6 Shows You Should See in August
Chill out with some cool theater this summer.
Don't expect the New York theater to take a vacation just because it's August. Summer's sweatiest month has its fair share of frenetic stage spectacles, and I'm recommending three. I'm also suggesting three cabaret performances that can be enjoyed with a nice icy drink — the ideal way to escape from the summer heat even if you're not escaping from Manhattan.
1. Coriolanus (through August 11)
The arrogant elite clash with feckless populists in a battle for the republic's soul. No, it's not the latest news from Washington, but the plot of Coriolanus, the second production of this summer's Shakespeare in the Park season at the Delacorte Theater. Jonathan Cake stars in the title role, with Kate Burton playing his politically savvy mother, Volumnia. Daniel Sullivan, who has helmed some of the best-loved Delacorte shows of the past decade, directs a production that looks big, dirty, and passionate. Come for Cake's glistening biceps, and stay for Shakespeare's startlingly relevant political thriller.
2. Bat Out Of Hell — The Musical (August 1-September 8)
Yes, it's really happening. Jim Steinman's musical about teenage rebellion and sex is playing a truncated version of the New York City Center run that was announced last year, shortly before the North American tour was cancelled. It features songs from the cult classic 1977 album Steinman composed for Meat Loaf, and takes place in a dystopian Neverland called Obsidian. It all sounds like a perfectly extravagant rock opera for a hot summer night. And even if the show ends up being a hot summer mess, you'll want to see the theatrical event that TheaterMania's David Gordon called "as epic as it gets."
3. Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer (August 6-27)
Downtown legend Penny Arcade returns to Joe's Pub after performing her free-speech revival Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! as part of this year's Under the Radar Festival. Lashing out against political correctness and the corporatization of everything, Arcade covers similar territory in Longing, a totally original solo show that's part cabaret, part stand-up. She also boldly asserts that at the age of 69, she absolutely won't stop dancing. Penny Arcade is like a time traveler from a more radical New York, and her message is guaranteed to refresh those weary from the last 30 years of gentrification of the city and the mind.
4. Latrice Royale: Here's to Life 2019 (August 21-23)
A fan favorite from all three seasons in which she competed, Latrice is undisputed RuPaul's Drag Race royalty, and now she's coming to a venue where drag holds court all year round: the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Describing herself as "not-so-straight outta Compton," Latrice sings songs (accompanied by husband Christopher Hamblin on the piano) and tells stories of her childhood, her illustrious drag career, and the events that led to her incarceration. Who knows, she might even spill a little T on her fellow Drag Racers. Fans won't want to miss this joyous celebration of life, which plays just three performances before Royale embarks on a gay tour of Fire Island and Provincetown.
5. Shoshana Bean at Feinstein's/54 Below (August 24-September 3)
Fresh off her run as Jenna in Waitress, Shoshana Bean plays a series of gigs at Broadway's favorite supper club, Feinstein's/54 Below. She will sing an all-Broadway program, including songs from roles she has played, roles she wants to play, and roles she will never play (or so she thinks). Honestly, Bean has one of the biggest voices in the theater, and I would see her in anything. Experiencing the raw power of her instrument in the intimate confines of 54 Below is an experience not to be missed.
6. Hercules (August 31-September 8)
The summer season at the Delacorte always end with a bang thanks to the Public Theater's Public Works program, in which professional artists collaborate with members of the community to put on a big show. This summer's project is a stage adaptation of the Disney animated feature Hercules, and it stars major Broadway talents like Roger Bart, James Monroe Iglehart, Krysta Rodriguez, and Jelani Alladin. Hercules is almost certainly Broadway-bound, so Disney fans will want to be sure to catch it while it's still in Central Park. As always, the tickets are completely free, but you have to enter a digital lottery in order to snag what promises to be the most in-demand ticket of the summer.