Broadway operates in waves. The first comes in the fall when a host of new shows open just before the influx of Christmastime tourists. The second arrives in the spring, as plays and musicals clamor for Tony Awards consideration. That being said: There's truly never a bad time to see some great theater.
But what to see? Good thing you're here. We've compiled a list of our favorite productions that debuted within the past three years. Expect updates and changes as more shows come and go.
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Opened: April 25, 2019 Cast: Alex Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, Kerry Butler, Leslie Kritzer Director: Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Oh, Hello!) Why it's great: In the battle of the movie adaptation musicals that hit Broadway in 2019, Beetlejuice has gotten the short end of the critical stick. While the New York Times, for instance, lavished praise on Tootsie, it dinged Beetlejuice -- hard. But the ghost with the most offers a devilishly good, if over-the-top and disorganized, time. The creative team behind this spectacle doesn't try to recreate the Tim Burton film note for note, and that's a blessing. For instance, it knows that no one can match the zaniness of Catherine O'Hara, so turns overbearing step-mom Delia into a well-intentioned self-help guru. It doesn't quite succeed in giving the character of Beetlejuice the emotional core it wants to, but Alex Brightman's interpretation is a hoot. Hear the number "Say My Name" from Beetlejuice
Opened: March 12, 2017 Cast: Jenn Colella, Q. Smith, Joel Hatch Director: Christopher Ashley (Memphis, Xanadu) Why it's great: A "musical about 9/11" doesn't sound like a particularly joyous way to spend an evening, but Come From Away avoids turgidity by honing in on its characters. The show stages the true story of a group of travelers rerouted on the tragic day and eventually taken in by residents of the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland. The entire production feels charmingly intimate and DIY for Broadway, boasting a hardworking cast constantly on the move, always switching between accents and characters. The songs aren't all that memorable, but they are galvanizing toe-tappers that elicit both smiles and tears. Hear the number "Me and the Sky"
Opened: December 4, 2016 Cast: Andrew Barth Feldman, Mallory Bechtel, Lisa Brescia Director: Michael Greif (War Paint, If/Then) Why it's great: Every so often a musical comes along that captures the hearts of the high school drama club crowd. Rent played that role in the 1990s. The aughts brought Spring Awakening. Now, it's Dear Evan Hansen. In turn, you may feel, as I did, that you're not the right demographic for it, perhaps unwilling to overlook the ethical missteps in its tale of self-acceptance. Still, the show from La La Land lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek has plenty of fans. The story of an anxiety-ridden teen who finds his voice after a series of misunderstandings stemming from a bully's suicide won the top prize at last year's Tonys. Even if you're a naysayer like I was, you can still appreciate what Dear Evan Hansen has to offer, specifically some stirring ballads. Hear the number "Waving Through a Window"
Opened: October 21, 2018 Cast: Brian d'Arcy James, Holley Fain, Emily Bergl Director: Sam Mendes (Cabaret) Why it's great: Jez Butterworth is a playwright who turns carefully considered human drama into genuine, heart-racing thrills. His Jerusalem, which was on Broadway in 2011, remains one of my most memorable theater-going experiences, now rivaled by his The Ferryman. The three-act saga follows a Northern Irish brood in 1981 as the IRA's hunger strike is unfolding. The Carneys are preparing for their annual harvest, when some terrible news arrives. A member of their clan, long disappeared, has been found dead, murdered by the IRA. What follows is an excavations of deep seated wounds -- both familial and national. But The Ferryman is also an undeniably lively experience, complete with both an actual goat and an actual baby onstage. It's painful, funny, and mesmerizing. Watch clips of The Ferryman
Opened: April 17, 2019 Cast: Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Amber Gray, André de Shields, Patrick Page Director: Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) Hadestown tells an ancient story in an old-timey vernacular and is still one of the freshest things you'll see on Broadway. Stemming from a concept album singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell put out back in 2010, it uses Americana folk and jazz traditions to reinvent the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, young lovers who get mixed up with the fickle gods of the underworld, Hades and Persephone. Mitchell weaves nods to current struggles like climate change into the narrative -- and Hades' threatening song "Why We Build The Wall" has only grown more eerily relevant since she composed it -- but director Rachel Chavkin's stunning imbues it with earthy magic that will take your breath away. Watch the number "Wait For Me"
