Posts Tagged ‘off broadway’

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.

Love Farce? The Metromaniacs Closes This Weekend

You have only four more chances to see this romp of a literary farce on Broadway. Meter, rhyming, deceit, and fantasy all play into The Metromaniacs whirl of a show where nothing appears as it truly is. Scheming, mistaken identities and assumed personas play into the lovefest where the ultimate goal is to connect with one’s true soulmate. Set in Paris, 1738, verse- and poetry-mania have created an affinity among residents for couplets.

I don’t want to spoil the intrigue but suffice it to say that you’ll need to pay attention to the goings-on here in much the same way as you’d watch a Shakespearean comedy.

If you enjoy fast-paced language-dependent theater, you’ll have a great time. And the interspersing of current language idioms with 18th-century rhyming and cadence adds to the literary witticism and pleasure. Language nuts will have a field day!

Original Baroque music by Adam Wernick. Gorgeous costumes by Murell Horton. And the wonderful script by David Ives (Venus in Fur, The Liar, All in the Timing).

Instead of a pre-show glass of wine, have an espresso and get ready for a literary tour de force.

Tickets on sale at www.Dukeon42.org. The Duke, 229 West 42nd Street.

Six Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows Closing This Month

It’s time to make good on that New Year’s resolution to see more theater this year.  Book now to see these six great shows which will be ending their runs in January.

Brought to you by Fiasco Theater, the classic Shakespearean comedy, Twelfth Night, tells the story of shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian on the island of Illyria. Shakespearean disguises, romance, and humor reign throughout. Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street, New York City. Tickets at http://www.classicstage.org/shows/2017/04/twelfth-night/

Two Lincoln Center shows are closing January 7. The first, Junk, is a fast-paced story about markets, drive and intrigue, set in the 80s. Starring Steven Pasquale (The Bridges of Madison County). Vivian Beaumont Theatre. 150 West 65th Street, New York City.

Tickets at http://bit.ly/2A7VSnv

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The second, The Wolves, is a story of high school girl angst and issues told by a girls’ indoor soccer team during warm-ups and practices. Great performances and creative staging. Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. 150 West 65th Street, New York City Tickets at https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/The-Wolves/Overview.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

The Irish Repertory Theatre’s staging of James Joyce’s haunting novella, The Dead, 1904, takes place at a Feast of the Epiphany party over the course of one evening, with conversations, music, dancing and dining. What does it mean to be alive, or to be dead? The play ponders these questions. With a premium ticket, you sit a dinner with the actors. Starring John Treacy Egan. The American Irish Historical Society. 132 West 22nd Street. Closing January 7. Tickets at https://irishrep.org/show/2017-2018-season/the-dead-1904-2/.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

If you haven’t made it to Hamilton, but especially if you have, Spamilton is a must-see. Gerard Alessandrini’s hilarious take-off on Hamilton draws from his Forbidden Broadway background, with satires, spins, and superb talent. With Christine Pedi (Sirius XM). 47th Street Theater/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. 304 West 47th Street, New York. Closing January 7. Tickets at http://bit.ly/2qeF0vF

Willy Wonka will be leaving Broadway on January 14. Starring Christian Borle (Something Rotten, Smash), Emily Padgett, Bed Crawford and Jackie Hoffman. The Broadway adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is all about chocolate, The Candy Man, Oompa-Loompas and a chance to win the Golden Ticket. Catch it before you can only see it on the small screen. Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. 205 West 46th Street. Tickets at http://bit.ly/2A7Of0s

Photo By Joan Marcus

The stunning remake of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon will also be flying away on January 14. Don’t miss your  chance to hear “The American Dream” sung by the fabulous Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer, or see Eva Noblezada in the title role made famous by current Once on this Island star Lea Salonga. Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, New York. Tickets at https://www.telecharge.com/Broadway/Miss-Saigon/Overview

Oh My Fellow Droogies, This Is a Show for You: A Clockwork Orange Opens Off-Broadway

If you remember seeing the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange and might have possibly read Anthony Burgess’s chilling version of a dystopian society in England, this play should be on your must-view list. You’ll completely understand the plot and be enthralled by the energetic, theatrical treatment given it Off-Broadway at the New World Stages.  If you’re a newbie to the story, you might want to grab a copy of Burgess’s landmark book with its glossary in the back pages and read a bit to prepare you for the play. The experience is somewhat like seeing a Shakespearean play for the first time: it takes you a while to understand what’s being spoken and to follow the story line.

Photo By: Caitlin McNaney

Little Alex and his band of delinquents are committing mayhem throughout England, responsible for a good deal of the “ultra-violence” so prevalent during this time period. In the movie, the establishing shots occur over a much longer time frame than in the play, making it easier to understand the underlying threat to society that this gang poses.  Here, the set-up is quick, and the ensuing events are also fairly quick. The general result is clear, but it will take some paying attention to follow.

Additionally, Burgess has created his own language for droogies Alex, Dim, Georgie and Billy Boy. It’s a mix of Russian and English, morphed into words that Alex frequently uses as verbs, nouns, and situational descriptors. That’s where having some familiarity with the book’s glossary is useful. I speak Russian and could figure out what the words meant, but they will sound like gibberish to most.

