Special Reports

11 Shows We Are Grateful For This Thanksgiving

TheaterMania’s editorial staff names 11 shows worth giving thanks for.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are thankful for, and for us that means theater. Here are 10 shows currently running, and one about to reopen, in New York, on and off-Broadway, that TheaterMania's writers and editors are grateful to have experienced and want to share with you.

1. The Ferryman
As Broadway producers have opted for smaller casts and shorter run times, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman boldly bucks the trend with a cast of 21 performing for three-and-a-half hours — and your eyes will be glued to the stage the whole time. Sam Mendes directs a magnetic production that evokes rural Ireland with small children and live animals (going against another bit of conventional wisdom). None of that would matter without a great story, and Butterworth delivers in the tale of a retired IRA militant distressed by how the next generation of his family is being increasingly sucked into the conflict in Northern Ireland. The Ferryman is a gut-wrenching look at freedom, responsibility, and the limitations of turning the other cheek. We should all be thankful that such sophisticated new drama can still find a home on Broadway. —Zachary Stewart

2. Fiddler Afn Dakh (or, Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish)
Joel Grey's Yiddish-language production of Fiddler on the Roof is the most moving and romantic show off-Broadway, and here's how I know: When I reviewed it in July, I marveled at how emotionally overwhelming it was to hear these iconic characters speaking and singing in a language that would be their native Anatevkan tongue, in a theater across the river from Ellis Island, where they would have landed when they came to America at the end. When I saw it again in September, it was emotional for different reasons, particularly during "Sunrise, Sunset." What I knew then — and what my plus-one didn't know — was that I would propose to her immediately following the performance, and we would become engaged. And now I have to go practice my bottle dance for my wedding. —David Gordon

Heidi Schrek wrote and stars in What the Constitution Means to Me.
Heidi Schreck wrote and stars in What the Constitution Means to Me.
(© Joan Marcus)

3. What the Constitution Means to Me
The title of this show made me think of Schoolhouse Rock's "Preamble Song," so I was already predisposed to like it. But when my colleague Zachary Stewart wrote of writer-performer Heidi Schreck's production "[it's] an X-ray examination of our republic's founding document that brilliantly straddles the border between ode and indictment," I knew it was exactly what I needed to see at this moment in time. Schreck's show highlights both the brilliance and the betrayal of our Constitution (especially when it comes to women), and her performance is visceral and exciting to witness. While most theater can tap into at least one feeling, Schreck roller-coasters you through every emotion before spitting you out of the theater, filled with hope and a pocket-size Constitution. —Ashley Van Buren

4. The Band's Visit
Sometimes big things come in small packages. Take Broadway Tony winner The Band's Visit, a modest-size musical that looms large with a lush, haunting score and a moving story about those quiet, unexpected encounters that can change us forever. The show features Katrina Lenk, who originated the role of Dina off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater and earned a Tony Award this year. Heading into the holiday season, I'm grateful not only for Lenk's captivating performance but also for the musical's reminder that people from different places and backgrounds can come together peacefully to share small moments of compassion and joy. —Pete Hempstead

5. The Prom
Broadway is in the middle of a musical-comedy drought, and The Prom (which opened in the middle of a frozen rainstorm) has led us to water. Between Beautiful, The Cher Show, and Summer, we're set on the bio-musical front; screen-to-stage adaptations will never be in short supply; The Band's Visit has cornered the market on award-worthy delicacy; and of course Hamilton is Hamilton. But there aren't many places to go if you have an uncomplicated taste for good jokes, good (original) music, and great Broadway dancing. The Book of Mormon has been the answer to that call for the past eight years, so I suppose The Prom — with its joy-making cast of Broadway divas and irreverent sense of humor — implicitly affirms that the genre is director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw's responsibility. And for taking up that mantle I am eternally grateful. —Hayley Levitt

