The best in concerts, theater and the visual arts from 2020

King Princess performed Feb. 10 at Express Live!

Though 2020 will forever be defined by the many arts events that were canceled or postponed, the year began in the usual vibrant fashion. There were rocking concerts, emotional theater productions and thought-provoking art exhibits.

For a little while, at least. 

Dispatch critics selected their favorite arts and entertainment happenings from the past year, including some from before the pandemic hit and several that took place in later months after groups began to adapt to the unique circumstances.

Our reviewers admittedly couldn’t get to everything — such as “My Fair Lady,” a traveling production that was suspended due to the pandemic after just one performance at the Ohio Theatre, and a visit by Christian rockers Casting Crowns to the South Drive-in Theatre in September.

But, upon further reflection, there was more than enough to put together a top 10 list as we await — and hope for — a more fulfilling 2021.

The CATCO Is Kids production of "Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat" featured, from left, Sam Hardjono, Scott Douglas Wilson, Grace Hardjono and Jeremy Hardjono.

“Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat” (CATCO Is Kids, Jan. 10-26, Columbus Performing Arts Center)

This delightful production was as slyly witty and briskly paced as the classic Easy Reader, whose text it follows word for word. It benefited from playful sound design and Liz Wheeler’s dynamic direction, as well as Jeremy Hardjono’s deft puppeteering and Scott Douglas Wilson’s exuberant performance as the titular Cat. — Margaret Quamme

Nora (Sonda Staley) and Torvald (Stefan Langerd) in the Red Herring Theatre Company's staging of "A Doll’s House, Part 2"

“A Doll’s House, Part 2” (Red Herring Theatre Company, Jan. 22-Feb. 9, Great Southern Shopping Center)

Director Michael Herring elicited excellent performances in the area premiere of the savvy Broadway sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama. All four actors seized key moments for illumination in this brisk one-act, an auspicious debut in a South Side space that evokes the intimacy and flexibility of the troupe’s former Franklinton home. —Michael Grossberg

King Princess (Feb. 10, Express Live!) 

In a relaxed and celebratory sold-out concert that made up in good humor and audience participation what it lacked in production values, the torchy singer, songwriter and guitarist showed off a touch of sass and a fine sense of timing, leaving no doubt of her ability to make a smooth transition from cult idol to mainstream performer. — M.Q.

“Alice” (BalletMet, Feb. 14-16, Ohio Theatre) 

Artistic Director Edwaard Liang’s new version of “Alice in Wonderland” was a marked improvement over BalletMet’s previous version. In the title part, Caitlin Valentine was suitably spritely, while Jim Nowakowski had boundless energy as the White Rabbit and Sophie Miklosovic made a strong impression as the Eaglet. No less distinctive were sets that included a wall of playing cards. — Peter Tonguette

Cameron Carpenter performed with the Columbus Symphony on the "Mighty Morton" organ on Feb. 21-22.

Columbus Symphony (Feb. 21-22, Ohio Theatre)

The “Mighty Morton” pipe organ, not heard with the Columbus Symphony since 2004, returned to symphony programming in concerts featuring guest organist Cameron Carpenter. Throughout, Carpenter’s playing was free of stunts; he was serious, decisive and compelling. So cohesive was the music-making that, at moments, listeners might have wondered where the organ ended and the orchestra began. — P.T.

Curator Daniel Marcus with the "Art after Stonewall" exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art.

“Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989” (Columbus Museum of Art, March 6-Oct. 4 with run interrupted by pandemic closing)

The largest and most significant exhibition of art marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising included more than 230 pieces in a variety of mediums by 165 artists. The works — by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer artists, as well as straight artists — reflected gay liberation protests, the AIDS crisis, identity struggles and more. — Nancy Gilson

Kristen Basore as Amalia Balash and Chris Rusen as Georg Nowack in the Ga
llery Players production of "She Loves Me"

“She Loves Me” (Gallery Players, March 7-8 with run shortened by pandemic closing, Jewish Community Center)

Director Pamela Hill expertly guided the charming 19-member cast, 10-member orchestra and top-notch design team to shape a lovely, impressively detailed production of a classic Broadway musical. Chris Rusen and Kristen Basore forged genuine chemistry as bickering shop clerks. The gift-boxed scenery, golden lighting and vintage European choreography added grace notes of wit and style. — M.G.

• “John & Jen” (Short North Stage, July 5-12)

Dionysia Williams radiated warmth and Hunter Minor was amusing and endearing in a double role in the rueful off-Broadway musical, ingeniously staged by director Edward Carignan in the company’s first streaming production. Skillful use of split screen, alternating close-ups and superimposed images bridged health-mandated distancing requirements to make characters seem as close as they felt. — M.G.