Local theaters in Times Square
Named after the great American thespian Edwin Booth, this venue, built in 1913, is a relatively intimate playhouse (766 seats) nestled near Shubert Alley. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George played here in 1984, and so did Robert Morse in Tru. More recently, the Booth was home to the Pulitzer Prize–winning musical Next to Normal and the Tony-winning revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
This classic 1903 Art Nouveau house has seen many changes on the Main Stem over the last century: vaudeville, classics, the Ziegfeld Follies (for more than two decades) and the drastic decline of the theater district during the Great Depression, and again in the 1970s and ’80s. Renovated and reopened, in 1997, the New Amsterdam soon became home to the Disney smash hit The Lion King. Since 2006, Mary Poppins has been wowing children and adults there. (The Lion King moved to the Minksoff.) The theater is operated by Disney Theatrical Productions.
The Roundabout Theatre Company's first Broadway property, the American Airlines Theatre opened in the summer of 2000. Since then, it has been home to a series of revived classics (several by Shaw and Pinter) and golden-age musicals (The Pajama Game). Beautifully restored and redesigned in a pleasing red, gold and brown palette, the venue has comfortable seating and wide aisles (unlike many older spaces).
Built in 1910, this venue was originally called the Globe, after Shakespeare's famous theater. In 1958, it was renamed for the famous acting couple of Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. The 1,505-seat space has housed productions like the Disney properties The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Buyer beware: The orchestra sightlines at the Lunt-Fontanne can be spotty, especially if you're sitting behind a particularly tall person.
The perfect size for a playhouse (with 804 seats), the John Golden was home to the naughty puppet musical Avenue Q for several years. Generally, though, it's a good place to see serious drama, such as Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? and John Logan's Mark Rothko bioplay, Red. In 1956, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot had its American premiere at the Golden.
Located on West 45th west of Eighth Avenue, this building originally opened for business as the Martin Beck Theatre in 1924. Since 2003 it has been known as the Al Hirschfeld, after the immensely prolific and long-lived theater caricaturist. Seating capacity is 1,292 for plays and 1,282 for musicals. In recent seasons, it has hosted several major musical revivals: Guys and Dolls, The Sound of Music, Kiss Me Kate and most recently, Hair.
Before Lincoln Center changed the cultural geography of New York, this was the home of the New York City Ballet (originally known as the Ballet Society). City Center’s lavish decor is golden, as are the companies that pass through. You can count on superb performances all year long, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in December and the Paul Taylor Dance Company in the spring. In September, the Fall for Dance Festival features performances by an assortment of companies; tickets are only $10.
Mostly devoted to revivals, the Roundabout Theatre Company often pairs beloved chestnuts with celebrity casts in its three Broadway houses. However, at this handsome 399-seat Off Broadway space, the Roundabout often produces new work. In the basement, it has an Off-Off-size space where even riskier work gets staged.
Built on the site of the Capitol Theatre movie palace as part of the new Uris Building (also home to the Gershwin Theatre), this venue served as the third home of the Circle in the Square theater company. It's a rare example of theater (almost) in the round in the Theater District, which makes it highly desirable for unconventional stagings. The seating also provides kids with unobstructed views of the stage, from virtually any seat.
At 597 seats Broadway's smallest space, the Helen Hayes was named after the beloved leading lady in 1983 (after her namesake venue was demolished, along with the Morosco and Bijou, to construct the New York Marriott Marquis). The space is perfect for chamber musicals or straight drama, and with a house this cozy, you can be assured of excellent sightlines. Nonprofit company Second Stage Theatre is poised to buy the property, but the deal has yet to be inked.
Local theaters in Manhattan
There aren’t many entertainment options along Tenth Avenue, but one is worth the trek: A jewel box of a theater with a heady, well-selected repertory of comedy, cabaret and music shows in an environment that’s focused more on the performance than on the cash register at the bar. The monthly variety show Showgasm is an excellent sampler pack of rising talents.
Formerly a movie multiplex, this center—one of the last bastions of commercial Off Broadway in New York—impresses with its shiny, space-age interior and five stages, were it presents such campy revues as The Gazillion Bubble Show.
Though this upstairs space seems small, its impact is disproportionately large, as it supports a large membership of playwrights who contribute to the EST Marathon of One-Act Plays, as well as other short and full-length projects. The much-missed founder Curt Dempster's mission was to develop American writing talent, so keep an eye on the under-30 playwright's group Youngblood and Going to the River, which provides a forum for female playwrights of color.
More than 300 important contemporary plays have premiered here, among them dramas such as Driving Miss Daisy and The Heidi Chronicles and musicals such as Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and Sunday in the Park with George. Recent seasons have included works by Craig Lucas and an acclaimed musical version of the cult film Grey Gardens.
Signature Theatre, founded by James Houghton in 1991, focuses on exploring and celebrating playwrights in depth, with whole seasons devoted to works by individual living writers. In 2012, it moved to a home base equal to its lofty ambitions. Designed by star architect Frank Gehry, the new Signature Center comprises three major Off Broadway spaces: a 299-seater main stage, a 199-seat miniature opera house and a malleable courtyard theater named for the late Romulus Linney.
