Poll: Worst Broadway Show of 2018

Welcome to my seventh annual Worst Broadway Show poll. Pick the show you thought was the worst to open on Broadway in 2018.

I chose these ten nominees; this is my Bottom 10 list this year (a counterbalance to my Top 10 list.) If you disagree with my choices, you can express this by 1. not voting for a show on the list that you liked; 2. adding your choice for worst in the “Other” slot if it’s not one of the ten below (Remember: Only Broadway shows that opened in 2018); 3. Making a comment in the comments section beneath the poll.
Judge the quality of the show as you see it, not how it did at the box office.
The ten choices below are arranged chronologically by their opening nights.

These nominations are subjective (as is the case in any theater award.) Below are links to my reviews of the show so you can see the reasons for my choices. I welcome your comments.

Escape to Margaritaville


Children of a Lesser God

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

Saint Joan

Gettin’ The Band Back Together

Pretty Woman: The Musical

The Nap

The Cher Show

Ruben and Clay’s Christmas Show


It was harder than usual to come up with the nominations this year.  I personally considered only one or two a blight on the Great White Way. There were more mediocre shows than truly terrible ones on Broadway in 2018, and some of the mediocre ones dealt with such important issues that I didn’t have the heart to include them in the list.  Some of the shows that I have put on this list were entertainments that I at least partially enjoyed, but felt would have worked better somewhere other than Broadway. Others should have worked — they’ve worked in previous productions — but they didn’t this time. I kept some shows off this list that I generally did not like,  because there was at least one terrific aspect of the show that I couldn’t dismiss. ( Network, for example, has Bryan Cranston’s performance.)

Every year, at least one theater fan gets angry that I put together this list at all, saying that the artists worked hard and deserve respect. The artists have my respect. Sometimes a show just doesn’t work for me. The reason I feel obligated to point this out — the reason I don’t just do the end-of-year top ten lists —  has something to do with a famous quote from film critic Pauline Kael:  “A critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising.”


There have been write-in votes for four shows that fit the criteria (a Broadway show that opened in 2018.)  The most numerous (nearly half of all the write-in votes — more votes than three of the shows on the list) has been for “King Kong.” I liked the show, and vigorously defend it in my review (King Kong Review: Going Apeshit Over A Puppet) Indeed, I don’t understand the hostility towards this musical.

Next highest (about 15 percent of the write-in votes) is “Head Over Heels.” Yes, the show was an odd mashup, and silly, but I thought it attempted something significant: a witty endorsement of love and acceptance in all its contemporary forms — not just in its story, but in its casting.

After that (at ten percent) comes “Mean Girls” — and I agree.(My review.) This movie did not need to be made into a musical; the music is not memorable. I also found the stage adaptation poorly-timed, given the recent heroics of high school students, who don’t deserve to be reduced to the stereotypes in the show. Though the production is very polished, and the projection design pioneering, this almost made it into my list of Bottom 10.

Finally (at five percent): Bernhardt/Hamlet. I was disappointed by this show, but the production was first-rate.


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

2 thoughts on “Poll: Worst Broadway Show of 2018

  1. I haven’t completely understood the bile thrown at “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” other than people honked off by Ken Davenport’s somewhat crass opening of the show. It is the only show on the list I saw and I saw it twice, the second time to take my mother. GTBBT seems to have been caught up in this visceral disdain for light-hearted entertainment that the audiences clearly enjoyed. It has been judged based on a standard of what Broadway ought to be rather than what the show attempted to be. The fact it was in a Broadway house was a reflection of the fact that the person who originated the idea and saw it to fruition has the ability to produce on Broadway. Should someone have told Ken Davenport that it was coming off as a vanity project? Yes. Regardless, the show ought to have been judged based on whether it provided a fun evening at a theater. The audiences I heard certainly thought it did.

  2. As you can see from my review (linked above), I didn’t hate Gettin’ the Band Back Together. I thought it tacky and lazy, but sort of fun. But I didn’t think it belonged on Broadway — which is another way of saying, I didn’t think enough people would be willing to pay Broadway prices for it. Nobody forced the producer to take it to Broadway rather than a smaller and less expensive venue. And nobody forced him to close it either — that was his acknowledgement that he had miscalculated.
    As for whether there is “visceral disdain for light-hearted entertainment,” that might describe some theatergoers, but it’s hardly a generalization that stands up for Broadway theatergoers as a whole. How would you then explain “The Play That Goes Wrong,” which lasted 21 months, a long time for a non-musical play? It’s worth noting that that play is closing but moving Off-Broadway, where presumably ticket prices will be lower.

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