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9 Shows Where You Can See Your Favorite Movie and TV Stars — Up Close

You'll find plenty of famous faces this season in New York — without buying a Broadway ticket.

If you're like lots of folks who visit New York, "Broadway" is one of the boxes to check off on your list of things to do. That's where big blockbusters like The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera live, and it's also where you're likely to see famous actors taking a turn on the boards, like Bryan Cranston in Network, and Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano in Sam Shepard's True West.

But anyone who knows New York theater will tell you that famous movie and television actors are also drawn to off-Broadway stages where they can flex their acting muscles with fresh material in front of smaller audiences. Glenn Close recently starred in the play Mother of the Maid at off-Broadway's Public Theater. And don't forget that before Lin-Manuel Miranda became a household name, he also appeared at the Public in the off-Broadway premiere of a little musical he had written: Hamilton.

So to encourage you to venture out from the familiar bright lights of Broadway, we've put together nine currently and soon-to-be running off-Broadway shows featuring actors whose names and faces you probably recognize from television, film, and elsewhere. While it's always a great experience to see your favorite stars on a Broadway stage, nothing beats seeing them up close and personal.

1. The Cake
Who's in it: Debra Jo Rupp
Where you've seen her: That '70s Show

Who can forget Debra Jo Rupp as the mom with the unforgettable laugh on the popular sitcom That '70s Show? In recent years, Rupp has done stints in regional theater across the country, notably portraying the iconic sex therapist Dr. Ruth in the solo play Becoming Dr. Ruth. She has now taken on the role of a character that's practically plucked from the headlines: a devout Christian baker who has qualms about baking a cake for a lesbian wedding. The play's plot sounds delicious enough, but adding a comedic talent like Rupp to the mix is the icing on top.

2. "Daddy"
Who's in it: Alan Cumming
Where you've seen him: X2: X-Men United, The Good Wife

Alan Cumming (right) with his "Daddy" costars Charlayne Woodard and Ronald Peet.
(© David Gordon)

Alan Cumming, who is best known to Broadway audiences for his Tony-winning performance as the Emcee in Cabaret, has just begun performances in "Daddy", a new play by Jeremy O. Harris, who took the downtown theater scene by storm last year with his controversial Slave Play. Cumming, who recently starred in The Good Wife but who's known to X-Men fans as Nightcrawler, plays an older white art collector who takes more than a passing interest in a young black artist. If Harris's previous work is any indication, the play will give new meaning to the phrase "daddy issues."

3. Freestyle Love Supreme
Who's in it: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Christopher Jackson, James Monroe Iglehart
Where you've seen them: Mary Poppins Returns, Black-ish, Bull, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) and Freestyle Love Supreme members Arthur Lewis, Andrew Bancroft, Bill Sherman, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Christopher Jackson, Anthony Veneziale, and Thomas Kail.
(© Janie Willison)

There's no guarantee that you're going to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform if you happen to be lucky enough to get tickets to Freestyle Love Supreme, but he is one of the rotating cast of Hamilton alums who step into each show. The others include Daveed Diggs (Black-ish), Christopher Jackson (Bull), and James Monroe Iglehart (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). They join the six-member freestyle group who spontaneously generates fresh hip-hop lyrics based on audience suggestions. With its short run, tickets are harder to get than those for Hamilton, but you can always try the cancellation line.

4. The Light
Who's in it: McKinley Belcher III
Where you've seen him: Ozark, The Passage

McKinley Belcher III, who can be seen on Fox's The Passage, is now starring in MCC's off-Broadway production of The Light.
(© David Gordon)

McKinley Belcher III made a name for himself on the New York stage in 2016 in the boxing drama The Royale, but TV audiences know him as Agent Trevor Evans on Netflix's Ozark and as Anthony Carter on Fox's new action drama The Passage. Belcher still makes time for the theater, though — and challenging theater at that. He currently stars in Loy A. Webb's The Light, a hard-hitting play about sexual assault. You may come to see Belcher, but you'll leave talking about a timely and troubling issue.

5. The Mother
Who's in it: Isabelle Huppert and Chris Noth
Where you've seen them: Elle, Sex and the City, The Good Wife

The cast of The Mother: Justice Smith, Isabelle Huppert, Odessa Young, and Chris Noth.
(photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company)

French cinema and Sex and the City fans won't want to miss The Mother, Florian Zeller's follow-up to his 2016 Tony-nominated play The Father. The Mother stars Isabelle Huppert, best known to American audiences for her Oscar-nominated turn in the crime thriller Elle. In The Mother, Huppert plays a woman who has devoted her life to her family only to later find her world crumbling around her. Costarring is Chris Noth. Sex and the City fans know him as Mr. Big, and The Good Wife viewers know him as Peter Florrick. Before you see this emotional work, you may want to call your mom.

6. Red State Blue State
Who's in it: Colin Quinn
Where you've seen him: Trainwreck, Girls

No political party is safe when Colin Quinn takes the stage in his new solo show Red State Blue State. The well-known stand-up comedian, who has appeared in films like Trainwreck as well as on HBO's Girls, dismantles our dysfunctional political machine with satirical takes on everything from American exceptionalism to the mistakes of the Founding Fathers. Liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between get to look at themselves in Quinn's fun-house mirror and see how as a country we all just tend to go a little too far.

7. Sea Wall / A Life
Who's in it: Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge
Where you've seen them: Brokeback Mountain, On the Road, Velvet Buzzsaw

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge, who both star in Netflix's Velvet Buzzsaw, can currently be seen off-Broadway in the Public's Sea Wall / A Life.
(© Joan Marcus)

Jake Gyllenhaal, who earned an Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain, is no stranger to the New York stage. His latest theatrical foray is happening at the Public in Nick Payne's A Life, running on a double bill with On the Road's Tom Sturridge, starring in Simon Stephens's Sea Wall (both actors can also currently be seen together in Netflix's supernatural thriller Velvet Buzzsaw). Both works, which deal with the meaning of love and the importance of the people in our lives, showcase these actors in one of the theater's most challenging genres: the solo play.

8. Toni Stone
Who's in it: Uzo Aduba
Where you've seen her: Orange Is the New Black

Long before Uzo Aduba was nominated for two Golden Globes for her role as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, she was gaining recognition for her work on Washington, DC, stages and elsewhere. In May, she is returning to New York to star in the world premiere of Toni Stone, a solo show that tells the story of the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues. With Aduba in this role, Toni Stone is well on its way to hitting a home run.

9. White Noise
Who's in it: Daveed Diggs
Where you've seen him: Black-ish, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Blindspotting, Velvet Buzzsaw (and, of course, Hamilton)

Since winning a Tony Award for his performance as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton, Daveed Diggs has been on an acting tear, bringing his charm and distinctive style to TV shows like Black-ish and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and to films like Blindspotting and Velvet Buzzsaw. In March he'll take the stage at the Public in the world premiere of the racially charged drama White Noise, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks. With such acting and writing talent behind it, White Noise is bound to have audiences all ears.

For more off-Broadway suggestions, visit our listings page here.

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