Edmund Donovan and Noah Robbins star in Clarkston, the latter half of Lewiston/Clarkston.
Edmund Donovan and Noah Robbins star in Clarkston, the latter half of Lewiston/Clarkston.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

6. Lewiston/Clarkston
Few plays are offering as brilliant a sum-up of America in this fraught contemporary moment than Lewiston/Clarkston. Currently running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, this double bill of two Samuel D. Hunter one-acts evokes a mournful vision of the decline of a distinctly American brand of exploration without beating you over the head with its importance. Instead, it funnels its concerns through a pair of three-character stories, the searing intimacy of these tales intensified by director Davis McCallum's starkly austere production. This feast of emotionally devastating theater will leave you reflecting on the state of our union for a long time. —Kenji Fujishima

7. Torch Song
For those who prefer latkes to mashed potatoes and talking turkey to eating it, Torch Song is the show for you. In this streamlined revival of Harvey Fierstein's 1982 play, Michael Urie stars as Arnold Beckoff, a sharp-tongued, softhearted Jewish drag queen who yearns for domesticity. Society denies him the heteronormativity it preaches, but Arnold forges a family nonetheless — a bisexual lover in lieu of a husband, a ward of the state instead of a child. Completing the portrait is a kvetching mother torn between love and disapproval. No matter: The magic of Arnold's life is in the messiness, which the show revels in when it's not breaking your heart. —Dan Stahl

Sam Clemmett (center) leads the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Sam Clemmett (center) leads the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
(© Matthew Murphy)

8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
It's no secret to anybody that Broadway isn't the easiest place to adapt beloved pop-culture properties. Recent efforts have tended to be either strained reimaginings attempting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with much higher budgets, or a one-trick pony with a spectacular centerpiece wrapped in nothing of interest. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child excels at the core task, though: It's a fantastic production. You're coming for the familiar faces and promised magic, which I would never recount here, because…#keepthesecrets. But you're going to stay for the fundamentals. John Tiffany's staging is brisk and imaginative, and it's supported by some of the best design work on Broadway. While Harry Potter is full of treats, they're always the dessert earned from a full meal. —Jason Zednick

9. The Other Josh Cohen
And now for something completely different: a romantic musical comedy! The Other Josh Cohen is the most fun I've had in the theater in years. This tiny show packs a big punch with a cast of seven that play at least 30 instruments among them. David Rossmer and Steve Rosen have written a musical that makes you want to keep coming back because it is 90 minutes of pure joy. What more could you want in a night out at the theater? Plus, their cast album is more star-studded than the recently reimagined Greatest Showman album — perfect for drowning out your family this weekend when the turkey talk turns political. —Seth Walters

10. Head Over Heels
I didn't go in expecting to fall head over heels for Head Over Heels, a new musical featuring the music of 1980s pop rock band the Go-Go's — I tend to prefer my theater more socially conscious than commercial. But within moments of curtain up on the show-opening rendition of "We Got the Beat," featuring a diverse cast in neon Renaissance-ish costumes, my heels were starting to bounce. And I couldn't keep my heart from bouncing along too as the show paired iambic pentameter with the Go-Go's cutely clever lyrics and a gay love story with a 16th-century romance novel. In Broadway's most charmingly weird jukebox musical, "The whole world's out of sync" but I "can't stop myself" — I'm "head over heels." —Bethany Rickwald

11. King Kong
I'm grateful to live in a city where I can see something I've never seen before — a 20-foot-tall, 2,400-pound puppet that requires 15 people to operate. When, out of politeness, non-theatergoing friends ask me what I've seen lately, the bullet points of this bloated spectacle trigger double takes. Will they see subtlety? No. Will they exit humming the music? Not quite. But will it get them to the theater for the first time in years? If a giant gorilla puppet can't, then I don't know what can. If they go, they'll be reminded that NYC is a delightful place where, if people fail, then at least they can fail BIG. —James Monohan

Featured In This Story

The Band’s Visit

Closed: April 7, 2019