Posts Tagged ‘musicals’

An Insider’s Guide to Broadway and Off-Broadway: What to See, What to Do, Where to Eat

No visit to New York City is complete without sampling two things: theater and restaurants. You may consider yourself a world traveler, and you may have dabbled in international cuisine and some touring shows, but nothing compares to the bright lights and shiny plates of the Big Apple.

A trip down Manhattan’s Great White Way offers up a confusing and varied selection of musicals and plays, some veteran productions that are now crisscrossing the US and others seen only in Manhattan.  My advice is to skip “Kinky Boots” and “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” (you’ve probably already seen them this year), or “Phantom of the Opera” (it’s now in its 31st  year on Broadway) and go for the newer shows that theater divas rave about.

I Want to Hear Some Singing

Come from Away

Among musicals, two should be on your “don’t miss” list. “Come from Away,” a 100-minute jewel box of a show, wins the hearts of theatergoers every performance with its touchingly humanitarian story of travelers stranded outside of the US in the days following 9/11. Cast members play multiple roles, the songs are memorable, and the story strikes a chord. The equally captivating “Dear Evan Hansen” is a narrative about a topic that resonates with many families. Written by director Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen will have you remembering just how important musicals can be in building awareness of difficult topics. TONY winners “Once on This Island” (best musical revival, 2018) and “The Band’s Visit” (best new musical, 2018) should also be on your go-to list. For a night of pure fun, “Mean Girls” does the trick.

But Drama is What I Prefer

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It’s filled with magic and the characters that you love, so don’t delay in sourcing a ticket to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the two-part spectacular that was an enormous hit in the West End and is currently wowing audiences on Broadway. It’s a drama that the entire family will appreciate, especially if they’ve read all the books.  Do you love farce?  Then you absolutely have to see “The Play That Goes Wrong,” another British import that will have you laughing until your sides hurt.  Seriously.  You may want to see it twice, just to catch all the lines that you miss in this rapid-fire silly show.

There’s More to Broadway than Broadway

Jersey Boys

Off-Broadway refers to a number of smaller theaters located minutes away from traditional Broadway houses or in other parts of the city. The shows in these alternative venues may have stripped-down sets or may function as tryout spaces for future Broadway runs. This is where current Broadway mega-hits like “Hamilton” and “The Band’s Visit” started, and, if you see a director, story or cast member that appeals, it’s a great chance to explore. It’s also the place where larger-scale, popular Broadway shows sometimes return for a second incarnation. If you loved “Avenue Q,” “Jersey Boys,” or “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,”  here’s a chance to see them again, refreshed.

Off-Broadway shows usually have limited runs and are announced periodically. Check online for performances at the Public Theater, Signature Theatre, Atlantic Theater Company and Vineyard Theatre among others to see what’s playing when you plan to visit. Then check the reviews – it’s good to experiment!

So, Where Should We Eat?

If the show has an early curtain (7pm instead of 8pm), or a runtime of 90 minutes (instead of 2 ½ hours), you’re probably safe dining after the show. If the thought of eating at 10pm after a longish play makes you queasy, then consider one of the quicker pre-theater options that locals enjoy instead of the overcrowded (and bland) choices that fill Times Square.

Obao

My recommendation is to head to the small, ethnic restaurants on Ninth Avenue.  Give yourself an extra 10 minutes to walk from the theater to these, and you won’t be disappointed.  From 42nd Street to the low 50s, an array of ethnic options offers authentic international dining, the antithesis to Epcot Center. Among the many Thai restaurants, two-story Obao is a standout, offering reasonably priced pan-Asian choices in a casual setting with quick, attentive service. Nearby upscale Marseilles satisfies with lovely French cuisine in a pretty room – the bouillabaisse is an instant ticket to the South of France. Italian Bocca di Bacco will please any oenophile. Other choices are the aptly named Turkish Cuisine and Five Napkin Burger for terrific Istanbul and American dining.