Occupying a beautiful 299-seat Rem Koolhaas–designed space near Times Square, Second Stage specializes in plays by American playwrights.
Built in 1965 to be Lincoln Center's main playhouse, the Beaumont features a sleekly modern (if dated) design by Jo Mielziner and architect Eero Saarinen. In recent years, the area immediately surrounding the Beaumont was redesigned with the addition of outdoor tables and chairs. Downstairs from the 1,041-seat Beaumont is the second stage, the smaller Mitzi Newhouse Theater. Lincoln Center Theater has opened several acclaimed, high-profile successes in this house, including The Light in the Piazza, Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia trilogy and the smash-hit revival of South Pacific.
The majestic and prestigious Lincoln Center Theater complex has a pair of amphitheater-style drama venues. Downstairs from the Vivian Beaumont is the 338-seat Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, an Off Broadway space devoted to new work by the upper layer of American playwrights.
Lincoln Center Theater's newest space is a 131-seat venue that will showcase new plays by rising talent under the LCT3 umbrella. The Tow is also the centerpiece of a 23,000-square-foot rooftop complex, designed by noted architect Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, located on top of the Vivian Beaumont. The two-story structure (costing $41 million) also houses rehearsal and office space and includes an outdoor terrace overlooking the Lincoln Center Plaza.
This chic, state-of-the-art venue, which comprises an Off Broadway space and two smaller theaters, is home to a lot of worthy programming, such as the annual Brits Off Broadway festival, which imports some of the U.K.’s best work for brief summer runs. The venue boasts three separate playing spaces. Theater A, on the ground floor, seats 196 people; upstairs are the 98-seat Theater B and a 70-seat black-box space, Theater C.
Local theaters in Brooklyn
Brooklyn Academy of Music’s beautifully distressed, 874-seat Harvey Theater—along with its grand old opera house (two blocks away on Lafayette Avenue)—is the site of the annual multidisciplinary Next Wave Festival, as well as other international offerings. Recent headliners include Ethan Hawke in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Fiona Shaw in Beckett’s Happy Days.
America’s oldest performing arts academy continues to present some of the freshest programming in the city, including occasional interactive family concerts that take place here or at the Harvey Theater, a few blocks away.
Founded in 1979, TFANA has grown steadily to become New York's most prominent classical-theater company. Now, finally, it has a home of its own: the Center for Shakespeare and Classic Drama (near BAM, in Brooklyn's cultural district). This flashy, glass-fronted 299-seat venue, designed by Hugh Hardy, is scheduled to open its doors in October with Julie Taymor's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The Irondale Ensemble Project got a sweet grant to refurbish this space—a gorgeous, gigantic 3,700-square-foot room with glossy wood floors and a lovely wraparound balcony. Irondale has summer programs for children ages 5 to 14, and sometimes presents Irondale's Big Box of Distractions, a day of performance and fun for kids.
The adventurous theatergoer’s alternative to BAM, St. Ann’s Warehouse offers an eclectic lineup of theater and music; recent shows have included high-level work by the Wooster Group and National Theatre of Scotland. In 2015 it moved to the impressive Tobacco Warehouse, built in the 1870s as an inspection center for tobacco and newly renovated for theatrical use.
This scrappy 70-seat space—an erstwhile garage—popped into the theatrical scene in 2002 squished into a vanishingly tiny spot on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. Its founders, Robert Honeywell and Michael Gardner, have maintained a rattling schedule of tartly themed summer festivals (such as the Moral Values Festival), pieces by low-budget, high-concept avant-gardists like the Debate Society and Ian W. Hill, and works helmed by Honeywell and Gardner themselves.
This homey 60-seat black box (up some seriously steep stairs) is a mere block and a half from the subway, and only 15 minutes on the L train from Union Square. The space has become one of the best curated spots in the city; it supports up-and-coming stage talent like William Burke and avant-garde veterans such as Target Margin Theater and Cynthia Hopkins, as well as a variety of performance art and multimedia performances.
Founded in 2012, this arts center is led by artistic director Alec Duffy (Three Pianos, Shadows). The space's mission is to serve as a cultural hub in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, presenting cutting-edge theater, music and dance performances, expanding access to the arts, bridging audiences and educating youth. Obie Award–winning theater troupe Hoi Polloi is the resident company.
Local Theaters in Queens
Brian Rogers and Sheila Lewandowski founded this 5,000-square-foot performance venue in Long Island City in 2005, converting a onetime hardware store into two spaces: a low-ceilinged downstairs room and a loftier, brighter upstairs whitebox. The Factory is not for rent: Rogers curates his season, inviting artists (from midcareer playwrights like Mac Wellman to rising directors like Alice Reagan) onboard—and the space pays them. It's a welcoming place (buy your chocolate-chip cookies at the box office), and the spot won an Obie for its programming, which tends toward the highly physical, the interdisciplinary and the avant-garde.