Courtesy, Sondheim Unplugged
If you’re a theater lover coming to New York City, you likely have plans to see a Broadway show—but that’s not your only option to see the talent. When they aren’t on Broadway’s biggest stages, many performers can be found in other venues in the City, in shows of all sorts. Among the advantages to this different context: the chance to catch a more nuanced view of a singer in an intimate venue; the opportunity to see fresh material or even a different musical genre; and, frequently, a nightclub setting where you can relax with food and drinks as opposed to the crush at the bar during a Broadway intermission.
For an unforgettable night out, explore these nightlife spots and ongoing shows. You might find a theater favorite belting Beyoncé, telling backstage stories or making up a new musical on the fly.
Monthly, though check the website for the latest
In the elegant supper club that calls itself “Broadway’s living room,” you might find yourself as close to a star singing their heart out as you are to the TV in your living room where you watch their Tony Awards performance on a loop. The 54 Below schedule is packed with up to three shows nightly, so there’s always something new to check out. The Duets ongoing series pairs up-and-coming talents with established Broadway performers to sing songs from the theater world and beyond, so you can discover new favorites while in the hands of the pros.
Courtesy, Sondheim Unplugged
Do you like your musical theater delivered pure and unfiltered? Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim wrote some of the most beloved and challenging-to-sing songs in the canon, and in the Sondheim Unplugged series, master singers take them on accompanied by piano alone. Special guests often include original cast members of Broadway shows like Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, or stars of revivals like the recent productions of Company and Into the Woods.
Shitzprobe. Photo: Arin Sang Urai
At a “sitzprobe,” musicians and performers come together for the first time to rehearse the meticulously crafted music for a show they’ve likely been learning for weeks. On the other hand, in the hilarious comedy show Shitzprobe, Broadway performers and a team of improvisers are flung together at the comedy venue Asylum NYC for the first time to make up an entire musical on the spot—music, lyrics and all. Past guests have included stars from The Prom, Waitress and Aladdin.
Ongoing; next performance December 5 at Sony Hall
To mix your original cast albums with something a little more rock ’n’ roll, find out where and when the next Broadway Sings show is. Each concert books Broadway singers to cover an iconic artist or band like Lady Gaga or Queen. Past performances have featured West Side Story Oscar winner Ariana DeBose singing David Bowie, Dear Evan Hansen’s Ben Platt singing Sara Bareilles and a bevy of folks doing Beyoncé’s hits.
Ongoing; check the website for upcoming performances
Seth Rudetsky, a writer, actor and all-around expert about theater, regularly talks Broadway on two Sirius XM shows; in the early days of the pandemic, he put on a web series, Stars in the House, to raise money for performers. Now he combines his powers in Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway, in which he leads top performers like Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jane Krakowski down memory lane, as the stars tell stories and sing songs from their Broadway careers.
Ongoing; check website for upcoming performances
Attention, theater history nerds: you can learn about a subject—say, dance on Broadway or the jukebox musical—at the same time you’re enjoying excellent vocal performances. Scott Siegel’s Broadway by the Year series is a fascinating look at shows on Broadway in a selected year or era. Past concerts have featured guests like Tonya Pinkins (Jelly’s Last Jam) and Betsy Wolfe (& Juliet).
Check the schedules of these venues for appearances by theater greats when you’re planning your next trip to NYC—or just your next night on the town.
Café Carlyle is an upscale venue where plenty of greats have made history—it’s practically a character in the documentary Elaine Stritch: At Liberty.
The Green Room 42 is a cabaret venue that programs concerts by Broadway singers and shows like At This Performance, at which Broadway’s standbys, understudies and alternates take center stage.
Laurie Beechman Theatre, below the West Bank Cafe (itself a classic Theatre District hangout), is a great spot to catch music and cabaret. Past shows have included Broadway Sessions, a variety show featuring current casts on the Great White Way.