Summertime, as the Porgy and Bess song goes, and the living is easy. Or rather, it is if you’re not in the cast or crew of the dozens of shows opening in the next few months. New York theater never sleeps, even during the hazy and hot weeks, when people cool themselves on rooftop bars, beaches or in air-conditioned movie houses. There’s so much to see in the summer, from the free tradition of Shakespeare in Park to international spectacles at Lincoln Center Festival, Tony Award-winning Broadway shows closing soon and groundbreaking festivals Off-Off Broadway.
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Best shows on Broadway and beyond to see this summer
When Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-running cash cow (er, cat) returns this summer, the lucky lord will have three Broadway musicals running at once (alongside The Phantom of the Opera and School of Rock). Based T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and featuring new and tweaked numbers, the revival will test audience's appetite for '80s megamusicals. And leg warmers.
If Lin-Manuel Miranda can tell colonial American history through hip-hop, Jacklyn Backhaus can re-create the 1869 Powell expedition down the Colorado River without a single cis-male actor. A ten-person ensemble (including downtown stars Hannah Cabell, Birgit Huppuch and Kristen Sieh) rides the wild current in this irreverent and anachronistic adventure.
Daniel Sullivan directs a too-rare production of Shakespeare's epic dark comedy, a lampoon of the Trojan War so modern in sensibility that there's no record of it being performed before the turn of the 20th century. The cast features Andrew Burnap and Ismenia Mendes as the title's war-crossed lovers; John Douglas Thompson, David Harbour, and Bill Heck and Alex Breaux are among the principal combatants.
Bess Wohl’s luminous new play, set at a new-agey silent retreat, is as entertaining as it is transcendent. In Rachel Chavkin's wonderfully detailed production, the excellent ensemble speaks volumes with a long look or the frantic unwrapping of candy. Wohl isn’t afraid to let the ridiculous rub up against the sublime.
Even if you consider yourself an expert in Broadway or movie musicals, you won't be prepared for the Japanese phenomenon known as takarazuka. In this flamboyant tradition, an all-female cast puts on the razzle-dazzle with extravagant song-and-dance adaptations of song-and-dance classics. Here they take on Kander & Ebb's tale of jazz-age murder and fame.
The formidable English actor Jonathan Pryce takes on one of Shakespeare's most controversial figures: vengeful moneylender Shylock. This Shakespeare's Globe production comes to New York with original cast intact, including Pryce's daughter, Phoebe, playing rebellious Jessica.
English neo-expressionist theater troupe 1927 returns to New York with its visually stunning adaptation of the Jewish myth. Using live and pre-recorded animation, music and ingenious stage pictures, the company re-invents the story of inert matter brought sinisterly to life. The result is a sly multimedia commentary on the digital revolution.
As Broadway and Off Broadway take breathers before the fall, August means just one thing for New York theater: the Fringe Festival. This year’s 20th edition includes 200 offerings by various theater and dance companies, each of which gets just five or six chances to show its stuff.