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The 10 Best Off-Broadway Shows to Catch This Season

Category General

|by Mark Robinson |


From ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to ‘Rock of Ages,’ fall is shaping up Off-Broadway

With all of the flashy plays and musicals running on Broadway, it is easy to forget that New York City boasts just as many offerings Off-Broadway. Typically presented in more intimate venues and representing some of theatre’s cutting edge writing, directing and performing talent, a visit to an Off-Broadway show can be a riveting experience for a theater lover. Here are ten Off-Broadway experiences you should consider checking out this fall. 

The 10th anniversary revival of ‘Rock of Ages’ is now playing at New World Stages (Photo: ‘Rock of Ages’)

The 10th anniversary revival of ‘Rock of Ages’ is now playing at New World Stages (Photo: ‘Rock of Ages’)

Little Shop of Horrors
Little Shop of Horrors, the sci-fi musical about the man-eating plant and the nerdy young man who lavishes his affection on the bloodthirsty monster, is back this fall courtesy of the Westside Theatre. The productions stars stage and television favorite Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening, Hamilton, Mindhunter) as Seymour, Emmy winner Tammy Blanchard (Gypsy) and two-time Tony-winner Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher, Something Rotten!). With a beloved score by the composing team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Little Shop of Horrors begins previews on Sept. 17 toward an Oct. 17 opening.

American Moor
The Red Bull Theater’s production of Keith Hamilton Cobb’s American Moor is poised for an official opening on Sept. 8, 2019 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The compelling drama finds an African-American actor in the position of auditioning for the title role in William Shakespeare’s Othello, only to bed at odds with the young, white director who leads with the idea that he has a better understanding of the play’s racial implications. Poignant, dramatic, and funny, American Moor offers a fascinating discussion on race in America.

Fiddler on the Roof In Yiddish
There is no denying that the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof is one of the true treasures of the American stage. The 2019 Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award winner for Best Musical Revival, Fiddler on the Roof (In Yiddish) proves that the musical continues to resonate, particularly in the hands of thoughtful director Joel Grey. The story of the milkman Tevye, who has his traditions and authority challenged as his daughters begin taking husbands and the world around him starts changing faster than he is ready for, is performed entirely in Yiddish, with English subtitles. Joseph Stein’s book and the Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick score have never been so potently presented. The production plays at Stage 2 through January 5, 2020.

Frankenstein: A New Musical
Fans of old-fashioned horror will want to check out Frankenstein: A New Musical at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 West 46th Street). Composer/lyricist/book writer Eric B. Sirota has adeptly captured Mary Shelly’s classic novel about a mad scientist testing the boundaries of mortality, giving it a fresh and contemporary sound. The show has something for everyone: romance, intensity, drama and a few chills guaranteed to take you back to the world of old-fashioned, monster storytelling.  

Jersey Boys
A hit for many years on Broadway, the jukebox musical Jersey Boys found a new home Off-Broadway where it continues to dazzle audiences with its story of one of pop music’s most-prolific and beloved bands. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons started out as some tough kids from Jersey who came together and created terrific and tight harmonies, then worked their way to become one of the most-successful bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With chart-climbing songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Sherry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “December, 1963,” Jersey Boys was the 2006 Tony Award winner for Best Musical.

Panama Hattie
Here is a musical from the Golden Age of Broadway that audiences seldom get to see revived, but definitely deserves a second look. Fortunately, the York Theatre’s Musicals in Mufti series is breathing new life into this gem for one-week (October 27-November 3, 2019). The Cole Porter score is as charming and vibrant as ever (it was initially a vehicle for Ethel Merman when it premiered in 1940). The Herbert Fields/B.G. DeSylva book tells the story of the larger-than-life Hattie Mahoney who owns (and performs at) a nightclub in the Panama Canal Zone and who gets comedically involved in romance and international intrigue.

Perfect Crime
This Off-Broadway whodunnit has been running for over three decades, keeping audiences guessing and trying to solve the case of a psychiatrist who is wrongly accused of murder. Brimming with humor and the usual conventions of a murder mystery, Perfect Crime by Warren Manzi will have you playing amateur sleuth with a giant smile on your face. Perfect Crime is playing at The Theater Center/Anne L. Bernstein Theater at 210 West 50th Street.

The Play That Goes Wrong
Speaking of murder mysteries, for a hilarious take on how this genre of theatre comes together, check out the folks at the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they produce one. Playwrights Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields created one of Broadway’s most side-splitting and successful comedies, an exploration of just about everything that can go wrong when trying to put on a play. Following its record-breaking run on The Great White Way, The Play That Goes Wrong moved to Off-Broadway’s New World Stages where the hilarity continues to delight.

Rock of Ages
A jukebox musical that draws on the popular music of the 1980s to tell the story of a romance between a small-town girl and a big-city rocker, Rock of Ages enjoyed an Off- Broadway berth in 2008, then took the leap to Broadway in 2009 where it enjoyed a 2,328 performance run before touring. Now Rock of Ages is back to Off-Broadway, playing at New World Stages. Get your 80’s groove on with such classic hits as “Sister Christian,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Shadows of the Night,” “The Final Countdown,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” among myriad others from the decade of big hair and insistent melody.

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation
There used to be a time when Gerard Alessandrini’s revue that spoofed Broadway musicals was a regular part of the Off-Broadway landscape, with many incarnations roasting the best (and worst) of Broadway. Well, Alessandrini is back with Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation returning this fall for a limited engagement. The laugh-a-minute, celebrity mocking, musical skewering show will be playing at the Triad from October 16 through November 30th, 2019. Come see Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen, Beetlejuice, The Cher Show, Oklahoma! and many others be mocked in good fun.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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