The Grandlife Guide For Theater Lovers
Broadway may be one of the longest, oldest streets in the world, but the stretch identified with major theater productions like an upcoming musical based on iconic 1980s hit movie Back to the Future (previews start in June), and a fall revival of Merrily We Roll Along starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff, plus long-running Tony winners Wicked, Hamilton, and Chicago is actually quite compact.
However, theatrical productions can be enjoyed all over NYC, even in some under-the-radar, unlikely spaces (especially during late summer’s annual FringeNYC festival). From musicals that may well be headed to the Great White Way—like RENT and Hamilton did—to scrappier, edgier, niche-centric, and more experimental works with short runs, there’s much to be seen and discovered.
So for all you theater lovers, here are Grandlife’s curated picks for current Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway shows and venues to check out, plus theater-centric spots to eat, drink, and even play musical star or chorus member yourself between showtimes!
Our Big Broadway Picks
Multi-platinum vocal powerhouse Josh Groban and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford head up Stephen Sondheim’s classic tale of a vengeful barber and his human flesh pie-making partner-in-crime. Boasting a 26-piece-orchestra (and Broadway-worthy, moving turn from Stranger Things’ Gaten Matarazzo), it’s the first proper full-scale revival in 43 years, and since Tony buzz started even before its late March opening night raves—Ashford chews the scenery with a wickedly funny physicality in the vein of Kristen Wiig, stopping short of going OTT, and Groban hits showstopping notes between the blood spilling—be sure to grab tickets ASAP if you want to make the, er, cut.
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th Street
Oscar winner Jessica Chastain brings star wattage and a pained, profound performance to director Jamie Lloyd and playwright Amy Herzog’s literally stripped-down—no sets! not even a curtain!—intermission-free adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 19th-century classic about a housewife tormented by both a blackmailer and growing unhappiness with her marriage. Devastating, with themes that regardless of its premiere way back in 1879 Copenhagen still smack of fresh relevance today… which is the point. A limited engagement through June 23.
Hudson Theatre, 141 W. 44th Street
OK, enough with the old-timey revivals! Chicago playwright Levi Halloway, Tony-winning director Joe Mantello, and two-time Tony-winning star Laurie Metcalf bring Broadway a new horror yarn—which the Chicago Tribune called “legitimately terrifying”—about a stranded couple who find shelter and a bunch of creepy children in a mountainside cabin. Bonus for horror and sci-fi fans: the cast also includes Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany and A Quiet Place’s Millicent Simmonds.
Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th Street
Best Off-Broadway Bets
The latest incarnation of RENT star Anthony Rapp’s one-man musical, based on his 2006 memoir of the same name and first presented in 2008, certainly delves into the story of that iconic Broadway show but also grapples with grief and death, notably his mother’s battle with cancer. Yes, you’ll leave with a “Seasons of Love” itch scratched, but Rentheads shouldn’t wait by the stage door for the typically engaging Rapp, since these days he’s rushing home to help husband Ken Ithipol raise their infant son, Rai. Extended through June 11th.
New World Stages, 340 W. 50th Street
Michael R. Jackson follows up his acclaimed (and first!) Broadway musical, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop, with an audacious, meta-genre sendup that takes cues from soap operas, Lifetime movies, and melodrama in its tale of an all-Black troupe of actors, the Blackgrounds, living in a soap opera town, Allwhite. Relegated to cliche backburner storylines about slavery and police brutality, the Blackground’s Keesha is determined to scheme her way into the Allwhite spotlight, but must also dodge a serial killer while at it. Developed since 2017, and presented as a two-day concert-style performance last summer upstate, this sounds like a don’t miss it to us (and you’ll have saw-it-first bragging rights if it lands on Broadway)! Runs through May 21st.
Tony Kiser Theater, 305 W. 43rd Street
The late Robin Williams not only inspired NYC playwright/actor Dave Droxler: he also served as an imaginary friend who helped navigate life’s more challenging – and funny – moments. That’s the premise of Droxler’s autobiographical one-man show and “love letter” to the iconic funnyman, in which he portrays multiple characters and, ultimately, must learn how to let Williams go and fly solo. Running from April 15-May 14.
Theatre 4 at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42 Street
Off-Off-Broadway & Other Spaces For A Theatrical Experience
Never an actual, functional hotel – six weeks before its planned opening back in 1939, just as WWII erupted, the property was condemned – today West Chelsea’s McKittrick serves as a multi-venue home to innovative hot ticket theatrical productions including the long-running Sleep No More, an immersive follow-your-favorite-character take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, sometimes with surprise celebrity actors filling roles. The lineup also boasts another Scottish delight, filled with live music and supernatural vibes, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, and Todd Robbins’ close-up parlor magic experience, Speakeasy Magick. Seeking culinary and cocktail drama instead/too? Grab seats at McKittrick’s rooftop restaurant and bar, The Hideout.
530 W. 27th Street
The Lower East Side’s Dixon Place has helped incubate and present experimental, edgy theater, dance, and performance for almost forty years (and since 2008 in its current Chrystie Place space). Pretty much every discipline has been represented – including puppetry, poetry, and queer comedy – and the likes of John Leguizamo and Blue Man Group made early appearances here.
161A Chrystie Place
Situated just east of Bowery in the Ukrainian Village, the 60-plus-year-old La MaMa is like a box of chocolates, although you’ll at least have an idea of what you’re gonna get by checking their events calendar. That’s a mix of avant-garde performance, politically provocative plays and one-person shows, multimedia, and plenty of LGBTQ, BIPOC, and emerging artists and themed festivals.
74 E. 4th Street
Where To Go Between Showtimes…
Opened in late 2022, this 26,000-square-foot, multi-level museum is an incredible new addition to the city’s cultural landscape. Arranged chronologically, you take in Broadway’s history through information-rich text and video, a stunning collection of original (and miraculously preserved and refurbished) props, costumes, playbills, and paraphernalia, recreations of sets, and endless photo opportunities and interaction (like a West Side Story video dance-off). There’s also doses of unflinching levity throughout—addressing earlier decades’ racism and minstrel shows, AIDS, and the COVID pandemic—and glimpses behind the curtain through backstage and tech-centric exhibits including a painstakingly detailed 360-degree model of the Gershwin Theatre and Wicked set. The gift shop is like a bonus, with plenty of show-related merch and more prime Insta-spots.
145 W. 45th Street
A Broadway institution since 1965 for both tourists and those who grace the boards, this show poster-lined, brick-walled restaurant is a favorite of stars like Kristen Chenowith for post-show American and international fare dinners. Hot tip: the website lists current show running times, in case you want to suss out prime stalking hours… ahem, when to make reservations.
326 W. 46th Street
Who doesn’t like cookies? Broadway stars certainly do, and you might just spot one ordering the weekly changing decadent creations—like the torched marshmallow-topped, chocolate chunk-riddled, chewy honey graham Sch’mores – plus great coffee at this fantastic line-out-the-door Hell’s Kitchen storefront (don’t fret, it moves very, very fast!).
362 W. 45th Street
Inspired to belt out a show tune yourself? Long-running West Village piano bar Marie’s Crisis is the place, and with quite a storied history that includes being the site where Thomas Paine died, as a brothel, and one of NYC’s earliest gay bars!
59 Grove Street
WORDS Lawrence Ferber