Food halls are the rage in Manhattan, with one of the newest located in the Theater District. Atop the Row NYC hotel, City Kitchen is an upscale version with a carefully curated variety of stalls. Here, local favorites like Luke’s Lobster (lobster rolls), Whitmans New York (cheesesteaks), and Gabriela’s Taqueria (tacos) let you create a smorgasbord of quick-food choices. Grab a seat in the picnic-like area, eat as quickly or as slowly as you’d like, and then mosey off to your show.

The Marshall

After the curtain falls and you’ve gotten an autograph by the stage door, you can continue stargazing by heading to after-show cast favorites like Joe Allen’s, Orso and The Marshall. Or descend the staircase to subterranean Sake Bar Hagi, an izakaya hideout of the photographer set.

Three Ways to Score the Least Expensive Seats

The TKTS booth at 47th Street in Times Square offers deeply discounted tickets for same-day shows, starting at 10am (matinee days), or 2pm (Tuesday) or 3pm (rest of the week).  Other TKTS locations in Brooklyn, at the South Street Seaport and at Lincoln Center have shorter lines. Check the hours of operation online. https://tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-Overview

Take your chances on where you’ll go with Broadway Roulette. You indicate whether you want a musical or a play, exclude up to six shows that you don’t want to see, and provide your dates. Broadway Roulette selects the show with the best seats.  https://www.broadwayroulette.com/

Book ahead with Today’s Tix, a theater concierge service that has discounted tickets to many shows and delivers them to you outside the theater.  https://www.todaytix.com

The hitch? With these options, you can’t pick your seats.

Enjoy an Outdoor Broadway Concert FREE – June 2, “Stars in the Alley”

Theater lovers, it’s time for one of my favorite Broadwa experiences , STARS IN THE ALLEY®, a showpiece of what’s currently playing on the Great White Way, held one week before the Tony Awards® for the 2016-2017 season. Scheduled on Friday, June 2, Stars in the Alley is a celebration of the current Broadway season, and you get to see a sampler of songs and performances from nearly two dozen shows, all FREE. A 12-piece live orchestra accompanies. Given the price of theater tickets, this is a show you don’t want to miss.  #StarsInTheAlley

Heather Hedley and the cast of The Color Purple at Stars in the Alley 2016. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Actor Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “30 Rock,” Guys and Dolls, The Little Mermaid and much more) is the host of this year’s outdoor concert, scheduled rain or shine on June 2, at 1 PM in Shubert Alley, between Broadway and 8th Avenue and 44th and 45th Streets. Come early for the best seats.

The show is produced by the Broadway League and sponsored by United Airlines.

Crowd at Stars in the Alley 2016 (bottom). Photos by Jeremy Daniel

How many of these shows, scheduled to appear, have you seen? Now’s your chance!

Musicals:

Aladdin

Anastasia

Bandstand

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

A Bronx Tale

Cats

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Chicago

Come From Away

Dear Evan Hansen

Groundhog Day the Musical

Kinky Boots

Miss Saigon

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan

The Phantom of the Opera

School of Rock the Musical

Sunset Boulevard

Waitress

Wicked

Plus star appearances from:

Jitney

The Little Foxes

The Play That Goes Wrong

Present Laughter

Six Degrees of Separation

Sweat

War Paint

Visit broadway.org for more information.

Hungry after the show? Stop by Juniors, right next door, for a pastrami on rye or a slice of strawberry cheesecake.

Introducing Broadway Roulette: A New and Affordable Way to Enjoy Theater

Here’s a new way to score Broadway tickets at an affordable price with no hidden service fees and absolutely no hassle. Broadway Roulette is changing the game so that everyone can see some of the best shows in town. Broadway Roulette was created to help broaden the theater audience by making theater more accessible and certainly more affordable. With prices for the newest shows soaring into the $200-$300 range for the hottest tickets, and popular shows often sold out before you can snag a seat, Broadway Roulette is a game you really can’t lose.

