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Six Off Broadway musicals to see this fall

Adam Feldman

The fall season on Broadway offers a sparse harvest indeed for devotees of musical theater. Thanks to a number of factors—including a scarcity of available theaters (because of long-running shows) and an increasing tilt toward opening in March and April—just four musicals are slated to hit the Great White Way in what’s left of this year: The Last ShipHoneymoon in Vegas and revivals of On the Town and Side Show. What’s a show-tune lover to do? Easy: Shift your attention to Off Broadway, which is humming with promising new works. Here are six to watch out for.

Broadway cultists have a fond place in their hearts for Hunter Bell, who charmed the pants off audiences in the adorably metatheatrical [title of show]. His new project, written with director Lee Overtree and ace songwriter Eli Bolin, is based on Davy Rothbart’s magazines and books about misplaced or discarded missives. The cast of ten musical-theater risers includes Nick Blaemire (Godspell), Barrett Wilbert Weed (Heathers), Orville Mendoza (Peter and the Starcatcher) and—in an overdue Off Broadway debut—cabaret sensation Molly Pope. Sept 18–Nov 9

The Fortress of Solitude
The Public Theater has long been one of the city’s prime incubators for ambitious new musicals, from A Chorus Line through Caroline, or Change and the more recent Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Fun Home. That admirable tradition continues with The Fortress of Solitude, adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s Brooklyn coming-of-age novel by two of our most literate writers: Itamar Moses (Bach at Leipzig) and Civilians songsmith Michael Friedman. Three-time Obie honoree Daniel Aukin (Bad Jews) directs the world premiere. Sept 30–Nov 2

Lennon: Through a Glass Onion
You can’t stop the Beatle! Australia’s John R. Waters performs more than 30 songs by John Lennon—ranging from his Fab Four days through the work he produced just before his 1980 murder—in a concert musical whose previous stops have included the Sydney Opera House and the West End. Joining him on piano is fellow Aussie Stewart D’Arrietta, whose Tom Waits show, Belly of a Drunken Piano, ran for months at the SoHo Playhouse. Starts Oct 3

Ghost Quartet
Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is one of the best works of musical theater to have graced New York in the past ten years, and the composer continues to push the genre’s boundaries in exciting new directions. He is currently at work on what he says will be an eight-hour adaptation of Moby-Dick; I have seen an early version of one brilliant section. But first, at the Bushwick Starr—just in time for Halloween—is this haunted song cycle, which stitches together four stories, including Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Oct 8–Nov 1

How do you solve a problem like Allegro? Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were the most successful Broadway team of all time, but not everything they wrote was a hit: Between Carousel and South Pacific came this 1947 flop, a high-concept musical that spanned decades in one man’s life. Many have dreamed of fixing it since—most famously, Stephen Sondheim, on whom it exerted a major formative influence. Now director John Doyle (Sweeney Todd) takes a stab in a rare revival at Classic Stage Company, starring Claybourne Elder and Elizabeth A. Davis as the central couple. Nov 1–Dec 7

The Underclassman
Few musical-theater composers write with anywhere near the craft and polish of Peter Mills. The Underclassman is a reworking of his sparkling 2005 musical The Pursuit of Persephone, cowritten with his wife, Cara Reichel (who also directs it for Prospect Theater Company). If you’re the kind of show lover who complains that they don’t write like they used to, this show—inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stint at Princeton—will prove you wrong: Mills’s gemlike score draws on the cleverest traditions of the Great American Songbook. Nov 9–23


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