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Off-Broadway to Book Now (Photo: Vsmithuk/Flickr CC)

The 8 Best Off-Broadway Shows to Book Now

If you are looking to see something a little different on the New York stage, try one of these shows, including a hilarious take on 1970s disaster films and the pairing of a famous husband and wife team like you've never seen them before

New York’s rich theater scene isn’t limited to the razzle dazzle on Broadway. Off-Broadway you will find intimate theaters where some experimental — and sometimes very unusual — performances are staged. Unlike most Broadway shows that open without an anticipated end, most of these shows are short runs (closing dates are noted below). Though don’t despair, if a show picks up speed with audiences, they do get extended (sometimes multiple times). Some Off-Broadway shows have even become so popular that they get to move up to the big leagues with Broadway transfers – recent examples include Rent and Avenue Q, which is back Off-Broadway and still filling the house. Here’s a rundown of current and upcoming shows off the beaten path you’ll want to check out.

 

Michael Urie in Buyer & Cellar

Michael Urie stars in ‘Buyer & Cellar’

Buyer & Cellar
Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) gives a tour-de-force performance in this solo play as Alex, an out-of-work actor taking the unusual position of caretaker for the items in Barbra Streisand’s basement. What’s really weird is the structure has been fitted out to resemble a mall, and the megastar sometimes descends the stairs to pretend to be a shopper. You’d think this would be a dream job with the opportunity to bond with the diva, but Alex soon discovers you shouldn’t get too close to your idols. Urie won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and is dazzlingly funny as the put-upon protagonist and a host of other characters, including La Streisand herself. The show recently was extended through the end of August, but Urie will give his final performance on March 16.  Through August 31, Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St., buyerandcellar.com

 

Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback in Murder for Two

Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback in ‘Murder for Two’

Murder for Two
Actor-pianists Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback comprise the whole cast and orchestra in this musical whodunit. Ryback plays Officer Marcus, who must determine who killed writer Arthur Whitney at his own birthday party. Blumenkrantz enacts all the suspects, any of whom could have done it since Whitney wrote thinly-veiled novels about all of them. They include Dahlia, the victim’s Southern-belle widow who resented his putting a stop to her stage career; Barrette, his ballerina-mistress; Dr. Griff, the psychiatrist treating Arthur (and everyone else in the cast); and a boys’ choir hired to entertain at the party. The actors take turns backing each other up on the 88’s. It’s a fast, fun and furious 90 minutes. Through March 16, New World Stages, 340 W 50th St., murderfortwomusical.com

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812′ is an immersive theater experience

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Derived from the most passionate and romantic portion of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace, the innovative musical invites theatergoers to dine and drink with the lovestruck arisocrats of old Russia. Seating is cabaret-style and audience members will receive an assortment of Russian snacks (including the show’s signature pierogies) as the story of love and battlefields, highlighted by Dave Malloy’s electropop score, unfolds around them. Through March 2, Kazino, 259 W. 45th St., thegreatcometof1812

 

Disaster! The Musical

A scene from ‘Disaster! The Musical’

Disaster! The Musical
The action starts when the new floating casino Barracuda turns upside down in New York harbor. What follows is a hilarious send-up of disaster flicks of the 1970s such as The Poseidon Adventure, The Swarm, Airport 1975, and The Towering Inferno. The cast (which includes musical theater vets like Drama Desk winner Mary Testa, who is in the show until January 20) are beset by creatures like sharks, piranhas, killer bees and rats. They also try to survive earthquakes, flood and infernos while warbling such pop hits of the era as “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “I Am Woman,” “Sky High,” “Knock on Wood” and “Signed Sealed Delivered.” Through March 31, St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 W 46th St., stlukestheatre.com 

 

Stephen Williams (Bath Boy) performs in 'La Soiree' (Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images)

Stephen Williams (Bath Boy) performs in ‘La Soiree’ (Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images)

La Soiree
This international sensation combines cabaret, circus and burlesque with a generous side of beefcake. It’s sort of a Cirque du Soleil for adults. The Union Square Theatre is transformed into an intimate cabaret space and the acts take place just inches in front of you on a tiny platform. These include a hunky Australian performing acrobatics in a bathtub, a lovable clown enacting Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” in zero gravity and a leather-clad juggler lip-synching a Queen song as he tosses objects with ease. It’s a bizarre and entrancing evening. Through March 30, Union Square Theatre, 100 E 17th St., get tickets

 

Inside 54 Below

Inside 54 Below

54 Below
The hallmarks of Off-Broadway are intimate spaces and the ability to take risks that big Broadway productions can’t afford. This supper club in the old Studio 54 VIP room has both in spades. Big Broadway stars like Patti Lupone and Ben Vereen show up here to do nights of their favorite music, putting you close to some of the most famous voices to grace the much bigger Broadway stages. Upcoming events include a night with Anneleigh Ashford, who was nominated for a Tony last year for her role in Kinky Boots, on February 3. On February 16 will be the music of Rogers & Hammerstein, with songs from The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Carousel and more. 254 W 54th St., Cellar, 54below.com

 

Sleep No More

Sleep No More

Sleep No More
You’ve never experienced anything like Sleep No More, a weird, dream-like presentation where audience members don grotesque masks and wander through several floors of a converted warehouse as silent actors play out scenes suggested by Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hitchcock films. Every patron’s trip is different—you proceed at your own pace and in whichever direction you wish. One minute you’re attending a grand ball for the Macbeths and the next you’re wandering through a spooky graveyard. You can be peeking into a sinister orgy, watching a trio of weird guests perform a gravity-defying dance in a forbidding hotel or checking in at a nightmarish mental institution. Afterwards stop for a drink at the lobby and listen to cool live jazz as you compare notes with fellow attendees on your unique walk through the “hotel.” McKittrick Hotel, 530 W 27th St., sleepnomorenyc.com

 

Nick Offerman and Megan Mullalley star in Annapurna

Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally star in ‘Annapurna’

Annapurna
Husband-and-wife TV stars Megan Mullally (Will and Grace) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) star in this two-character drama from Sharr White (The Other Place, The Snow Geese). Offerman plays a cowboy-poet hooked up to an oxygen tank in a trash-strewn trailer in the wilds of Colorado. Mullally is his estranged wife returning to him after 20 years for a tearful and rage filled reunion. Expect a raucous, wild encounter Off-Broadway. Previews beginning April 13 for a limited run through June 1, Acorn Theatre, 410 W 42nd St., thenewgroup.org

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