Photo By: Caitlin McNaney

The comparisons between the movie and the show are notable, with some exceptions. This version, brought over by director Alexandra Spencer-Jones of London, is even more stylized than the movie (which was already visually arresting and somewhat surreal).  In another creative digression from the movie, the all-male cast takes turns playing various roles, including some female ones, cued by a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes, for instance. Again, concentration is needed to follow these changes and to understand the role of music in the storyline.

Alex is played by a British actor, Jonno Davies, with a background in Shakespeare at London’s West End. Others in the cast hail from the US and include Broadway veterans Matt Doyle (The Book of Mormon, War Horse, Spring Awakening) and Jordon Bondurant (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Mamma Mia!) as two of Alex’s counterparts in crime. The ensemble is also the most physically fit group of performers that I’ve seen together on a stage, using striking choreography to tell significant parts of the tale.

Photo By: Caitlin McNaney

Brush up on your Burgess and get a ticket for this limited-run show playing, through January 6, 2018. New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, 800-447-7400.  www.AClockworkOrangePlay.com. https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/A-Clockwork-Orange-by-Anthony-Burgess/Schedules-Prices

4 Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows to See Before They Close This Fall

Although I’m excited about the upcoming fall theater season with its variety of Broadway and Off-Broadway openings, it’s always sad to see some favorites like Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 or Bandstand close. Here are my suggestions for four shows that you absolutely don’t want to miss – check the individual websites and sites like Playbill.com; you might either have a tough time scoring tickets or be privy to a host of discounted offerings.

Closing Sunday, September 3, 2017

NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
Featuring Denée Benton, Scott Stangland, Lucas Steele, “The Great Comet” is a loud and lively immersive musical based on “War and Peace.” The story revolves around Natasha who is visiting Moscow while her fiancé Andrey is off in the war. Her attraction to the seductive Anatole and her relationship to Pierre and the rest of the characters forms the crux of the story. Be prepared for an evening of Russian-style cabaret where you can choose to sit on-stage if you like. Imperial Theatre, http://shubert.nyc/theatres/imperial/, 249 West 45th Street, New York, NY

HAMLET
The classic Shakespearian drama about Hamlet, a Danish prince who discovers that his uncle Claudius murdered his father and took the throne, has received rave reviews at the Public. The story is one of betrayal and revenge, written as only the Bard could. The stars shine in the production, arguably the most comic version every made, with comedian (aka Luther) Keegan-Michael Kay as Horatio and Oscar Isaac as Hamlet. The Public Theater, https://www.publictheater.org/Public-Theater-Season/Hamlet/,425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY

Closing Sunday, September 17, 2017

BANDSTAND
A showpiece by Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer of “Hamilton” and “Cats” fame, Bandstand features musical theater stars Laura Osnes, Corey Cott, and Beth Leavel. The show is set in 1945 and depicts an America filled with joy as soldiers return from the war. With no money and just his own talent to save him, Private First Class Donny Novitski puts together a group of veterans, all of whom are musicians, to enter NBC’s national musical competition. Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, 242 West 45th Street, New York, NY.


Closing Saturday, October 21, 2017

A RAISIN IN THE SUN

Produced by the Harlem Repertory Theatre, “A Raisin in the Sun” is a timely story about American-American life during the civil rights era. Walter Younger and his widowed mother, Lena, both strive to move from Chicago’s black ghetto, Lena hoping to move to a house in a white neighborhood.  Tato Laviera Theatre, http://www.harlemrepertorytheatre.com/current_season.html, 240 West 123rd Street, New York, NY

Last Chance to See “Attack of the Elvis Impersonators”: Elvis is Really Leaving the Building

If you’re an Elvis Presley fan, or you loved the 1992 movie “Honeymoon in Vegas” with its Elvis impersonators — the Flying Elvises, Utah Chapter, this is an off-Broadway show you don’t want to miss.  And you only have one more week to get caught in the Elvis-Drac Frenzie frenzy.

The campy musical comedy “Attack of the Elvis Impersonators” at The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row is about to bid Elvis a fond goodbye. The musical, which opened in June, features a crazy cast of swooning fangirls, a supervillain, a social media star, religious rockers, and a fearless leader, Elvis Presley (aka Drac Frenzie).

The original score and story by Lory Lazarus revolve around Drac, a world-famous heavy-metal rock star who is infused with the spirit of Elvis. What happens next is Drac’s re-invention from burnout to world hero as he becomes the leader of the Elvis impersonators and the new religion of peace, Hound Dog.  Also key in the story is Prissy Bordeaux, a news reporter whose obsession with Drac leads to her own metamorphosis into Drac’s sidekick and eventual love interest. Played by Eric Sciotto (Something Rotten, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Drac Frenzie has the moves and the vocal chops to fit his multiple personalities. Laura Woyasz (Wicked, The Marvelous Wonderettes) is his worthy partner.

The final performances are Thursday at 8pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm and 7:30pm.

For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com, or call 212-239-6200.

The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenues), Manhattan

https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Attack-of-the-Elvis-Impersonators/Overview

Planning a trip to NYC?