Read about NYC's best theatre and dance productions and watch video interviews with innovative artists
With in-person theatre out of commission for the foreseeable future, many companies and performers from Broadway and beyond are showcasing their work online. Below are performances you can watch today, Wednesday, May 20, from the comfort of your couch for free (or at very low cost).
Lyric Hammersmith: A Doll's House
At 9:30 a.m. ET, London's Lyric Hammersmith theatre shares a recording of its well-reviewed 2019 mounting of A Doll's House directed by Rachel O'Riordan. Henrik Ibsen's landmark drama was reimagined by playwright Tanika Gupta, who reset the story in 1879, Calcutta in order to explore issues of race and colonialism as well as gender. No matter where Nora (here rechristened Niru) lives, that door slam always reverberates! Watch for free anytime for 24 hours on Lyric Hammersmith's YouTube channel.
Renée Elise Goldsberry and Santino Fontana in Candida
At 2 p.m. ET, Stars in the House partners with Gingold Theatrical Group to present a starry live reading of Candida, George Bernard Shaw's classic comedy about a Victorian love triangle. The cast features Tootsie Tony winner Santino Fontana, Hamilton Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, plus Broadway stalwarts Jay O. Sanders, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Andréa Burns and Michael Benjamin Washington. This twice daily series benefits The Actors' Fund, and you can watch for free on YouTube.
English National Ballet: Nora
At 2 p.m. ET, the English National Ballet shares a recording of Nora choreographed by Stina Quagebeur and inspired by the title character in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (yup, her again!). The one-act dance is set to a score by Philip Glass, and you can watch for free anytime through Friday at 2 p.m. on the troupe's YouTube channel.
How to Survive the End of the World
At 2 p.m. ET, EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn premiere How to Survive the End of the World, their new quarantine-made and set mini musical about a grieving woman (Hamilton's Hannah Cruz) whose human interactions all play out on screens. Watch for free on the creators' website.
Martha Graham Dance Company: Letter to the World
At 2:30 p.m. ET, the Martha Graham Dance Company presents Letter to the World, the modern dance legend's mythic exploration of the imagination and emotional life of Emily Dickinson, which she created in 1940. The piece is being divided into two parts over two weeks. Today you can see footage of an early cast with Graham, Erick Hawkins and Merce Cunningham, as well as a 1972 mounting with Pearl Lang. Watch for free on the dance company's YouTube channel.
Linda Lavin and Billy Stritch
At 3 p.m. ET, celebrated jazz pianist and singer Billy Stritch and his Tony-winning BFF/neighbor Linda Lavin continue their series of live online concerts in support of their new album Love Notes. Their friendship, banter and classic songs always feel incredibly soothing. Watch for free on Lavin's Facebook page.
Hansel and Gretel at the Met
At 5 p.m. ET, it's a bonus opera from the Metropolitan! Ever since the shutdown began, the opera house has been sharing productions from its Live in HD series nightly at 7:30 p.m. But it also presents weekly student streams that debut on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. These operas have been specially selected for families, and Zoom education sessions leading up to the screening teach school-age kids about opera. This week's offering is the Met's 2008 mounting of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, a holiday staple at the venue. Starring Alice Coote and Christine Schäfer, it's an eye-popping, English-language production that's great for families, with oversize cartoon chefs, singing trees and an unforgettable witch's kitchen. Watch for free anytime through Friday at 5 p.m. on the Metropolitan Opera's website
MCC LiveLabs: One Acts: The Sentinels
At 5:30 p.m. ET, Off Broadway's MCC Theater continues its LiveLabs series with The Sentinels, a one-act by The Inheritance playwright Matthew Lopez starring a formidable foursome of fierce females: Tony winners Jane Alexander, Katrina Lenk and Priscilla Lopez, and Tony nominee Denée Benton. A meditation on mourning that moves backwards in time, the drama centers on a group of September 11 widows who meets every year on the anniversary of the tragedy that upended their lives. Watch the live performance for free on MCC Theater's YouTube page.
Howard Ashman Celebration
At 6 p.m. ET, due to the pandemic, two planned bicoastal concerts to mark the 70th birthday of late lyricist Howard Ashman have been combined into one big virtual performance. With composer Alan Menken, Ashman created songs for the stage musicals Little Shop of Horrors and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and the beloved Disney movies The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Performers will sing his hits and more obscure numbers during this hour-long event, headlined by Avenue Q Tony nominee John Tartaglia, Christy Carlson Romano from the Disney Channel's Even Stevens and Jodi Benson, who knew him well: She was the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid as well as a cast member of the Broadway musical Smile, which Ashman co-wrote. Watch for free on YouTube though donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are encouraged.
BAM: Contemporary Dance and DanceAfrica
At 6 p.m. ET, BAM's four-decade-old DanceAfrica has gone virtual this year, with a month of online performances, talks and classes. Today, choreographers and festival vets Rennie Harris of Rennie Harris PureMovement, Jamel Gaines of Creative Outlet and Ronald K. Brown of Evidence Dance Company will chat about their work and share recordings of past performances. Watch for free on BAM's Vimeo channel.
54 Does 54: The Feinstein's/54 Below Staff Show
At 6:30 p.m. ET, cabaret haven Feinstein's/54 Below spotlights its quadruple-threat staffers in this concert performed by its servers, managers, programmers, marketers, cooks and other employees. These folks can act, dance, sing and do a day job, although right now they're all out of work. Although you can watch this concert for free on Feinstein's/54 Below's YouTube channel, consider donating to the GoFundMe the club set up for its staff.
