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The 20 best New York theater shows to see this winter

We have the season’s best musicals, shows and exciting experiments from Broadway to the outer boroughs

Photograph: Richard Termine
Nice Fish

Classic British farce! Hard-hitting war drama! Avant-garde performance by the yard! This winter you better lace up your snow boots, because you’ll be out trying to score cheap Broadway tickets and big discounts on Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows. We still have to wait for the spring for the rush of new musicals, but if you want to get nostalgic there are several revivals: Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me and The Robber Bridegroom. January tends to be packed with experimental fare from around the globe, thanks to Under the Radar and Coil. For the serious playgoer, there’s the Broadway transfer of the harrowing Eclipsed and the shocking relationship drama Blackbird. We’re on the lookout for our favorite performers: Mark Rylance at the fancy new St. Ann’s Warehouse, Tonya Pinkins as Mother Courage (holy moley) and the genius clown duo Bill Irwin and David Shiner. All this—plus new work by playwright Kenneth Lonergan! Below is the list, ranked chronologically.

See the best New York theater shows this winter

Fiddler on the Roof

Stage vet Danny Burstein (South Pacific, Cabaret) steps into a role he's been destined for: beleaguered yet loving milkman, husband and father Tevye, a fellow trying to maintain tradition in the face of a harsh, changing world. Bartlett Sher directs the revival, which also stars the wonderful Jessica Hecht.

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Broadway Theatre , Midtown West Until Saturday December 31 2016

Mother Courage and Her Children

The estimable Tonya Pinkins (Caroline, or Change) plays a canteen-wagon owner who feeds off the war that kills her children in a new version of Bertolt Brecht’s brutal epic. Brian Kulick’s revival—with a cast that includes Kevin Mambo, Jacob Ming-Trent and Michael Potts—situates the action in modern-day Congo, and features new music by Duncan Sheik.

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Classic Stage Company , Downtown Wednesday December 9 2015 - Sunday January 24 2016

Noises Off

Many consider Michael Frayn’s 1982 farce-within-a-farce the funniest comedy ever put on stage. This revival boasts a cast of comic all-stars, including Andrea Martin, Jeremy Shamos, Tracee Chimo and Rob McClure. Jeremy Herrin, who helmed last season's mighty one-two punch of Wolf Hall, directs the slapstick mayhem.

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American Airlines Theatre , Midtown West Thursday December 17 2015 - Sunday March 6 2016

Our Mother’s Brief Affair

Linda Lavin stars in the new comedy-drama by the wittily melancholy Richard Greenberg (The Assembled Parties), about a dying matriarch’s confession to her children of past infidelity. Manhattan Theatre Club mama Lynne Meadow directs.

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Samuel J. Friedman Theatre , Midtown West Monday December 28 2015 - Sunday March 6 2016


Smart writer-performer Sarah Jones, who won a 2006 Tony for Bridge & Tunnel, visits NYLA with a 12-performance “preview” run of another one-woman, multicharacter showcase. Carolyn Cantor directs this exploration of women caught up in the sex trade.

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New York Live Arts , Chelsea Wednesday January 6 2016 - Saturday January 16 2016

Under the Radar 2016

The Public presents edgy new works from all over the globe in a festival cocurated this year by Mark Russell and Meiyin Wang. Offerings include works by 600 Highwaymen, Guillermo Calderón, Dorothée Munyaneza/Compagnie Kadidi, Ahamefule J. Oluo, Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort, Tanya Tagaq, Lars Jan/Early Morning Opera and Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble.

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Public Theater , Downtown Wednesday January 6 2016 - Sunday January 17 2016

Coil Festival 2016

P.S. 122, in temporary exile from its home base on First Avenue, schools us all in this sampler of avant-garde subjects, including performance works by Annie Dorsen, Kaneza Schaal, Frank Boyd, David Neumann, Jillian Peña, Samita Sinha and Australia’s Ranters Theatre. The shows are spread out at various venues (Abrons Arts Center, La MaMa, the Invisible Dog Art Center), so visit the festival’s website for details.

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Various locations Tuesday January 5 2016 - Sunday January 17 2016

Skeleton Crew

Workers at an auto plant face an uncertain road in Dominique Morisseau’s new drama, the third installment of her Detroit trilogy (which also includes Detroit '67 and Paradise Blue). Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs the premiere.

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Atlantic Stage 2 , Chelsea Wednesday January 6 2016 - Sunday February 14 2016

Old Hats

Bill Irwin and David Shiner are physical comedians of the highest order, and their reunion (after the 1990s smash Fool Moon) finds them older but still splendidly limber. Their polymorphous complementarity leaves the audience buzzing with joy. In this return engagement at the Signature, singer-songwriter Shaina Taub provides musical diversions.

