Banner Season Off Broadway

                                          By: Ellis Nassour

    It’s a Banner Season Off Broadway: Not Only Plays, But Also Musicals

Off Broadway has everything Broadway has, including uncomfortable seats, but on (most often) smaller stages and tickets that are a lot less expensive. And Broadway’s got nothing on Off Broadway when it comes to nudity. Heck, it started Off and spread uptown.

                                          By: Ellis Nassour

    It’s a Banner Season Off Broadway: Not Only Plays, But Also Musicals

Off Broadway has everything Broadway has, including uncomfortable seats, but on (most often) smaller stages and tickets that are a lot less expensive. And Broadway’s got nothing on Off Broadway when it comes to nudity. Heck, it started Off and spread uptown.

Space doesn’t permit revealing all that’s being offered, but here’s a generous sampling.

The joy of discovery is always alive and well Off. A recent example was Lincoln Center Theater’s barrel -of-laughs production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike starring Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, and the wondrous Kristine Nielsen, under Nicholas Martin’s sharp direction. It’s now a hit on Broadway at double the price. So, it doesn’t pay to delay belly up to the box office or ticket site.

Grab tickets NOW at www.rattlestick.org (or call OvationTix, (866) 811-4111) to experience the stellar performance of amazing, award-winning Michael Urie (TV’s Ugly Betty) in Jonathan Tolins’ hilarious Buyer & Cellar (Rattlestick Theatre, 224 Waverly Place, off Seventh Avenue South) in which Urie astounds with the breadth of his comic and poignant portrayal as an out-of-work actor hired by Barbra Streisand’s Malibu house manager to be custodian of Babs’motley collectibles in a basement mall. One of the season’s funniest plays; and, certainly, one of the best performances in ages. $55.

Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theatre (416 West 42nd Street) and Primary Stages present Tanya Barfield‘s "ripped from the headlines" and fiercely funny The Call, starring Tony nominee Kerry Butler (Xanadu, The Best Man, Hairspray) and Kelly AuCoin as a couple whose very identity is upset when they set sights on adopting an African child. Tickets: www.TicketCentral.com, or (212) 279-4200. Reflecting PH’s commitment to making its productions more affordable to young, there are $25 rush HOTtix, one hour before showtime day of performance to those 30 and under with I.D. (one ticket per person, per purchase).

Playwrights’ Mainstage: four-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara co-stars as a 50s housewife whose world is turned upside-down by her husband’s secret life and her interracial affair, in premiere of Far from Heaven, a musical adaptation of the Todd Haynes film by Richard Greenberg, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (Grey Gardens). Stephen Pasquale co-stars with a star-studded supporting cast. Three-time Tony nominee Michael Greif (Rent) directs. $80-$89; to purchase, as above. May 8- June 30.

Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning romantic comedy Talley’s Folly (Roundabout Theatre Steinberg Center Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street), set against end of WWII where two lost souls reunite and rekindle romance. $81. Purchase at box office or www.roundabouttheatre.org. Through May 12.

Off Broadway has never shied away from controversial material, or poking fun at it. Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody, from improv group The Pushers, plays at the Actors Temple Theatre (339 West 47th Street). The cast of four belts out hit song parodies while spoofing the best-selling novel.

The theatres of the landmark and often ground-breaking Public Theatre – in addition to presenting free summer Shakespeare in Central Park, don’t shy away from off-beat material. Case in point is 10-time Obie-winner Richard Foreman’s Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance), an "expressionistic chamber-play, an enigmatic fairy-tale that twists emotional heartache into a landscape of continual mental invention." $60. Purchase at the Public box office, www.publictheater.org, or call (212) 967-7555. The totally-renovated Public’s Library is open for dining from 5:30 P.M.

Also at the Public, join the cast of 13 in David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s outrageous Here Lies Love, with additional music by Tom Gandey and J Pardo, and choreography by Annie-B Parson, in this fully immersive, 360-degree theatrical experience set in a dance club that deconstructs Philippine’s First Lady Imelda Marcos rise descent into infamy. Jose Llana and Ruthie Ann Miles portray the Marcoses. Comfortable shoes and clothing recommended (audiences move with the actors). Dancing is encouraged. Directed by Alex Timbers (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson). $85.50-$95.50. Purchase, as above.

You can’t silence Silence! The Musical (Elektra Theatre, Eighth Avenue at 42nd Street), the bawdy satire and unauthorized parody of the Oscar-winning psychological drama The Silence of the Lambs, adapted by Hunter Bell with a score by Jon and Al Kaplan. Sean McDermott, as insane Dr. Hannibal "Cannibal" Lecter, and Laura Jordan, as rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling, headline large, campy cast. Selected by Time as one of the Top Five Musicals of 2011. Saturdays, at 2 and 7 P.M.; Sundays, 5 P.M. $25-$79. Purchase at www.SilenceTheMusicalNYC.com or call (212) 352-3101.

