Can't Score Seats to Tony-Nominated Shows?

Try These Off-Broadway Alternatives

Show-Score | By Raven Snook | Jun 8, 2016

Go beyond Broadway and check out these well-reviewed productions that deliver similar experiences to hot Tony-nominated shows.

Hadestown Hadestown | By Joan Marcus
In case you haven't heard (yeah, right!), the Tonys are this Sunday. And if you think it's tough to snag seats to the nominated shows now, it's only going to get worse once theater lovers across the nation watch the telecast and start snapping up tickets, especially to the musicals.

Maybe you're having trouble getting into the current crop of Tony nominees, or perhaps you saw one you loved and want to catch something similar. We've rounded up some high-scoring, Off-Broadway productions that "match" various Tony-nominated shows in theme, aesthetics, and entertainment value.

Bonus: Most of them are much less expensive and easier to book! 

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Bright Star
1,057 reviews
82
Overall Score

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Hadestown
256 reviews
87
Overall Score
 

Like both Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star" (five nominations including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score) and Sara Bareilles' "Waitress" (four nominations including Best Musical and Best Original Score), "Hadestown" has infectious songs by a crossover pop artist: Anaïs Mitchell, a boisterous onstage band, multiple pairs of star-crossed lovers, and an epic folk-tale feel. While "Bright Star" was (vaguely) inspired by a real-life event and "Waitress" by the eponymous 2007 movie, "Hadestown" is a rollicking retelling of the myth of Orpheus. Practically sung-through and immersively staged with the cast singing all around you, "Hadestown" is beloved by critics and members alike, though a few have griped that it's more of a concert than a full-fledged musical. Still, almost everyone agrees that the retro tunes, which run the gamut from folk to blues to soul to New Orleans jazz, are heavenly, even if most of the action is set down below.


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Cagney
541 reviews
84
Overall Score

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Indecent
1,220 reviews
87
Overall Score

Nope, "Cagney" and "Indecent" aren't similar at all. And yet each has something in common with Broadway's "Shuffle Along" (ten nominations including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Choreography). In the case of "Cagney," a bio-musical about the late, great movie star, the two share jaw-dropping tap dancing. While Savion Glover's "Shuffle Along" choreography is a mind-boggling mix of early 20th-century moves and contemporary hoofing, Joshua Bergasse's "Cagney" numbers are pure Golden Age of Hollywood. Both approaches are equally exhilarating.

Meanwhile, many critics have called Paula Vogel's "Indecent" the Jewish "Shuffle Along." Both productions examine groundbreaking but forgotten Broadway shows from the early 1920s that exploded social, cultural, and artistic barriers, the latter for African-Americans, the former for Jews and lesbians. Beyond that, they're quite different, with disparate styles and outcomes. And yet anyone interested in the history of theater, not to mention inventive storytelling and stage craft, should be enthralled by both.
 
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Indecent
1,220 reviews
87
Overall Score

One aspect of "Indecent" I didn't mention above is its soulful klezmer score. Although the show is described as a play with music as opposed to a musical, the songs, some sung in Yiddish, are integral to the storytelling and help set the mood. I couldn't help but think of "Fiddler on the Roof" (nominated for three Tonys including Best Revival), partially due to the music (at one point I could have sworn the clarinetist was playing the opening notes of "Tradition"), but also because it explores an important piece of 20th-century Jewish history. In fact, it's possible that the displaced residents of Anatevka might go on to see "God of Vengeance," the controversial play that "Indecent" is about, which toured for two decades throughout Europe in Yiddish before landing in hot water in English in America in 1923. 



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This may be a little bit of a stretch... But if your main goal is to see insanely talented tykes on stage in a kid-friendly musical, then these two match up perfectly. "School of Rock" (four Tony nominations including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score) features a cast of youngsters who are quadruple threats: they act, sing, dance, and are incredible musicians. While the kids in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" don't play any instruments, they are all immensely talented Broadway veterans who know how to sell the songs and the shtick in this plotless revue based on the Charles M. Schulz's beloved "Peanuts" gang. Both shows are perfect for families. 



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Incognito
213 reviews
76
Overall Score

Manhattan Theatre Club has two brainteasers on stage right now: Broadway's "The Father" (two Tony nominations including Best Play) and Off-Broadway's "Incognito." Both plays are directed by Doug Hughes and are intentionally disorienting, since they attempt to put audiences into the minds of their main characters. In "The Father" it's Tony nominee Frank Langella's dementia-stricken patriarch. The ultimate unreliable narrator, we see reality through his eyes and soon realize he's losing his grip on it. Meanwhile, "Incognito" has 20-plus characters played by a quartet of actors, but amnesiac Henry, movingly portrayed by Charlie Cox, is arguably its heart and soul. The multi-story, nonlinear narrative is mind-boggling, and viewers often feel as lost as Henry, who has no short-term memory whatsoever. Of course, if you pay attention, you can piece the puzzle together in the end, unlike poor Henry.



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The current Broadway mounting of Eugene O'Neill's legendary "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (seven Tony nominations including Best Revival of a Play) is epic in every way, from its almost four-hour run time, to its searing emotions, to its starry quartet of a cast, three of whom snagged Tony nods (Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne, and Michael Shannon). Meanwhile over in Brooklyn, Theatre for a New Audience is presenting a pair of classics in repertory: Ibsen's "A Doll's House" and Strindberg's "The Father" (no relation to the aforementioned Manhattan Theatre Club play). Like "Long Day's," both of these plays focus on dysfunctional families undone by secrets and lies. Strindberg's lesser-known drama was written in response to Ibsen's hit, and this is the first time they're being presented together in English. Plus: The run time of both shows is about the same as "Long Day's!" Hurry though: 'The Father' and 'A Doll's House' close on Tony Awards day!

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You're just going to have to hope you win that lottery, because regular seats are seemingly sold out until the rapture.

Just can't deal? Remember, "Hamilton" started Off-Broadway at the Public Theater, so it's worth checking out its new musical "The Total Bent" or some of our other top Beyond Broadway picks

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