I don’t think the bard was thinking about New York City when he wrote those words, but if not he should’ve been. Certainly, working in New York City gives me front row seats to see actors and audience mingling together on the streets by day, and theater at night. L.A. can have its movies, New York, where one of my favorite T-Shirts reads, “So you’re an actor… What restaurant?”, is the home of the Great White Way — Broadway, where there’s a light for every broken heart who tried to make it here.
OK, enough of the Jerry Orbach impression. Here’s some things about NY theater in general and some theater festivals in particular.
When it comes to theater, there’s Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway. Now, here’s the skinny — those categories have nothing to do with geography. You can have an Off-Broadway theater on Broadway; a Broadway theater not on Broadway; and so on.
What determines the difference? Say it with me, ladies, “size matters.”
Broadway theaters have 500 or more seats, Off-Broadway 100-499 and Off-Off Broadway under 100. I am lucky enough to have seen many Broadway shows — more on them at another time — but this is the time of year I overdose on Off-Off Broadway shows. They’re ususally fun, sometimes odd, generally well staged and acted — and cheap!
It’s festival time here in the Big Apple, and so far this year I’ve seen:
Bad Musicals Festival ’08 Jul-Aug Went to three, I liked these two:
- Stranded — three men stranded on a deserted island find a genie bottle; guy #3’s wish really pisses off Guy 1 and Guy 2. I thought it was amusing.
- The Plastic Surgeon of Oz – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Crab Louse (yes, crab louse) seek the talents of the Plastic Surgeon of Oz in order to get into a career in porn (yes, porn). Always funny, this was, at times, LOL hilarious.
Fringe NYC Festival: Aug-Sep The odd, the irreverant, and occasionally the breeding ground for future Broadway shows (“Urinetown’)
- Becoming Britney – Britney’s last few years as set in Promises-Promises, a rehab center for the marginally talented but Very Beautiful. Saw this last night. Molly Bell is great as the pop tart.
- Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) – Using Tim Gunn’s words from ‘Project Runway’ to describe the behind the scenes battles. Seeing this Sunday.
- The Deciders – Haven’t seen this yet but I’m betting they don’t have kind words fro the current president.
New York Musical Festival: Sept-Oct Fun, lyrical, and also occasionally the breeding ground for Broadway shows (‘[title of show]’ <– yes, that’s the name) Here’s what I am scheduled to see (with official descriptions plus my notes):
- The Bubble: A Musical Dot-Comedy The rise and fall of the dotcom decade — in a single day.
- College:The Musical They sing. They dance. They sometimes go to class. (Or, why wasn’t my college years filled with spontaneous dance and song?)
- Wood A sexy musical romp that will have you tapping your toes all the way to the public restroom stall! (Based upon a Mid-summer night’s dream
- Bedbugs!!! A hell-bent exterminator must save NYC from killer mutant bedbug Hair Metal Rock Gods… of her own creation. (Sci-fi musicals — gotta love ‘em)
And the best thing about all of these? Typical ticket price – $15!
So, the next time you think NY Theater is aloof or too expensive, get yourself off — Off-Off Broadway, that is.