Brits Off Broadway Series: Sam Yates’s Finborough Theatre production of Cornelius (59E59 Theatre, 59 East 59th Street) takes you back to the London’s West End in the 30s and well into the 50s when the plays of J.B. Priestley (Dangerous Corner, Eden End, An Inspector Calls, The Linden Tree) reigned. This forgotten masterpiece, acclaimed as "monumental, compassionate, and piercingly relevant," centers on Jim Cornelius, fighting to keep creditors at bay, who life is further upended by a beautiful, young secretary who shows him the life he could have led. Cast of 12. $70. Purchase at the box office, online at www.59e59.org, or Ticket Central, (212) 279-4200 .

Lincoln Center Theater presents at its Mitzi Newhouse Theatre Richard Nelson’s Nikolai and the Others, directed by David Cromer and set against the Cold War in Spring 1948 Connecticut, Russian émigrés, including choreographer George Balanchine (Tony winner and five-time nominee Michael Cerveris), composer Igor Stravinsky (Tony winner John Glover), conductor Serge Koussevitsky (Dale Place), painter/set designer Sergey Sudeikin (Alvin Epstein) and composer Nikolai Nabokov (Tony nominee Stephen Kunken), discuss a historic collaboration between Balanchine and Stravinsky on the ballet Orpheus. Cast of 18. $75 and $85. Lincoln Center Theater box offices, www.Telecharge.com, or (212) 239-6200.

Don’t Forget These Long Running Shows

Avenue Q – See Below; The Awesome 80s Prom – Webster Hall (125 West 11th Street). Saturdays; Blue Man Group – Astor Place Theatre (434 Lafayette Street); The Fantasticks – Snapple Theatre Center (210 West 50th Street); Fuerza Bruta: Look Up – Daryl Roth Theatre (20 Union Square East); Forbidden Broadway, Alive and Kicking – 47th Street Theatre (304 West 47th Street); My Name Is Asher Lev – Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd Street); Old Hats – Signature Theatre Center (480 West 42nd Street); Sleep No More – "McKittrick Hotel" (530 West 27th Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues); Stomp – Orpheum Theatre (126 Second Avenue).

Even Tony-winning Shows are Off Broadway

New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues) is host two of best: Peter and the Starcatcher ($72.50-$99; purchase NWS box office or (212) 239-6200), by Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) the hilarious and imaginative prequel to the story of Peter Pan, based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel, about an orphan who heads to a faraway land, where he finds love, friendship, and, ultimately, himself. Directed by Tony winner Roger Rees and Tony nominee Alex Timbers. All ages.

NWS’ long-run champ is Avenue Q ($72.50-$92.50; purchase as above), the bawdy, saucy laugh-out-loud musical mix of puppets and humans. College grad Princeton moves to an East Village apartment, where he meets Kate, the girl next door; Rod, not exactly the boy next door, and, among others, Lucy, a woman of questionable morals (who, as an actress, gives Miss Piggy competition). Its quirky satire set to infectious songs. You may blush while you roar with laughter. Parental discretion advised.

Way Off Broadway
In Queens, in fact, is one of Cirque du Soleil’s best shows in years, Totem, in the yellow and blue tent in the CitiField parking lot. Take the #7 train to Willet’s Point. Through May 12. For tickets, etc., visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/totem.

Giant Cast Album
These days, Off Broadway, and especially at a not-for-profit venue, you don’t see big, sprawling, three-hour musicals (with a cast of 26 and 17 musicians), but what other treatment could you expect for Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson’s adaptation of the 400+ pages of Edna Ferber’s sweeping tale of three generations of Texans, Giant. It covers the 30s, the U.S. entry into WWII, and on to the 50s oil boom that changed Texas forever. The engagement at the Public was extended, but not everyone got to catch Brian d’Arcy James as Jordan "Brick" Benedict, Kate Baldwin as Leslie, PJ Grittich as Jett Rink, Michele Pawk as Luz, and John Dossett as Uncle Bawley. On May 12, in stores and online, Ghostlight Records releases the original cast album. The score is as epic as the novel, so it’s a two-disc set with 44-page, full-color booklet with the liner notes and libretto.

Hungry? Eat Where You Theater

At the stunning new Signature Theatre center on West 42nd Street, it’s not just about what’s onstage [and there’s plenty]. Have lunch, dinner, or dessert at the spacious lobby café and enjoy a specialty cocktail at the bar. There’s no need to rush home after the shows in the three theatres. Service goes until midnight. It’s been named "Best New Theatre Hangout" by Time Out. It’s convenient for audience members at Playwrights Horizon, Second Stage, Roundabout, and Broadway theatres. Present your ticket from any show between 9 P.M. and midnight and receive 25% off your tab.

N.B. – Some theatres will charge a Facility Fee. All phone and online orders will carry service charges.

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