The process is simple: pick your desired show date ranging from the next day to three months in advance, cross off up to four shows you’ve already seen or are not interested in seeing, select between musicals or plays, and let the roulette wheel work its magic to send you to a performance based on your preferences. The price is fixed at a maximum of $59 with a minimal $6 service charge per ticket. And it keeps getting better the more you spin the wheel: any shows that you see through Broadway Roulette are automatically excluded from future rounds so you can pick four other shows to eliminate from your selection.

Like the show listings in Playbill, variety is the name of the game and Broadway Roulette delivers with an ever-changing list of shows. You do need to be a bit of a risk-taker. By leaving the show selection to Broadway Roulette, you may not score your number one pick, but you’re guaranteed a great night of theater without standing in a Broadway rush line only to find that your show is sold out.

Finding out what you’ve “won” is simple, too.  On the day of the show, you receive an email and a text with the details of the play or musical, the theater address, and the performance time. You then pick up your tickets at the Will Call window at the theater – no need to search for someone standing outside the theater to hand you an envelope.  But, better still, there’s no need to enter a lottery every day, hunt around to find a possible discount, stand in line for half-price tickets, or rush to the box office to pay full price to see a Broadway show.

Broadway Roulette? I call this The Price Is Right.  Weekday show tickets are a mere $49; weekend prices increase to $59. Fees and handling are $6/ticket. http://www.broadwayroulette.com

5 Plays Not to Miss This Year (or early next year)

As the winter theater season comes to a close, there are some shows you should try to see before it’s too late.

On Your Feet! – this joyful Latin musicfest about the life of Gloria Estefan will have you literally “on your feet” as you join in a “Conga” line that meanders down the aisles. Do try to score an orchestra seat so you’ll be part of this active party which chronicles the rise of Gloria from a singer in a local band to the Miami Sound Machine superstar made possible by her meeting with Emilio Estefan. You already know the story about her tragic accident, so there’s no spoiler alert here, but you’ll appreciate her music more when you understand her relationship with her parents and the trials in getting a Cuban/Latin band to be accepted by mainstream radio stations. When you watch Ana Villafañe sing “1-2-3” and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” you’ll swear you’re seeing Gloria herself. Fun for all ages.  Marquis Theatre, West 46th Street. www.onyourfeetmusical.com.

On Your Feet

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – murder, deceit, greed and romance are all mixed up in this tuneful story about Monty Navarro’s rise to head of the aristocratic D’Ysquith family. It’s a shame that this musical closes on January 3.  Don’t wait. Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street. www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com. Closes January 17.

Hand to God an evil hand puppet named Tyrone that controls his master, Jason, bridges the gap between sanctity and irreverence. Steven Boyer’s performance as both puppet master and demonic puppet in this dark comedy is one-of-a-kind.  A nice complement to Avenue Q. Not for children. Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street. www.handtogodbroadway.com. Closes January 3.

Hand 2 god

Sylvia – you’ll be laughing hysterically when you see Annaleigh Ashford’s performance as Sylvia, the stray that Matthew Broderick picks up in Central Park. If you own a dog, you’ll immediately recognize the doggie behaviors and you’ll understand the husband’s obsession with his new friend. Because of strong language, this one isn’t recommended for children either. Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street. www.sylviabroadway.com. Closes January 3.

Sylvia

Dames at Sea – a classic in the Busby Berkely-42nd Street genre, this four-person revival will entertain anyone who loves a touch of glamour and a good old-fashioned musical. It’s the classic Broadway struggle-success story with fabulous tap dancing. Great for all ages. Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 47th Street, www.damesatseabroadway.com. Closes January 3.

Watch the Tony Awards from Duffy Square along with Live Broadway Performances, June 7

Last week’s “Stars in the Alley”,  United Airlines’ and the Broadway League’s presentation of Broadway song and dance, left me thirsting for more.  It’s a great time to get your tickets to a Broadway drama or musical. With the Tony Awards for outstanding theatrical achievement this Sunday, you’ll want to snag seats on your preferred dates before the shows book up.

