With the arrival of an effective COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year, both artists and audiences alike rejoiced as life slowly returned to shuttered stages and concert halls across the region.

The emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants threatened to upend long-anticipated plans, but failed to halt inspired theater productions, cabaret performances and concerts across all three South Florida counties.

Now, as 2021 comes to a rapid close, here are SFGN’s picks for our favorite performances of the year.

“Sauna”

Ronnie Larsen Presents, POW!

Playwright and producer Ronnie Larsen took his sexy comedy “Sauna” to the next level by incorporating celebrity cameos during the second run in November and December. Each performance was special, thanks to appearances by Wilton Manors community and business leaders. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see SFGN Publisher Norm Kent on the Foundry stage, but perhaps someday.

“The Twentieth Century Way”

Island City Stage

The LGBT-centric theater in Wilton Manors celebrated its 10th anniversary season with a Carbonell-worthy revival of its first production, a fast-paced and thought-provoking “The Twentieth Century Way,” a drama about two real-life actors who helped police break up notorious rings of homosexuals living in Long Beach, California.

“More than Tango: 100th Anniversary of Piazzolla”

Symphony of the Americas

After more than a year stuck in his native Spain due to the COVID travel ban, Symphony of the Americas’ new Artistic Director Pablo Mielgo finally arrived and the results, a glorious celebration of the 100th anniversary of tango composer Astor Piazzolla, were stunning. Mielgo shined and showcased a clearly reinvigorated orchestra.

“A Winter Spectacular” featuring Marilyn Maye

The Wick Theatre

South Florida audiences were treated to an unforgettable performance by cabaret legend Marilyn Maye, singing holiday favorites accompanied by a jazz quartet in the festively decorated Boca Raton theater. And, at 92 years old, the sparkling Maye is still showing no signs that she has any plans to slow down, let alone retire.

“Piazzolla, Mussorgsky & Berlioz”

South Florida Symphony

Over the years, the South Florida Symphony has performed in a wide range of venues from Boca Raton to Key West. This season, Maestra Sebrina María Alfonso and her orchestra entered an exciting new partnership with the newly renovated Parker in Fort Lauderdale and the orchestra simply sounded fantastic in their new home. 

“The Prom”

Broadway in Fort Lauderdale

Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of the short-lived Broadway musical may have received mixed reviews, but the touring production that stopped at the Broward Center this December was clearly a hit with audiences. And it felt good to enjoy a high-energy, old-fashioned show together again in the Au Rene Theater.

“Kinky Boots”

Slow Burn Theatre Co.

Slow Burn Artistic Director Patrick Fitzwater told SFGN “Kinky Boots” was the right show for this time and he couldn’t have been more spot on. Elijah Word puts his unique stamp on the iconic role created by Billy Porter on Broadway and the rest of the cast sing and dance with heartfelt energy. The best part: It’s not too late to catch this production at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater before it closes on Jan. 2.

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