The pandemic crisis has had a devastating effect on the performing arts. Broadway has shut down until at least June, and the ban on large gatherings in New York currently extends to all other performance spaces as well. So the show must go online—and streaming video makes that possible. Here are some of the best theater, opera, dance and cabaret events from across the country (and around the world) that you can watch today without leaving home, many of which will help you support artists and worthy charities.
The best live theater to stream online this week
Theaters are closed for now, but you can find great stage stars and events streaming online today
Daily 7:30pm EST / 12:30am GMT (available for 23 hours)
The Met continues its immensely popular rollout of past performances, recorded in HD and viewable for free. A different archival production goes live at 7:30pm each night and remains online for the next 23 hours. A different lineup is shared each week.
Daily 8pm EST / 1am GMT
Showtune savant and SiriusXM host Seth Rudetsky (Disaster!) and his husband, producer James Wesley, are the animating forces behind this ambitious and very entertaining series, in which they play host to theater stars in live, chatty interviews interspersed with clips and songs. Dr. Jon LaPook, the chief medical correspondent for CBS News, provides periodic updates on public health, and surprise virtual visitors are common. Donations benefit the Actors Fund. You can find a schedule of guests here.
Daily 5pm–9:30pm EST / 10pm–2:30am GMT
The beloved West Village institution keeps the show tunes rolling merrily along every night of the week. Visit the Maries Group page on Facebook to watch from home, and don’t forget to tip the pianists and staff through Venmo. Read all about it here.
In addition to the new shows that appear online every day, here is the permanent collection: our list of musicals, plays, dance works, cabaret sets, awards nights, special events more that have been released online since March 2020 that you can still watch or rewatch at your leisure.
The streaming service BroadwayHD offers roughly 300 whole, high-quality, professionally filmed live theater performances from Broadway, London's West End and beyond, including 42nd Street, The King and I, Bob Fosse's Pippin and Hugh Jackman in Oklahoma! For new subscribers, the first week is free. Here are the musicals currently featured there that you won't want to miss.
The Tony Awards provide a national showcase and public record of performances that are otherwise local and fleeting, and the most memorable numbers from Broadway musicals on the Tonys can echo in theater history for decades to come. But which are the best of the best? We've surveyed every televised number from a nominated musical or musical revival since the very first Tony telecast in 1967 to create this list of the all-time classics.
Monday 7pm and 9pm EST / midnight and 2am GMT
East Village director-performer Joshua William Gelb (jazz singer) has been making theater in his closet every other week, peforming the same piece twice each time. Katie Rose McLaughlin (Hadestown) serves as choreographer.
Monday 7:30pm EST / 12:30am GMT (available for four days)
Director Jesse Berger and his bold classical troupe, Red Bull Theater, present benefit readings once a month, with distinguished casts often tackling fascinating material that is rarely staged. Viewing is free but donations are welcome.
Monday 8pm EST / 1am GMT
Part cabaret, part piano bar and part social set, Birdland's long-running Monday-night open mic Cast Party offers a chance to hear rising and established talents step up to the spotlight. The waggish Jim Caruso presides as host, and now he brings the show online via YouTube. The show is free, but tips are appreciated (Venmo: @Jim-Caruso-1).
Monday 8pm EST / 1am GMT (live only)
For more than two decades, the proudly old-school Monday Night Magic has offered a different lineup of professional tricksters every week. It is an heir to the vaudeville tradition; many of the acts incorporate comedic elements, and audience participation is common. In contrast to some fancier magic shows, this one feels like comfort food: an all-you-can-eat buffet to which you’re encouraged to return until you’re as stuffed as a hat full of rabbits. The virtual edition of the series features two live performers every week as well as video highlights from past shows at the Players Theater. Tickets cost $20–$35.
Monday 8pm EST / 1am GMT (available for one week)
Mounted by the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus gang, this exhibition of curious human endeavors features everything from stripping clowns to heavy-metal magicians. A remote edition of the vaudevillian variety pageant now hits YouTube every week. Bindlestiff’s Keith Nelson plays host. Contributions are welcome via Venmo (@BindlestiffFamilyCirkus).
Tuesday 6pm EST / 11pm GMT (available for four days)
Since 1995, the 24 Hour Plays series has set itself a challenge: to write, cast and perform new playlets in the span of a single night and day. In this weekly variation on that theme, writers create monologues or two-handers for actors who record them and send them in for online broadcast. On Tuesdays starting at 6pm, a new piece goes live every 15 minutes on the 24 Hours Plays’ Instagram feed, where they remain viewable for four days.
Wednesday 5pm EDT / 10pm BST (available for 48 hours)
In addition to its nightly full productions (see above), the Met offers an additional free opera from its Live in HD series every Wednesday through its Free Student Streams program. The videos stay live for 48 hours, and supplemental materials help newcomers unpack each offering.
Wednesday 7pm EST / midnight GMT
In this weekly 45-minute show, hosted by Jen Sandler and Joe Barros, New York Theatre Barn's development series Zooms in on musicals-in-progress. Each episode features selections from two musicals and conversations with their creators.
