The best New York shows to watch this summer

Whatever you crave, we've gathered together shows this summer to suit every taste

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Kenneth Branagh in <em>Macbeth</em> at Park Avenue Armory

Kenneth Branagh in Macbeth at Park Avenue Armory Photograph: Courtesy Johan Persson

Summer is an exciting time for theater fans in New York City and lucky for you, there are hot New York shows to satisfy your every theatrical desire. Romantics can take in a balmy evening of Shakespeare in the Park, while blood 'n' guts fans can get their juices flowing at an especially gruesome staging of the Bard's Macbeth. Elsewhere you can catch Hollywood star Cate Blanchett treading the boards and a new piece from a Pulitzer Prize winner.

What to catch if you crave…

...wisdom from an old pro: Just Jim Dale

His appearances on Broadway and Off have grown rarer in recent years, but English triple threat Jim Dale will always be remembered for his swaggering bravura turn in the title role of Barnum (which won him the 1980 Tony). The old dog teaches us a few new tricks in this autobiographical variety show made of stories, songs and fancy footwork.

  1. Laura Pels Theatre 111 W 46th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves
  2. Thu May 15 - Sun Aug 10
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...blood. Lots and lots of blood: Macbeth

Kenneth Branagh staked his claim on London’s stages 30 years ago, but he’s never trod the American boards. Now the seasoned thespian brings his critically acclaimed take on Shakespeare’s tyrant to the lofty environs of Park Avenue Armory. Wear your slicker: The production is supposed to be intensely physical—drenched in blood, sweat and pouring rain.

  1. Park Avenue Armory 643 Park Ave, between 66th and 67th Sts
  2. Sat May 31 - Sun Jun 22
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...wisdom from an old pro: The Who & The What

Ayad Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize last year with Disgraced, a dramedy that probed the sensitive area of East-West relations, but the Arab-American writer is hardly done with culture clashes. His new piece is about a Pakistani-American writer trying to please her traditional family.

  1. Claire Tow Theater 150 W 65th St, at Broadway
  2. Sat May 31 - Sun Jul 13
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...gritty anthems from the inner city: Holler if Ya Hear Me

Broadway is no stranger to rap (In the Heights), but this is the first time a bona fide rapper's songbook has been turned into a jukebox musical. Woven around songs by Tupac Shakur (1971–1996), the show tells a story of family, revenge and inner-city grit. The top-flight cast include Christopher Jackson, Saul Williams and the glorious Tonya Pinkins.

  1. Palace Theatre 1564 Broadway, at 47th St
  2. Mon Jun 2 - Tue Dec 30
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...Rent-head status: Encores! Off-Center: tick, tick… BOOM!

This is the late composer-lyricist Jonathan Larson’s other musical, which remained unstaged until a posthumous production in 2002. Now the sweetly melancholy tuner about a New York artist nervously eyeing his 30th birthday returns Off Broadway, starring the wonderful Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

  1. New York City Center 131 W 55th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves
  2. Wed Jun 25 - Sat Jun 28
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...feelin’ like a fancypants under the stars: Much Ado About Nothing

They made adorable lovers four summers ago in The Merchant of Venice; now Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater return to Central Park and cannot stand each other. The two star as cutely quarreling Beatrice and Benedick in Jack O'Brien’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s rom-com.

  1. Delacorte Theater Central Park, at 81st St
  2. Tue Jun 3 - Sun Jul 6
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...basking in Cate Blanchett’s awesome glow: The Maids

A revival of this classic drama by Jean Genet, the French master of perversity and power struggles, would normally not equal box-office gold—but this Sydney Theatre Company import stars the incomparable Oscar winner. The film phenom plays a domestic servant who pines for the luxe life—and just might make her dreams come true if she knocks off her wealthy employer.

  1. New York City Center 131 W 55th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves
  2. Wed Aug 6 - Sat Aug 16
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