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.
Opened: November 9, 2017 Cast: Katrina Lenk, Sasson Gabay, Adam Kantor Director: David Cromer (A Raisin in the Sun, The House of Blue Leaves) Why it's great: The gorgeous, 2007 Israeli film The Band's Visit is now a small musical about big emotions. It's the story of an Egyptian police band scheduled to play a concert at an Arab cultural center in Israel. They take the bus to the wrong town and must spend the night with the residents. There, lonely souls from different cultures share their stories of longing through songs by David Yazbek (The Full Monty). In the mournful ballad "Omar Sharif," cafe owner Dina (Katrina Lenk) sings about her remembrances of the actor from her youth. Later, the chorus comes together to plead, "Answer Me." It's lovely, transfixing, and deeply moving. Hear "Omar Sharif" from The Band's Visit
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: Taylor Trensch, 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: Paddy Considine, Laura Donnelly, Genevieve O'Reilly 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. Inspired by a piece of star Laura Donnelly's own family history -- Donnelly is also Butterworth's partner -- 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: August 6, 2015 Cast: Michael Luwoye, Daniel Breaker, Mandy Gonzalez, James Monroe Iglehart 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: Sam Clemmett, Anthony Boyle, Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker 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, Ashley Park, 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, Norbert Leo Butz, 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: December 3, 2017 Cast: Hailey Kilgore, Alex Newell, Merle Dandridge Director: Michael Arden (Spring Awakening) Why it's great: Perhaps you'll feel, as I did, that the messages of this Caribbean-set spin on The Little Mermaid feel a little dated in the age of heroines like Moana. After all, the journey of Hailey Kilgore's heroine Ti Moune entirely revolves around the pursuit of a (crappy) man. Still, with stagecraft this exciting you'll want to hear the story that's being told. The revival of the 1990 musical from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty -- the pair behind another Broadway production, Anastasia -- is transporting. Circle in the Square's stage is sandy, a pool sits in one corner, and there's a goat. The live animal gimmick could threaten to overtake the show, but the performances are so uniformly great that it's never an option. Hailey Kilgore is a thrilling newcomer and Glee veteran Alex Newell does towering vocal work as Earth goddess Asaka. Hear a medley from Once on This Island
Opened: April 24, 2016 Cast: Nicolette Robinson, Drew Gehling, NaTasha Yvette Williams 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
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.