The Homebound Project
At 7 p.m. ET, The Homebound Project releases its second edition of playlets, and the lineup is once again stellar. Enjoy new shorts by big-name dramatists including Pulitzer Prize finalists Sarah DeLappe and Will Arbery, and Off-Broadway darlings Adam Bock and Anne Washburn, featuring stage stars such as Tony winner Mary-Louise Parker and Zachary Quinto. The brainchild of playwright Catya McMullen and director Jenna Worsham, this initiative is raising money to support food insecure kids during the pandemic. Tickets start at $10.
Ballet Hispánico: El Beso
At 7 p.m. EST, Ballet Hispánico presents El Beso, choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano's 2014 work that explores the nuances of a kiss, set to Spanish Zarzuela music and featuring costumes by Venezuelan fashion designer Angel Sanchez. Watch for free on the dance company's Facebook page.
Forever Plaid Original Cast Reunion
At 7 p.m. ET, Southern California's Musical Theatre West reunites the original cast of Forever Plaid, about a quartet of high school pals who get one last shot at '50s-style four-harmony singing stardom. Original Off-Broadway cast members David Engel, Stan Chandler, Jason Graae and Guy Stroman are joined by creator-director Stuart Ross and Larry Raben who was in the Forever Plaid movie. Watch for free on the theatre's Facebook page.
New York Theatre Barn: Mary and Max and Second Line
At 7 p.m. ET, for the past 13 years, New York Theatre Barn has showcased musicals in progress in its New Works Series. That initiative has now gone virtual, with 40-minute peeks at two new shows a week. Today, Oklahoma! Tony winner Shuler Hensley and Lauren Elder croon two songs from Bobby Conin and TDF teaching artist Crystal Skillman's Mary and Max, based on the animated movie of the same name; and Austin Scott and Lagoona Bloo perform two numbers from Sam Carner and Derek Gregor's Second Line set during Hurricane Katrina. Watch for free on New York Theatre Barn's YouTube channel.
HERE Arts Center: The Pigeoning
At 7 p.m. ET, downtown culture hub HERE presents The Pigeoning, a haunting and darkly comedic puppet show for grown-ups about an '80s office worker slowly descending into madness. I saw it seven years ago and still can't shake it! Watch for free on HERE's Facebook page.
Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met
At 7:30 p.m. ET, the Metropolitan Opera shares Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Kathleen Kim, Stephanie Blythe, Marcelo Álvarez and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Fabio Luisi. The production was filmed for the company's Live in HD series in 2012, and is available to watch for free for 23 hours after the start time on the Metropolitan Opera's website. You can still stream yesterday's opera, Lohengrin, until 6:30 p.m. today.
Bombshell in Concert/Smash Cast Reunion
At 8 p.m. ET, despite its title, TV's campy love letter to Broadway, Smash, was more of a cult sensation. The NBC series about the making of a Broadway bio-musical about Marilyn Monroe only ran for two seasons, but the fan love never died, despite some of it being fueled by hate-watching. In 2015, The Actors Fund presented a one-night-only concert of Bombshell, the theatre show within the TV show, with songs by the Tony-winning Hairspray team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and that was a bona fide smash. Tonight, People.com presents a recording of that still talked about event, with a live intro by Oscar winner Renée Zellweger, and a Smash cast reunion during intermission featuring all the stars: Christian Borle, Will Chase, Brian d'Arcy James, Jack Davenport, Ann Harada, Megan Hilty, Jeremy Jordan, Katharine McPhee, Andy Mientus, Debra Messing, Leslie Odom Jr., Krysta Rodriguez and Wesley Taylor. Watch for free on People's Facebook page.
Ben Platt Live from Radio City Music Hall
We don't usually promote performances on Netflix, but we couldn't resist mentioning the premiere of this 90-minute concert showcasing the powerhouse pipes of Ben Platt. Backed by a full band and soulful singers, the Dear Evan Hansen Tony winner shares songs from his debut album Sing to Me Instead, as well as personal stories about how music has enhanced his life. Don't have Netflix? You can still watch at no cost by signing up for a 30-day free trial.
Simon McBurney's The Encounter
London's Complicité streams The Encounter, avant-garde theatre-maker Simon McBurney's aurally immersive one-man play about National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre's interactions with the elusive Mayoruna tribe in the Amazon rain forest. This singular show was well-received on Broadway and headphones are recommended to get the full experience as it conjures the locale through evocative sound design. Watch for free anytime through Friday on Complicité's YouTube channel.
National Theatre: Barber Shop Chronicles
It's your last chance to catch London's National Theatre's Barber Shop Chronicles, Inua Ellams' hit play about the thriving social scenes at six different barbershops, one in London, the others in Africa. A critically acclaimed production, the show presents a loving and insightful portrait of the African men who work and visit these hair-styling havens. Watch for free anytime through Thursday at 2 p.m. ET on the National Theatre's YouTube channel.
Lincoln Center Theater: Pipeline
BroadwayHD partners with Lincoln Center to stream the drama Pipeline at no cost. Written by Tony nominee Dominique Morisseau, the thought-provoking play ran at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in 2017 and centers on a black inner-city public school teacher fighting to ensure her rage-filled son doesn't become a statistic. Watch for free anytime through Friday on BroadwayHD.
Stratford Festival: The Tempest
Ontario's venerable Stratford Festival continues its Shakespeare On Film series with The Tempest starring six-decade stage vet Martha Henry as Prospero the vengeful sorcerer. Stratford's artistic director Antoni Cimolino helmed this well-received 2018 production, which you can watch for free on the Stratford Festival's YouTube channel.
Top image: Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee in Smash. Photo courtesy of NBC.