beast into a work that might've impressed Walt himself. Realizing that if he was going to go big, he couldn't go home, Rodaz moved his vision from Area Stage's small South Miami home base to the Adrienne Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater Center. Rather than sit in theater seats, Rodaz cast the audience as guests at wooden benches and long tables, from which actors not only sang and traded dialogue, but danced, ran, jumped and leaped all around them. B&B was the third in a series of reinventions wherein Rodaz reinterpreted big-scale musicals with abandon: In 2018, he stripped down Shrek The Musical, ditching the green ogre and donkey personas, among others, and presenting human characters (Shrek was distinguishable by a green clown nose) struggling with modern problems. In 2021, his immersive Annie featured eight adult actors in all roles — no kids. Rodaz's minimalist approach launched these fairy tales to new heights. Next, he'll take on The Little Mermaid — we can only imagine how he'll render "under the sea."

Photo by Vanessa Díaz with Furiosa Productions

Create Dangerously and its nonlinear storyline may not precisely fit the standard format of what a play should be. At one point, one of the characters even tells the audience in all honesty, "This isn't really a play." But it does make for good theater. It's an adaptation of the book Create Dangerously by Miami national treasure and multi-award-winning Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat. Miamian Lileana Blain-Cruz (the current resident director at Lincoln Center Theater in New York) was recruited by Miami New Drama to write and direct the adaptation. During the 90-minute production, six actors portray multiple roles as Danticat's prose rolls off their tongues. It's reminiscent of generations of storytelling, and it offers the audience perspective, reflection, and the opportunity to live inside someone else's stories.

Photo by Camilo Buitrago Gil

Gabriell Salgado wins this category three times over. In the past year, he has been seen in almost every local professional theater production that calls for a good-looking Latino. But casting directors don't just want him for his body. The 2019 New World School of the Arts grad made his professional debut at Zoetic Stage in 2021's Frankenstein, proving himself a talent to be reckoned with as a hideous creature, skinny, contorted, and covered in makeup that rendered his body and face in scars and stitches. This season, he turned in a gold medal-worthy performance as professional swimmer Ray in Ronnie Larsen's production of Red Speedo the Foundry in Wilton Manors and made his GableStage debut playing comical dual roles in El Huracán. But wait — there's more! As Juan Julian in Miami New Drama's production of Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics, he commanded the stage alongside veteran actors in a play that won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Let's just hope Salgado doesn't flee the subtropical nest too soon — South Florida theater needs him.

Photo by Justin Namon

Jeni Hacker's mantra must be: "Bring it on." One of her most memorable roles was in Zoetic Stage's 2019 production of Sweeney Todd, in which she put her own zany spin on the serial killer's accomplice and Cockney cook, Mrs. Lovett. There've been other comedy roles, and serious ones, too. This season, as the lead in Zoetic Stage's Next to Normal, Hacker showed the entire spectrum of her skills, from her knack for comic timing to a vocal range that wrapped around the rock musical's score (during her post-college days in Miami, she led an R&B band). Hacker mesmerized the audience with her layered portrayal of Diana, a woman with bipolar disorder, trying to keep her family intact and her own head above water. Ronnie Larsen, who cast her in his play Grindr Mom in 2019, commented that since working with the actress he has become "the president of the Jeni Hacker fan club" — of which, in South Florida theater circles, there's no shortage of members.

Miami comedian and commentator George Harris grinds out material that slays week in and week out. Harboring a seemingly endless reserve of energy for the stage, the Venezuelan transplant has struck a chord with observational bits about immigrants' experience assimilating into American culture. Since getting his start playing comedy shows in Miami to a handful of attendees, Harris has climbed up the comedy rungs to the point where he's a household name in Spanish-language comedy, with millions of followers on social media. He headlines a long-running weekly show aptly titled "El Show de George Harris" on Thursdays at La Scala de Miami on Brickell Bay Drive. His Hijo Unico tour dates stretch around the globe from Mexico City to Madrid.

Juicy Love Dion's not just the ol' cartwheel diva. The former FIU cheerleader calls herself "Miami's Afro-Cuban dancing doll" and has a a mug that leaves no crumbs. Her high-energy lip-sync routines regularly fill venues wall-to-wall. Not only can she flip midair and land into a split with the ease of an Olympic gymnast, but she does it all while serving impeccable looks with nary an eyelash out of place. At 22 years old, Juicy's roots in the Haus of Love have taken her performances from South Florida hubs, like R House and Queer Parties, across the world to the luxurious JackieO' Town Bar in Mykonos, Greece.

On Friday nights starting at 8:30, the Outcasts Show brings a flirtatious cast of drag performers to Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar in Wilton Manors. Hosted by Nicky "The Cock Destroyer" Monet, the party features regulars like androgynous showgirl Sin Silva and glamorous Fantasia Royale Gaga, but it's a welcoming space for emerging queens, too. Oh, and there's no cover and cocktails are two-for-one all night long.

Photo courtesy of Mayami Mexicantina & Bar

Thursday is spelled F-R-E-E D-R-I-N-K-S at ladies' nights across Miami, and the competition is stiff. Mayami in Wynwood emerges victorious thanks to its generous three-hour timeframe for free liquor (7-10 p.m.), combined with a trippy ambiance and solid menu. Decked out with chandeliers, Mayan-themed fixtures, and lounge-inspired décor, the place is a chic, albeit slightly disorienting, spot to get stuck in. The place turns into a nightclub after hours complete with fog machines, fire-spinning performers, flickering lasers, and a bass-purveying DJ. So the night need not end early. One caveat: Leave your flip-flops and cargo shorts at home, because the dress code (outlined on the lounge's website) is strictly enforced.

The art of cabaret gets a progressive twist with Uncut Gems, a lesbian burlesque troupe founded by Rae Jenae of the lesbian event organization Lezchic. Catering to LGBTQ audiences, this sultry salute to the art of burlesque pops up once a month at Hamburger Mary's in Wilton Manors. Equal parts enticing and empowering, each month the roster of performers (known as the Gems) highlights a new theme that, coupled with drink specials, DJs, and go-go dancers leads to a dizzying and intoxicating night.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®