TOP FIVE OFF-BROADWAY SHOWS OF FALL 2019!

Little Shop of Horrors

Broadway isn’t the only place in New York to see some of the most original, bold, and star-studded theatrical productions of the fall season. Off-Broadway, there’s a particularly exciting and busy slate of daring, provocative, and can’t-miss plays and musicals.

Raúl Esparza and Krysta Rodriguez are cooking up a hit with Seared, a comedy that’s just been extended for a second time. Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner’s new play, A Bright Room Called Day, has a cast boasting stage favorites like Linda Emond, Nikki M. James, and Michael Urie. Kate Mulgrew comes off the final season of Orange Is the New Black by starring in The Half-Life of Marie Curie, a biographical play about the groundbreaking Nobel Prize winner. We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical, makes its long awaited New York premiere at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theatre for a mere six performances.

So how to decide what to buy tickets to? I’ve rounded up my top five picks for the best of what this off-Broadway season has to offer (listed in alphabetical order). Sound off in the comments below with your favorites!


CYRANO

Dates: October 11 – December 22, 2019
Location: Daryl Roth Theatre (101 E. 15th Street)
Music: Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner (of The National)
Lyrics: Matt Berninger (of The National) and Carin Besser
Adaptation: Erica Schmidt from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Choreography: Jeff and Rick Kuperman
Director: Erica Schmidt
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Blake Jenner, Grace McLean

CyranoWhile there have been countless adaptations of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano feels like the first of its kind. Featuring music and lyrics by The National – the indie rock band behind such gems as “Demons,” “I Need My Girl,” and “You Had Your Soul With You” – this original musical stars Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage as the titular recluse with a penchant for poetry. 

When the woman he loves, Roxanne, falls for a cadet under his command, the crushed Cyrano decides to ghostwrite love letters to her. While Roxanne thinks the letters are coming from her beloved Christian, she unknowingly falls more and more in love with a different man altogether. Thus, she is deceived into making decisions that prevent the trio from having any sort of honest relationships with one another.

Dinklage has an impressively low singing voice, making it easy to hear how the music came together with the signature deep vocals of The National’s frontman Matt Berninger. As Roxanne, original Hamilton star Jasmine Cephas Jones gets her due in the center spotlight. Her vocal stylings are as unique as they are specific, putting a sultry Amy Winehouse-meets-Rihanna twist on the folk-infused score. And as the handsome though not-too-bright Christian, Blake Jenner does a terrific job playing the comedic relief character with a voice as smooth as honey. 

Cyrano is especially interesting in the age of #MeToo. By lying to Roxanne to prevent her from making her own informed choices, both men after her heart end up suffering. Had they shown her the respect she deserved from the beginning, there’s a chance that the tragic sequence of events that unfolds could have been prevented. Nevertheless, the moral of this classic tale reminds audiences that beauty is not just defined by what’s on the outside, and that self-pride and love for others need never be mutually exclusive.  

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for Cyrano.


EVITA

Dates: November 13-24, 2019
Location: New York City Center
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Book and Lyrics: Tim Rice
Choreography: Emily Maltby and Valeria Solomonoff
Director: Sammi Cannold
Starring: Solea Pfeiffer, Maia Reficco, Enrique Acevedo, Jason Gotay

EvitaIf you’re not yet familiar with the extraordinarily talented Solea Pfeiffer, get prepared for her to be one of the next most buzzed about actresses on Broadway. After playing Eliza on the first national tour of Hamilton, Pfeiffer has gone on to star in New York City Center’s production of Songs for a New World and the world premiere of Almost Famous, set to open on Broadway next year. This December, she’ll also be headlining The Light in the Piazza in Chicago.

But this month, Pfeiffer takes on the legendary role of Eva Perón. The Annual Gala Presentation for New York City Center, this exciting production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita lines up with the one-hundredth anniversary of Perón’s birth. Joining Pfeiffer in telling the life story of one of the most recognizable figures in Argentinian history is Argentine actor and singer Maia Reficco as Young Eva.

This limited engagement runs for less than two weeks and is sure to deliver a can’t-miss performance from Pfeiffer.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for Evita.


LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Dates: September 17, 2019 – January 19, 2020
Location: Westside Theatre Upstairs (407 W. 43rd Street)
Music: Alan Menken
Book and Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Choreography: Ellenore Scott
Director: Michael Mayer
Starring: Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard, Christian Borle

Little Shop of HorrorsLittle Shop of Horrors is enjoying quite a moment. Not only is a film remake of the cult-favorite musical in active development, but this fall also saw two simultaneous coast-to-coast stage revivals. In Los Angeles, George Salazar, Mj Rodriguez and Amber Riley led the critically revered Pasadena Playhouse production that closed October 20. Yet fans still hungry for more plant vs. human action can still catch the show in New York, now playing through January 19, 2020.