The Tony Awards turn into a free, social viewing party this Sunday in Times Square, rain or shine.  Head over to Times Square to see the award show live, on the big screen.  Although it might not be as glamorous as dressing in black tie to hob nob with the stars of the Great White Way or hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming at Radio City Music Hall, it’s still a fun evening for theater lovers and more exciting than “sitting all alone in your room” watching TV.  You can bring a picnic with you, grab a folding chair or a seat on the risers behind TKTS, and cheer for your favorites.  Viewing will be on the Clear Channel Spectacolor screens at Duffy Square and the Broadway Plaza between 46th and 48th streets, in the heart of Times Square.  The program begins at 4pm, ending at 11pm. The simulcast of the CBS Tony Awards will be broadcast starting at 8pm.

Festivities will also include live performances from Broadway stars Justin Guarini and Deborah Cox, singing “I’ve Got Rhythm” and “On Broadway,’” Deborah Cox singing “Easy as Life” from Aida, and Jeanna de Waal singing “History of Wrong Guys” from Tony-award winner Kinky Boots.

Here are some of my favorites that are contenders for a variety of Tony Awards:

Something Rotten! – This musical’s a laughfest from start to finish, as the poets of the Renaissance put together what could be the most hilarious musical ever.  A lot of “insider” references to musicals make this the perfect show for theater junkies. I’d be shocked if the male lead and featured actors, Brian d’Arcy James and Christian Borle, don’t get some sort of acknowledgement.

The Audience – No one plays the Queen like Helen Mirren. She’s charming, grand, self-deprecating, and even funny.  Her meetings with her prime ministers are a primer in British history.

Hand to God – An evil puppet, creatively nasty dialogue, and an inventive plot make this one of the season’s top go-tos among non-musicals. Can they give a Tony to Tyrone (Steven Boyer)?

Fun Home – The cast is top-notch in the offbeat musical about family interactions. Although the show moved to Broadway from its downtown home, the Circle in the Square is still an intimate venue for the action.

An American in Paris – Go for the music, the dance, the beautiful sets and the lushness of the Broadway version of the beloved Gene Kelly movie.

The full list of Tony nominees can be found at http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/

Three Broadway Shows to See Before Mid-January

You’ve just missed your chance at seeing the last Broadway performances of Once, Side Show, Cinderella, Pippin, The Real Thing and This is Our Youth.

Before it’s too late, I suggest you buy your tickets for these shows which are scheduled to close (or move from their original home) mid-January:

It's Only a PlayIt’s Only a Play – An insider look at what happens on the opening night of a Broadway show, the title sums up how the characters are supposed to feel when the show doesn’t quite get the reviews hoped for. Now with Martin Short replacing Nathan Lane, Katie Finneran, F. Murray Abraham, and Stockard Channing, “It’s Only a Play” is a non-stop laughfest, poking fun at pretty much every major show on Broadway. It helps to see it with someone who is conversant with the current Broadway line-up, especially if you’re not a regular theater-goer. Now playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street), It’s Only a Play moves to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street, starting January 23. Tickets: www.telecharge.com.

Rock of the AgesRock of Ages – Unbelievably, this long-lasting, feel-good rocker is about to have its farewell tour. Closing on January 18, the show will no longer bring you those familiar 80s faves like “Any Way You Want It,” “We Built This City,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “Don’t Stop Believin.” Constantine Maroulis (sixth-place finalist from the fourth season of American Idol) leads the final line-up.  Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West th Street.  Tickets: www.telecharge.com .

The story about Berry Gordy’s creation of the Motown sound, starting in 1959, is a bit too long, with too much crammed in, but it’s still a crowd pleaser. Starting January 18, Motown: the Musical is concentrating its focus on its tour companies. This is your last chance to relive those Detroit phenoms like the Supremes, the Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson. The young Michael Jackson is a knockout. Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street.  Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com.

For more detailed information on these and other Broadway shows, a good source is Playbill,  www.playbill.com, where you can sign up for a newsletter of upcoming theater events.

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