Broadway tickets can get pricey but part of the New York experience when visiting is to see a show. That’s why Off Broadway musicals are a lovely alternative and sometimes, you may even catch the next Broadway hit before a show makes its way to the legendary street.
Here is a list of Off Broadway productions that have graced the theaters in New York.
1. Adding Machine
Based on the Elmer Rice play The Adding Machine from 1923 this musical adaptation was premiered nearly a century later. Written by Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith the first showing of this musical opened at the Next Theater in Illinois in 2007. The next year it moved to the Minetta Lane Theatre and became an official Off Broadway production. It was nominated for six Lucille Lortel Awards taking home the prize for Outstanding Musical.
The next showing of this musical was produced in 2009 at The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. The year after that is was staged in Boston at the Calderwood Pavilion in the Boston Center for the Arts by the SpeakEasy Stage Company. Then it was produced at the Know Theatre in Cincinnati for the 2009-2010 season and the next year would be performed at the Odyssey Theater Ensemble in 2011. That same year, 2011, it was also staged at the Skylight Music Theatre.
The story follows Mr. Zero who, after being replaced by an adding machine after working for more than twenty years, murders his boss.
2. Bright Lights, Big City
This Off Broadway production falls under the category of rock musical and was created by Paul Scott Goodman, a composer from Scotland. He based this Off Broadway musical on a Jay McInerney novel by the same name. The first production opened on February 24, 1999 at the New York Theatre Workshop and was arranged by Richard Barone and directed by Michael Greif.
From there it went on to one reproduction, which was at Hoxton Hall in London in November of 2010. It surrounds the character Jamie, who is an aspiring novelist and moves to New York to make his dreams come true. Yet, Jamie finds that his job writing for Gotham Magazine isn’t exactly the direction he was looking for so he finds solace in drugs and parties.
The results of his indulgence is his wife who leaves him to pursue a modeling career in Paris. Things get worse and Jaimie hits rock bottom. Yet, all is not lost and when Jamie meets Vicky he decided to turn his life around a once again chase his dream of writing a novel.
3. Clinton: The Musical
Our next Off Broadway musical seems rather apropos for the up and coming election season. This production was based directly upon the presidency of Bill Clinton written by Paul and Michael Hodge. The first production of this musical appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012 and was nominated for that year’s Best New Musical. This version consisted of one-act.
The next production was held in London at the King’s Head Theatre and was expanded to two acts and only played three scheduled shows in 2013. The next year the New York Musical Theatre Festival had its own production and had to be extended past its original run date due to consistently sold out shows.
Yet it wasn’t until 2015 that this musical gained Off Broadway status. With previews starting on March 25, 2015 Clinton: The Musical was shown at the New World Stages and officially opened at that theater on April 9th of that same year. The next production was put together by the Black Swan State Theatre Company this very year when it opened at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.
The next musical on our list first appeared at the Second Stage Theatre on July 16, 2012 and ran for a limited time until August 19th. From there it went to London at the Southward Playhouse in 2014. Next it had a regional production in New York at the White Plains Performing Arts Center in September of that same year. Dogfight would go on to be staged in England, Australia, Amsterdam, San Francisco, New Zealand and Oklahoma.
Number four on our list of Off Broadway musicals follows Marine Eddie Birdlace, who just came back from fighting in the Vietnam war. While he rides the bus towards San Francisco, Eddie remembers back five years earlier when he and his two marine buddies were riding in a military bus headed to San Francisco. One of his buddies suggest they play a game called a dogfight. Each puts fifty dollars into a pot and then sets out to find the ugliest date for the night. Winner takes all the money.
5. Evil Dead: The Musical
Another rock musical to make our list today is based on the cult film franchise by the same name. The original production of this musical was in Kingston, Ontario where a musical theatre class at Queen’s University performed it at a comedy club in town. Next, this musical was performed at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal in 2004.
One specific performance of Evil Dead: The Musical in Toronto happened during the Northeast Blackout of 2003. To save the show acoustic instruments were used while the players performed in front of the Tranzac club. The cast used their voices to create needed sound effects and car headlights and flashlights were used to shed light on the show.
The Off Broadway production of this musical opened after previews on November 1, 2006 and ran until February of the next year. It went back to Torong for another run at the Diesel Playhouse in 2007 and would go on to be staged in Seoul, Tokyo, Calgary, Cleveland, New Orleans and Vancouver.
6. Floyd Collins
With compositions by Adam Guettel and a book by Tina Landau this next Off Broadway musical had its first production in 1994 at the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia. It is based on the story of a cave explorer who died while investigating new cave systems in Cave City, Kentucky. He was stuck underground for longer than it took to pull him out and the result was his death.
Floyd Collins eventually opened at Playwrights Horizons in 1996 and became an official Off Broadway production. It won the Lucille Lortel Award that same year for Outstanding Musical. It also won an Obie Award for Best Score that same year. The cast would tour to San Diego to play at the Old Globe Theatre, Chicago to play at the Goodman Theatre and Philadelphia to reappear at the American Music Theatre Festival.
Other locations where this musical would appear are London for two separate runs and St. Louis, Missouri.
7. Grey Gardens
The next Off Broadway musical on our list is the second to be based on prominent figures in American history. This one in particular follows the lives of Jacqueline Kennedy’s aunt and cousin Big Edie and Little Edie. It begins with their lives at the Bouviers’ mansion in East Hampton called Grey Gardens and follows the women’s descent from rich socialites to a lonely existence at the Gardens that is filled with cats and filth.
The first production of this musical opened at Playwrights Horizon on February 10, 2006 and ran for only a few months. It was nominated for five Lucille Lortel Awards and twelve Drama Desk Awards that year.
This is the first musical on our list to make it to Broadway, and this happened on November 2nd of the same year. It played at the Walter Kerr Theatre and closed in July of 2007. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards and took away three.
From Broadway it went on to be produced in Australia, Seattle, London, Toronto and Los Angeles.
8. Heathers: The Musical
Based on the popular movie from the late eighties this musical was written by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy. The previews were held in Los Angeles and every show was sold out. It moved to an Off Broadway production at the New World Stages in March of 2014.
From there it went on to have productions staged in San Francisco, Sydney and Sacramento. It follows a group of high school friends who are popular and displays the mean tactics a few of them take due to their high social status. Two of the girls are named Heather.
Veronica, who is part of the popular social circle, is sick of the spoiled, bratty attitude of her friends and the way they treat the less popular kids at school. When she meets new comer JD, she thinks that she is playing a joke on the meanest Heather of the group but ends up poisoning her. This leads to a killing spree by the two that they conceal as fake suicides.
9. The Immigrant
Number nine on our list of Off Broadway shows falls under the genre of chamber musical and was composed by Steven M. Alper with lyrics by Sarah Knapp. It follows the story of Jewish man who immigrates to Texas and befriends a Christian couple. When the Jewish man’s wife moves to Texas to join her husband and start a business the two couples find that religious differences and prejudices get in the way of the possible friendship.
The Off Broadway production of The Immigrant by Hello Entertainment opened on November 4, 2004 at Dodger Stages, yet the original staging was an off-off Broadway production at CAP-21. From there it moved to Denver, Colorado and then Connecticut before appearing at the Dodger Stages. The same cast from the off-off Broadway production went on to the Off Broadway production.