As always, Jonathan Groff seems born to play the role he’s currently devouring. The versatile actor—who earned Tony nominations for his very different roles in Spring Awakening and Hamilton—makes it look like Seymour was written specifically for him. Throw in Tammy Blanchard and two-time Tony Award-winner Christian Borle and you’ve got an all-star cast with a voracious energy that is making Little Shop one of the hottest tickets in town.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for Little Shop of Horrors.


MACBETH

Dates: October 10 – December 15, 2019
Location: Classic Stage Company (136 E. 13th Street)
Written by: William Shakespeare
Director and Set Designer: John Doyle
Starring: Corey Stoll, Nadia Bowers, Mary Beth Peil, Barbara Walsh

MacbethClassic Stage Company’s stunning production of Macbeth is nothing short of a master class in acting. The minimal and intimate staging allows for this cast of stage titans to truly shine, delivering impassioned performances that make Shakespeare’s writing feel timelier than ever.

Peil’s instantly iconic turn as King Duncan joins the ranks of Glenda Jackson and Helen Mirren as a brilliant interpretation of a traditionally male Shakespearean role. As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, real life husband and wife duo Stoll and Bowers are a revelation. Stoll, who also starred in recent productions of Othello and Julius Caesar, continues to prove himself as New York’s very own Kenneth Branagh. After putting each other through so many raw emotions on stage, it must be no mean feat for this couple to shake off these morally corrupt characters and go home together.

It’s not hyperbole when I say that this is the best production of Macbeth—and likely one of the very best Shakespearean productions—I’ve ever seen.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for Macbeth.


THE WRONG MAN

Dates: September 18 – November 24, 2019
Location: The Newman Mills Theater at the Robert W. Wilson Theater Space (511 W. 52nd Street)
Book, Music and Lyrics: Ross Golan
Music Supervision, Vocal Arrangements and Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire
Choreography: Travis Wall
Director: Thomas Kail
Starring: Joshua Henry, Ciara Renée, Ryan Vasquez

The Wrong ManThe Wrong Man is hands down the best new musical of 2019 (sorry Hadestown). Simply put, watching this powerful and exquisitely executed show will remind you why you love going to the theater in the first place. From the director and orchestrator of Hamilton comes this heartbreaking story of a man who meets the love of his life, only to soon thereafter be convicted of a gruesome crime he didn’t commit.

To say Joshua Henry is sensational in the lead role would be a vast understatement. His performance is the kind that can be career-defining – a crowning achievement for an actor who already has multiple Tony nominations behind him. From the very first song, Henry proves himself to be one of the singular most multi-talented vocalists alive today.

Following his star turns in a string of more traditional musicals (such as Carousel and Violet), Henry triumphs while singing Ross Golan’s contemporary and refreshingly original music and lyrics. With shades of pop, gospel, hip-hop, and even folk, the brilliant score sounds like a hybrid of the catalogs of John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda, yet somehow even better than what you’d imagine those results to be.

Prior to this breathtaking musical opus, Golan wrote smash hits for artists like Ariana Grande (“Dangerous Woman”) and Selena Gomez (“Same Old Love”), in addition to songs for other superstars like Maroon 5, Demi Lovato, P!nk, One Direction, Justin Bieber, Lady Antebellum, Nicki Minaj, and many, many more. While The Wrong Man is his first foray into musical theater, it’s clear that this sprawling epic is the creative product of a seasoned storyteller.

Travis Wall’s evocative choreography is also gorgeous. Each movement furthers the plot and deepens the development of the characters. You don’t have to be well-versed in dance to not only follow but also be entranced by Wall’s phenomenal work. When the show inevitably transfers to Broadway, I pity anyone competing against Henry, Golan, and Wall in their respective Tony Award categories.

If you plan to see only one show this fall, get tickets for The Wrong Man. There are only a few weeks left to catch this truly magnificent production (it wraps up during the week of Thanksgiving). Whatever happens next with this musical will be huge, but you can already treat yourself to the best gift for this season.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for The Wrong Man.

About ALEX KELLEHER-NAGORSKI 167 Articles
Alex has been writing for PopBytes since 2011. As the Theater Editor, he focuses on all aspects of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theater, and beyond. Alex lives in Western Massachusetts and can be found on Twitter at @AlexKNagorski.