Opened: August 6, 2015 Cast: Austin Scott, Daniel Breaker, Mandy Gonzalez, James Monroe Iglehart, Denée Benton Director: Thomas Kail (Lombardi, In the Heights) Why it's great: Given that Lin-Manuel's unstoppable, rap-infused dramatization of the founding father's life is arguably the 21st century's one true theatrical masterpiece, you probably figured we'd include it here. Hamilton is a musical that's made audiences reconsider the medium, and while it's still difficult to get tickets, these days you don't even have to be in New York to see it: There are productions in Chicago and London as well as a national tour currently underway. Hear the number "Alexander Hamilton"
Opened: April 22, 2018 Cast: Jenny Jules, Matt Mueller, Nicholas Podany, Bubba Weiler, James Snyder Director: John Tiffany (Once, The Glass Menagerie) Why it's great: The lore of Harry Potter seems to just keep spreading. While the cinematic evolution of this world has yielded mixed results -- looking at you, Fantastic Beasts franchise -- the stage sequel to the saga of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, set 19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, manages to impress. Director John Tiffany has translated the spells and magical whatsits of J.K. Rowling’s universe into wondrous stagecraft. Meanwhile, Harry’s strained relationship with his middle child effectively grounds the story, making sure all the wizardry has some heart behind it. On top of all that, the flying Dementors are successfully spooky as shit. Listen to Imogen Heap's score for the play
Opened: April 8, 2018 Cast: Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Grey Henson Director: Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin) Why it's great: The long-rumored Mean Girls musical finally came to fruition, and it’s better than you could have hoped. No, there’s no "Fetch" song, but there are clever tunes from composer Jeff Richmond and lyricist Nell Benjamin, which complement the snappy dialogue from none other than Tina Fey. Fey has updated her urtext about the monstrosity of teens for this day and age with references to iPhones and social media, and, if anything, the show delves even deeper into the psychology of girlhood than the movie does. All that is reason enough to check it out, but you’re also going to want to see the fabulous cast, who will make you forget all about Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. Hear the number "I'd Rather Be Me"
Opened: April 19, 2018 Cast: Laura Benanti, Harry Hadden-Paton, Danny Burstein, Rosemary Harris Director: Bartlett Sher (The King and I, South Pacific) Why it's great: Director Bartlett Sher's production operates from a deep understanding of Eliza Dolittle’s complicated position in society, and adeptly depicts her desperation when she's destitute and the limits placed on her when she's all dressed up. It’s also a vision to behold, from the rotating set that comprises Professor Henry Higgins' home to the stunning costumes, making this a thoughtful interpretation of a classic. The great soprano -- and Stephen Colbert's Melania Trump -- is currently playing her dream role of Eliza. Watch clips from My Fair Lady
Opened: April 7, 2019 Cast: Damon Daunno, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Ali Stroker, Mary Testa Director: Daniel Fish Why it's great: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! -- exclamation point and all -- has a reputation as one of the corniest of the Golden Age musicals, thanks to the years of high school and community theater productions that have rendered it devoid of nuance. Daniel Fish's new version does the opposite, breaking down the show to its elements to reveal the troubling themes at the heart of the story. Performed in a brightly lit, sparse space with a small band in lieu of an orchestra, this Oklahoma! takes the quaint story of the cowboy Curly trying to win the affections of farm girl Laurey and makes it sexy and violent, even as it maintains the songwriters' humor and melodies. Here, there's something threatening when the cast sings "we know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand" because we understand that the America of the text is one where women's bodies are up for grabs and even our heroes are vicious opportunists. Watch Ali Stroker sing "I Cain't Say No"
