5 Must-See Long-Running Off-Broadway Shows

5 Must-See Long-Running Off-Broadway Shows

Catch an exciting performance of "Stomp" at the Orpheum Theatre (Courtesy "Stomp")

As much as I love going to Broadway shows, there is something so special about attending an Off-Broadway performance. These more intimate shows—Off-Broadway venues seat between 100 and 499 guests—offer audiences an eclectic range of stories and experiences, as not all are straight-forward plays or musicals. Some shows appeal to a wide audience and are family-friendly, while others are more niche with a plot geared toward a smaller, yet wildly passionate crowd. Here are just a handful of longer-running Off-Broadway shows that shouldn’t be missed. 

"Stomp" (Orpheum Theatre in the East Village): This loud, popular, high-energy show combines dance, music and theatricality as performers use objects like trashcan lids, broomsticks and boxes to create percussive rhythms. The reminder that there is music to be made with or without instruments is uplifting and just plain fun. The show got its start in the United Kingdom in 1991 and made its way to NYC in 1994, where it’s dazzled audiences and won Obie and Drama Desk awards. "Stomp" is appropriate for ages four and up (children under age four will not be permitted in the theater). 

"Avenue Q" (New World Stages in Theater District/Hell’s Kitchen): Though there are puppets and people interacting like “Sesame Street,” this musical deals with depression, porn, unemployment, relationships and racism in a manner that is appropriate for adults and mature teens. This show got its start Off-Broadway in 2003 at the Vineyard Theatere before transferring to Broadway that summer. I saw the show twice, once on Broadway (where it won the 2004 Tony Award for Best New Musical) and again Off-Broadway a couple years ago, where it’s been at New World Stages since 2009. The material is just as timely now as ever and will make you contemplate real life woes while you laugh at the clever book and songs. I still listen to the soundtrack from "Avenue Q" on the regular.

"Blue Man Group" (Astor Place Theatre in NoHo): This performance art group was started by three friends—Phil Stanton, Chris Wink and Matt Goldman—in 1991 and has been running at the Astor Place Theatre ever since. A trio of bald, blue men creates their entertaining spectacle by fusing music, technology and comedy to engage audiences of all ages. Though there are "Blue Man Group" performances in a handful of cities across the U.S., as well as Berlin and a World Tour, New York City is the home of this colorful collaboration and it’s extra special to be able to see these guys in the same venue where "Blue Man Group" got its start.

"The Fantasticks" (Jerry Orbach Theater at the Snapple Theater Center in Times Square): This love story involving neighbors who trick their offspring, Matt and Luisa, into falling in love, has the honor of being the longest-running musical in history. The original 1960 Off-Broadway production ran for over 40 years, playing 17,162 performances at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village. A revival was launched in 2006 at the Snapple Theater Center and is still running to the delight of theatergoers.

"Cagney The Musical" (Westside Theatre Upstairs in the Theater District/Hell’s Kitchen): Okay, so this musical has only been running in NYC since March 2016, but it had successful runs out of state beginning in 2009. I saw this show last summer and still can’t get over the amazing tap numbers. Star Robert Creighton (who also co-wrote the music and lyrics) shines as Hollywood tough guy James Cagney, who was also one of the best hoofers of his day. The ensemble of six performs some of the most energetic and exciting tap routines you’ll ever see on a New York stage. This show beautifully combines Cagney’s life story with ovation-worthy routines and makes for an extremely memorable trip to the theater.

Robert Creighton (center) and the company of "Cagney The Musical" (©Carol Rosegg)

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