Winner of the JerseyArts.com 2009 People's Choice Award for favorite Professional Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse has been opening the curtain on top-quality musical theater and plays since its debut in 1938. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Tony Award-winning musical comedy, follows the travails of a group of young students participating in their countywide spell off. With hilarious tunes and frequent fourth wall demolition, the musical expertly tickles audience funny femurs while filling their ears with the harmonious euphony of the Tony-nominated score. Groupon buyers will leave the theater with a Paper Mill Playhouse cup (a $5 value), allowing patrons of the arts to signal their theater affiliation to rival gangs of symphony and museum cup holders.
In town for one performance only, The Fab Four—The Ultimate Beatles Tribute sends audiences on a time-bending trip to the 1960s soundtracked by the lads from Liverpool’s greatest hits and die-hard fan favorites. Emceed by an actor channeling Ed Sullivan, the multimedia production boasts a talented cast showing off their uncanny impersonations of John, Paul, George, and MacGyver. Live note-for-note re-creations of the group’s classic hits include renditions of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Yesterday,” “A Day in the Life,” and “Hey Jude.” With three costume changes, the show covers the Beatles' developing style, from the early days through Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to their brief stint as country band Uncle Ringo and the Hungry Blues. The touring production plays the palatial St. George Theatre, where the baroque furnishings offer plenty of murals, tiled fountains, and sculpted figures to keep eyes entertained before the show.
One of the nation's most esteemed Shakespeare outfits, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has brought the playwright's work to life for the past half-century. But the troupe takes its name more as an inspiration than a strict limit, also mounting productions of other classics by writers such as Thornton Wilder and Noël Coward. Once a summer, the company takes to the College of Saint Elizabeth's outdoor amphitheater—modeled after Athens' Theater of Dionysius, a favorite venue for Shakespeare performances in Greece—to present the bard's work in the way he intended: alive under the open sky.
Playwrights Theatre stages productions of up-and-coming plays each year through its New Play Development program. The 2010–2011 season keeps the theatre's long-standing commitment to fresh ars theatrica with three works: Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods by Tammy Ryan, MoM A Rock Concert Musical by Richard Caliban, and Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie by Julie Jensen. Your season subscription to Playwrights Theatre entitles you to view all three performances, receive a 50% discount on two tickets for family or friends, gain admittance to opening-night parties, and attend post-show talkbacks about new-play development and the inside story on plays. You'll also receive a pass to the FORUM staged reading series, enough to attend a reading of each of the series' 13 new plays and discuss the material with artists in an intimate setting.
An almost sixteen million dollar renovation in late 2008 restored the Beacon Theater, an Upper West Side vintage movie palace, to its former glory. Built in 1928 to feature both films and vaudeville acts managed by Samuel L. Rothafel (the impresario behind Radio City Music Hall) the Beacon Theater drips with neoclassical, rococo and Orientalist design elements. The freshly remodeled house now seats nearly 3,000 patrons across three different levels, each with great views of the action before them. What’s more, the acoustics at the Beacon Theater are excellent, making the sonic space a draw for traveling musicians. Some of the stage’s most famous performers have included Paul Simon, the Grateful Dead, the Pet Shop Boys and the Rolling Stones, though new acts arrive weekly, looking to fill the room with adoring fans.
At the intersection of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue in the East Village, the 299-seat Orpheum Theatre has been staging performances and projecting films behind its red-brick, neo-classical façade for more than a century. What the interior lacks in old world grandness, it more than makes up in intimacy, thanks to its two narrow levels, which makes every seat in the house a good one. Achieving greater notoriety in the 1980s for premiering the musical Little Shop of Horrors, the theater went on to become the home of the percussive Stomp, which has lived here since 1994. Since then, the walls have gradually filled with a mélange of street-life ephemera related to the show; subway signs, motorcycle parts, chains and metal scaffolding all give the room a theatrically urban ambiance.