Summer Theatre Coming Up in NYC
By Alison Durkee
Summertime is a perfect time of year to get out and explore New York City—or settle in and enjoy an evening of theatre. From the city’s big Broadway stages to smaller spaces—and even the city’s parks—here’s the theatre that should be on your radar.
With the Tony Awards behind us, the 2018-19 Broadway season is kicking off with a slate of new plays and musicals. Straight White Men (above, through September 9) brings downtown playwright Young Jean Lee to Broadway with a thought-provoking play starring TV and film actors Armie Hammer and Josh Charles, marking the first time work by a female Asian American playwright has been performed on Broadway. On the musical front, classic film Pretty Woman will get the musical treatment when it begins Broadway previews July 20, while Head Over Heels is now bringing the Go-Go’s music to Broadway ahead of its opening on July 26. New musical Gettin’ the Band Back Together will begin previews July 19, telling the story of a 40-year-old who gets inspired to revive his musical career.
There’s also plenty to enjoy this summer on the city’s smaller stages. Playgoers can catch Broadway star Idina Menzel in a smaller venue in Joshua Harmon’s new play Skintight (through August 26), while Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson (above) is currently exploring LGBTQ identity in Log Cabin at Playwrights Horizons (through July 15). Down in the West Village, catch actress Carey Mulligan taking on the emotional one-woman show Girls and Boys, which transferred from London to the Minetta Lane Theatre through July 22. Second Stage Theatre is presenting Mary Page Marlowe through August 12, a new play by August: Osage County playwright Tracy Letts looking back at 11 moments from the seemingly ordinary life of an Ohio accountant. For work even further off-Broadway, head to The Tank for odysseus tied to the masT (July 14-23), a solo work that’s part of the five-play series Small Plays for Giants, or head up to Harlem for the immersive Swing Era drama Silk Stockings and a Bible on July 16.
Musical fans also have much to look forward to this summer. Catch the New York debut of a new musical by composer Joe Iconis with Be More Chill at the Signature Theatre (July 26-September 23), which tells the coming-of-age tale of a teenager who takes a pill to “be more chill.” This summer also offers the chance to discover rarely-seen classics, with new productions of Oscar Hammerstein II’s Carmen Jones (above) at Classic Stage Company (through August 19), helmed by famed director John Doyle and Tony winning actress Anika Noni Rose, and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever at Irish Rep (through September 6), a 1965 musical by Burton Lane (Finian’s Rainbow) and Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady, Camelot).
This summer also offers the opportunity to see classic musicals in new ways. The current revival of Sweeney Todd offers up the chance to see an immersive take on Stephen Sondheim’s “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” set in a pie shop—complete with pre-show pie by a former White House chef. The production is currently in its final weeks and is set to close August 26. Over at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the iconic musical Fiddler on the Roof is currently getting an even more “tradition”-al twist, as a new production (through August 26) performs the show entirely in Yiddish. Those hoping to learn more about this unique production can attend talks at the museum on both the musical’s rich history (July 18) and the process of transforming the piece into the Yiddish production now on stage (July 25).
For those not content to miss out on the warm weather by sitting in a theatre, the city is also filled with outdoor performances this summer. The best known of these outdoor productions is the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park series, which will continue this summer with Twelfth Night from July 17–August 19. This won’t be the only outdoor theatre to enjoy in Manhattan, however; Hudson Warehouse is currently bringing drama to Riverside Park with productions of The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years Later (through July 29) and Hamlet (August 2-26), while Boomerang Theatre Company offers its own take on Twelfth Night in Central Park through July 15. The Drilling Company will continue their Shakespeare in the Parking Lot series on the Lower East Side with a new production of Hamlet, which will begin performances July 19. For those in the outer boroughs, South Brooklyn Shakespeare will present The Winter’s Tale on July 28 and August 1-4, while Hip to Hip will present King Lear and All’s Well That Ends Well throughout the city and surrounding area, with performances in all five boroughs, Jersey City, and Southampton.
Another highlight of the city’s summer theatre scene are the festivals set to take place this July and August. Musical theatre lovers can head to the New York Musical Festival (through August 5), which offers the chance to discover new musicals in a variety of genres. Further downtown, the puppetry world will take the spotlight for the International Puppet Fringe Festival (August 8-12), while more experimental theatre fans can check out the New Ohio Theatre’s Ice Factory festival (above, through August 18) and the socially conscious Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (through August 5). While the summer’s biggest fringe festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, takes place across the pond, New Yorkers can see American theatre groups preview their Edinburgh shows at 59E59’s East to Edinburgh festival through July 29.
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