Dylan Denmark, the RA of the 22nd Floor, offers some tips on theater in NYC.
I bet you’re feeling pretty good about where you are right now- and no I don’t mean whomever you happened to wake up next to or what illicit things you may have done last night- I’m talking simply about being in New York City, land where dreams come true.
Look out there ladies and gentleman, to all the opportunities that this land can offer you. It is a bit frightening, isn’t it? You have probably heard so much about this place from others your whole life, and especially now that you’re hear, in addition to all you have done in these months so far. How can you know what to do? You want to go to all those places that you ever heard about and really live up life in NYC.
One staple New York is known for is it’s theater- the great abundance of performances around every corner, but how do you know what to see, and if it is worth it? I’m here to help out with that.
I am a huge advocator of expanding your horizons- most of the best shows I have seen in New York have not been on Broadway. Yet the namesake and scale keep people constantly going back. If you are unsure what to see, I have broken it down into a few categories.
Spectacle shows- These shows offer some of the biggest sensations:
Mama Mia, Wicked, Lion King, Billy Elliot, Phantom of the Opera. Personally, I think Lion King is the best combination of story, music, visuals, and engagement. Yet, Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway’s history, and is a very ‘New York’ attraction, just like the Statue of Liberty or Empire State building. (Stay tuned for Spiderman: Turn Out the Lights, because if it ever ends up opening, it is surely going in this category.) I do not think most of these shows are worth their price, but Lion King and Billy Elliot come closest. This category of show is the most expensive, hence my next point…
Don’t spend big- TKTS offers ‘great deals,’ as does NYU, but the best deals you can find usually come from the shows themselves. Anytime a show offers a lottery, standing room, or Rush options, I say opt for them. I have seen literally hundreds of shows in my time at NYU, and have never paid more than thirty dollars a ticket. Work your magic.
Other notable shows on Broadway which I give my personal thumbs up to include Next to Normal (which recently won the Pulizer Prize, and is one of only 8 musicals ever to receive this honor), Jersey Boys (the best jukebox musical I have seen), A Little Night Music (featuring Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch, two of the biggest names to ever cross theater), as well as Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and In the Heights (just because they are awesome).
*For the Holiday times approaching, make sure to check out Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular, Elf (Based on the movie starring Will Ferrell), and the Grinch.
As I said before, though Broadway can be very appealing, it is the Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway theaters that really offer the true art scene to New York’s performances. These types of shows, though often more experimental, are not trying to appeal to a demographic of ‘everyone,’ and thus have a lot more freedom than shows on Broadway. The artistic merit tends to be much greater, and you can find a show for any interest- from adult puppet shows to parkour movement pieces. One of the most hyped theaters for this work is La Mama, which happens to exist in our own East Village!
NYU also has hundreds of shows every semester- from every individual acting studio in Tisch, to nearly ten vocal groups and five comedy troupes, to many, many other options. Get on the NYU list servs (Gallatin Theater Troupe, Drama Week, etc). You will constantly be surprised at what is around.
In short, never give up on the smaller scale shows- they are often much more satisfying, thought provoking, and cheap (even free). Theater is everywhere, and if you just open your eyes to look, you may find a great jazz club next to a crappy bodega, a street act in Union Square, or the improv everywhere creation in the subway you are unknowingly a part of.
(And If you have specific interests and don’t know where to look, feel free to email me.)