Thursday 7pm EST/ midnight GMT (available for 30 days)
The midtown jazz venue Birdland welcomes music back to its stage in a twice-weekly concert series with a solid lineup of stars on its roster. There’s no audience, but the performers, suitably distanced from one another, have the benefit of professional sound and three cameras as they perform their live sets. (Each concert costs $20 and remains available on demand for a month after the premiere.)
Friday 5pm EST / 10pm GMT
The divinely daffy Julie Halston suggests a cross between Teri Garr and Thelma Ritter, and her career includes many shows as Charles Busch's longtime muse as well as memorable supporting turns in such Broadway productions as Gypsy, You Can’t Take it With You and Tootsie. Now she hosts a weekly half-hour talk show, and why not? She’s one of the city’s most amusing talkers.
Friday 7pm EDT / midnight BST
One of NYC’s most appealing piano-bar entertainers, British transplant William TN Hall has tickled keys and audiences alike at the Duplex, Brandy’s and Don’t Tell Mama for years. Now he shows off his versatility in a live, two-hour weekly set. Requests are welcome, as of course are tips (Venmo: @WilliamTNHall).
Friday 8pm EST / 1am GMT (available through December 16)
The experimental-theater company City Garage has been blowing minds in Santa Monica, California, since the 1980s. On its YouTueb channel, the digs deep into its archives to stream a videos of past productions, directed by Frédérique Michel. The stream is free but donations are welcome.
Friday 9pm EST / 2am GMT (live only)
Based in Cedar Rapids, Mirrorbox Theatre bills itself as Iowa’s only company exclusively dedicated to presenting new plays in their state premieres. In its Out the Box series, the company presents free Zoom readings of contemporary works every Friday night. Seating is limited and advance registration is required.
Saturday 1pm EST / 6pm GMT (available for two weeks)
Even as it continues its nighty streams of full productions, the Metropolitan Opera broadens its scope with a series of live recitals every other weekend by top classical vocalists from around the world. Christine Goerke hosts the broadcast, which is shot with multiple cameras and directed remotely by Gary Halvorston, who has overseen the Met’s Live in HD transmissions. Tickets cost $20, and each edition in the series remains viewable on demand for 14 days after the live performance.
Saturday 8pm EST / 1am GMT (available for four days)
The dramatic archaeologists of the Metropolitan Playhouse specialize in unearthing rarities from American theater in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In their weekly series Virtual Playhouse series, they present brief works followed by discussions.
Seth Rudetsky’s intimate chat-and-sing series at the Art House in Provincetown has drawn top Broadway stars to the tip of the Cape for nearly a decade. He knows exactly what stories and songs people need to hear from each of his A-list guests, and now he brings the magic online in a weekly series that uses a new approach to sound design to make it possible to accompany his guests in real time. Virtual tickets cost $25; tonight's live edition will be recorded and rerun tomorrow at 3pm.
Sunday 8pm EST / 1am GMT
A wizard at the piano and an ace musical director, Brian Nash is also an exuberant showman when he takes the mic himself—as he usually does on Sunday nights at the Duplex in the West Village, where he has held court for the past decade or so. Tonight he brings the magic to Facebook Live in a weekly virtual concert. In lieu of a tip jar, you can Venmo him at @BrianJNash. (If you do it in advance, feel free to include a request.)
For several years now, the engaging trickster Noah Levine has been performing Magic After Hours, an evening of cozy evening of prestidigitation held at the city’s oldest magic shop, Tannen’s, after closing time. Since cramming 20 people into a tiny room is not currently an option, Levine has teamed up with Atlas Obscura for a new show, Backstage with a Magician, that he performs from home four times a week (Mondays through Wednesdays and Fridays) for a maximum of 10 households at a time. Expect an entertaining shuffle of audience interaction, close-up magic and magic history. Tickets cost $25 per device; bring a deck of cards, a rubber band, a marker and 15 socks to take full advantage of the home-participation element.
Zoom has proved surprisingly fertile territory for magicians of various kinds during the shutdown period. Now the highly skilled New York mentalist Jason Suran (The Other Side) joins the virtual party on Friday and Saturday nights with an intimate evening of diversions that he plans to perform in person once safety guidelines permit it. The limited audience size permits a pleasing degree of interaction. Tickets cost $50.
The Riant Theatre, best known for its Strawberry One-Act Festival, now offers several Zoom readings each week as part of its ongoing Jocunda Music, Film and Theatre Festival. Tickets cost $15 and advance reservations are required; conversations with the playwright and cast usually follow the performance.
Writer-director Edward Einhorn’s suggestive microplay about memory and connection was originally performed as a brief encounter between one actor and one audience member at a time. Now Einhorn has adapted it so that homebound viewers can connect with actors via Skype, with the 1:1 ratio intact. It’s an unusually intimate experience, and a lovely way to feel a personal connection through theater. Email Einhorn directly to book a slot; it is currently being performed by Yvonne Roen, for whom it was written. Tickets cost $25.