Opened: November 15, 2018 Cast: Brooks Ashmanskas, Beth Leavel, Christopher Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen Director: Casey Nicholaw (Mean Girls, The Book of Mormon) Why it's great: The Prom is a musical for people who love musicals. Sure, that might be the case with many musicals, but this one almost counts on its audience having affection for the genre. Two panned Broadway stars, one aging chorus girl, and a waiter who won't shut up about the fact that he went to Juilliard decide to do some good to get some positive press. They find their cause in Emma, a lesbian teen in a tiny Indiana town whose desire to go to prom with her girlfriend has launched a wave of homophobic panic. When the theater folk from New York arrive, there's a hilarious clash of egos manifested in song. But for all of its broad humor, The Prom is a really sweet production about being good to others and to oneself. Sure, it pushes the limits of its premise length-wise, but when there are high-kicks and affirming ballads, what's not to love? Watch clips from The Prom
Opened: December 13, 2018 Cast: Jeff Daniels, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Gideon Glick, LaTanya Richardson Jackson Director: Bartlett Sher (My Fair Lady, The King and I) Why it's great: Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's seminal novel had a rough journey to Broadway, but it overcame a lawsuit to become one of the biggest hits of the season. Sure, it was snubbed for Best Play at the Tonys, but you should still make time for it -- that is, if you can snag a ticket. What's most fascinating about Sorkin's take on the material is how he chooses to reframe Atticus Finch's famous arguments. This isn't some kind of Go Set a Watchmen revision of the character, but the play takes a skeptical eye to Finch's axioms about walking around in another person's shoes, while still allowing for all the speechifying you'd expect from a Sorkin-Jeff Daniels collaboration. Adult actors savvily play the children, Scout, Jem, and Dill, who narrate the action. Their voices are a highlight, as is the expanded role of Calpurnia, performed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson.
Opened: April 23, 2019 Cast: Santino Fontana, Lilli Cooper, Sarah Stiles, John Behlmann Director: Scott Ellis (On the Twentieth Century, Kiss Me, Kate) Does Tootsie really work in 2019? Eh, only sort of, but there's still a lot of fun to be had with this musical interpretation of the Dustin Hoffman-starring 1982 movie about an out-of-work actor who gets his big break by dressing as a woman. Scott Ellis' production has made attempts to modernize the story, but there's still something about icky about Michael Dorsey's deception that the show doesn't really know how to handle. That said, there's a pleasing old-fashioned flashiness on display that leads to some excellent performances. Watch clips from Tootsie here
Opened: April 24, 2016 Cast: Shoshana Bean, Jeremy Jordan, Noah Galvin Director: Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland) Why it's great: Sara Bareilles' adaptation of the 2007 movie starring Keri Russell has been a quiet powerhouse for a while now, and it's still just as solid as it was when it opened in 2016. It's an undeniably sweet production -- seriously, "sugar, butter, flour" is a refrain and you can buy little pies from the concession stand -- but all that heartfelt sentiment comes from a real place. The world it represents is not sugar-coated, especially for women. No matter which actress you catch in the lead, she'll break your heart when she launches into "She Used to Be Mine." Listen to "She Used to Be Mine" from Waitress
Opened: March 31, 2019 Cast: Heidi Schreck, Mike Iveson, Rosdely Ciprian, Thursday Williams Director: Oliver Butler Why it's great: If the title of What the Constitution Means to Me sounds like a grade school report, that's because it sort of is. Writer-performer Heidi Schreck excavates her own history of participating in constitutional speech contests at American Legion halls for this three-person piece that's a ruthless and often devastating interrogation of the Founding Fathers' document. Schreck paid for college using the money she won talking about her love of the Constitution, but now her feelings are more, well, mixed. In a welcoming, conversational, and often amusing tone, she picks apart how these words, ostensibly guaranteeing freedom, betray women across the country, including those in her own family. It's brutal at times, but one of the most vibrant examinations of what it means to be an American citizen you'll ever see.
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