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Pershing Square Signature Center , Hell's Kitchen Tuesday January 26 2016 - Sunday March 6 2016


Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) stars in a magical-realist fable about family ties by Noah Haidle (Mr. Marmalade). A hit at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre last year, the play features a mute teenage girl, a senile grandpa, vaudevillian twins in utero and a character called Footnote. The deft Anne Kauffman (Something Fun), who knows her way around such territory, returns to direct.

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Lucille Lortel Theatre , West Village Thursday February 4 2016 - Sunday March 13 2016


Continuing Broadway’s healthy trend of nontraditional casting of high-profile revivals (The Trip to Bountiful, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), this new version of Eugene O’Neill’s drama stars Forest Whitaker as a drunk and small-time gambler. Michael Grandage directs and Frank Wood costars.

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Booth Theatre , Midtown West Friday February 5 2016 - Sunday June 12 2016

Nice Fish

Mark Rylance, arguably the greatest stage thespian of his generation, had Tony Award viewers scratching their heads in 2008 and 2011 when he quirkily accepted his Best Actor laurels by reciting short pieces by Minnesota prose-poet Louis Jenkins. Now he and Jenkins have adapted a play from a book of Jenkins’s work, in which Rylance plays a lead role. Claire van Kampen directs the New York premiere.

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St. Ann's Warehouse , DUMBO Sunday February 14 2016 - Sunday March 13 2016


One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in his own time, this rollicking and very weird tale of nautical adventure has fallen into relative obscurity since. Here’s a rare chance to see a top-tier production, with Christian Camargo in the title role and British megadirector Trevor Nunn (who led the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre for decades) at the captain’s wheel.

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Theatre for a New Audience , Fort Greene Sunday February 14 2016 - Sunday March 27 2016


David Harrower’s anguished and shocking tale of ex-lovers reuniting in an office room comes back after its New York premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2007. Jeff Daniels plays the man, and Michelle Williams is the woman—only 12 when they had the affair. Joe Mantello directs.

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Belasco Theatre , Midtown West Friday February 5 2016 - Saturday June 11 2016


Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s ingenious, blissfully silly jukebox musical (which ran Off Broadway in 2014) deploys three dozen classic tunes from the Me Decade in a campy spoof of 1970s disaster flicks. The cast includes Roger Bart, Rachel York, Kevin Chamberlin and the miraculously funny Jennifer Simard (pictured) as a glum, guitar-playing nun.

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Nederlander Theatre , Midtown West Tuesday February 9 2016 - Friday December 30 2016

She Loves Me

The luscious Laura Benanti (pictured) and scruffily cute Zachary Levi star in this Roundabout Theatre Company revival of the 1963 musical comedy about perfume-store clerks in love. The swoony score is by Fiddler on the Roof songmeisters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Scott Ellis directs a cast that includes Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel.

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Studio 54 , Midtown West Friday February 19 2016 - Sunday June 5 2016


Lupito Nyong’o and her castmates are superb as sex-slave “wives” of a Liberian rebel leader in Danai Gurira’s urgently powerful drama, directed by Liesl Tommy. Gurira renders these women's plight in sometimes harrowing detail but also with merciful humor and a focus on the personal. The production moved to Broadway after its triumpant run at the Public.

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John Golden Theatre , Midtown West Tuesday February 23 2016 - Sunday June 19 2016

Hold On to Me Darling

The Atlantic wraps up its 30th-anniversary season with a new play by Kenneth Lonergan (This Is Our Youth), about a country & western star who moves back to his Tennessee hometown after the death of his mother. Atlantic captain Neil Pepe directs.

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Atlantic Theater Company , Chelsea Wednesday February 24 2016 - Sunday April 3 2016

Smart People

Four Harvard eggheads get scrambled about racial and sexual politics in a charged comedy by Lydia R. Diamond (Stick Fly), set at the dawn of the Obama era. Kenny Leon directs the play’s New York debut, whose multicultural cast of four includes Anne Son (pictured) and Joshua Jackson (The Affair).

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Second Stage Theatre , Hell's Kitchen Tuesday January 26 2016 - Sunday March 6 2016

The Robber Bridegroom

Steven Pasquale (The Bridges of Madison County) plays the title role in Alfrey Uhry and Robert Waldman’s musical adaptation of a story by Eudora Welty, in which a Mississippi bandit falls for a rich girl. (Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone originated the lead roles in 1975.) Alex Timbers, whose Broadway credits include Rocky and Peter and the Starcatcher, directs Roundabout’s revival.

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Laura Pels Theatre , Midtown West Thursday February 18 2016 - Sunday May 29 2016
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