Seeing a Broadway show is an absolute must for anyone visiting New York City. However, this town, and surrounding tri-state area, offers such a wide range of entertainment possibilities, I encourage you to go beyond Broadway to experience it all.
Many theaters -- in the other boroughs, New York State, Connecticut, and New Jersey -- are easily accessible by public transportation and the tickets are reasonably priced. Often, you can get seats at these venues for the same shows -- or performers -- that are sold out (at twice the price) at mid-town venues. And, several of these theaters are near great restaurants for a wonderful Cultural & Culinary combo.
Lincoln Center-David Rubenstein Atrium (Broadway bet 62nd & 63rd Sts.; tel. 212/875-5350; www.lincolncenter.org/atrium)
For the first time in its 50-year history, Lincoln Center is offering same-day, discount tickets to all its events. The discount booth, located in the new Atrium, begins service Jan. 7, 2010. Free concerts in the Atrium on Thursdays at 8:30pm, starting right now. Yippee!
Harlem Stage (The Gatehouse, 150 Convent Ave., at 135th St.; tel. 212/281-9240; www.harlemstage.org)
Tickets: Free-$50, with most events less than $20.
Housed in an historic, New York City landmark--the Croton Aqueduct's former Gatehouse--this lovely venue keeps the artistic legacy of Harlem alive while showcasing new and emerging artists in music and dance. Several youth-oriented and family-friendly programs, many of them for free.
Nearby Eats: La Palma (1502 Amsterdam Ave., at 134th St.; tel. 212/283-1149)
Inexpensive local place; roast chicken with rice & beans and plantains (or pizza.)
Getting There: Subway (#1) to 137th St. Walk a few blocks south to 135th St. & east to Convent Ave. About 30 mins.
BAM-Brooklyn Academy of Music (30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY; tel. 718/636-4100; www.bam.org)
BAM offers an international selection of world-class theater, dance and music. Hands down, some of the most exciting performances anywhere (including movies and opera). And, the audience is filled with all those cool, hip New Yorkers you've heard about. Two venues: the BAM Opera House (BAM Rose Cinemas & BAMcafé) and the BAM Harvey Theater.
Nearby Eats: Junior's (386 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY; tel. 718/852-5257; www.juniorscheesecake.com)
World-famous cheesecake and overstuffed sandwiches the size of a small house.
Getting There: Several subways to Atlantic Avenue (or Nevins), a few blocks from both venues. (Or, after a show, take the BAM bus back to Manhattan.) About 45 mins.
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts (2900 Campus Rd., Brooklyn, NY; tel. 718/951-4500; www.brooklyncenteronline.org)
This lesser-known venue, on the Brooklyn College campus, has great concerts, dance performances and some theater as well as wonderful programs for children.
Getting There: Subway (#2) to Brooklyn College/Flatbush Avenue. Enter campus through gate opposite Hillel Place, just a few blocks away. About 1 hr.
Westport Country Playhouse (25 Powers Ct., Westport, CT; tel. 203/227-5137; www.westportplayhouse.org)
Tickets: $35 - $65
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were longtime stewards of this venue that presents a selection of delightful plays with wonderful actors.
Nearby Eats: Dressing Room (27 Powers Ct., Westport, CT; tel. 203/226-1114; www.dressingroomhomegrown.com)
Right next to the Playhouse. Newman was the impetus behind this terrific, "locavore" (organic food, locally grown) restaurant. Be sure to make reservations well in advance.
Getting There: Grand Central, Metro North train to Westport. Then, a 10-min. taxi ride. (Westport Star Taxi; tel. 203/227-5157). About an hour and a half.
Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Dr., Millburn, NJ; tel. 973/376-4343; www.papermill.org)
The Paper Mill offers a selection of great plays and musicals you've always wanted to see.
Nearby Eats: There's a café at the theater but Millburn's Main Street (www.downtownmillburn.org/districtdirectory/), just a few blocks away, is worth exploring -- several ice cream parlors, coffee shops and restaurants.
Getting There: Penn Station, NJ Transit train -- Midtown direct Dover train to Millburn. Short walk or taxi ride to the theater. About an hour and a quarter.
State Theater (15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, NJ; tel. 732/246-7469; www.statetheatrenj.org)
Known for its concert series featuring headliners (at affordable prices), this venue also presents musicals, ballets and seasonal entertainment events.
Nearby Eats: Lots of nice restaurants near the theater-- Clydz (with martini bar), Tumulty's Irish Pub, Harvest Moon Brewery, and Panico's Brick Oven Pizza.
Getting There: Penn Station, NJ Transit train-Northeast Corridor Line to New Brunswick, just a few blocks walk to the theater. About an hour and a quarter.
Other Good Venues Beyond Broadway
Brooklyn: St. Ann's Warehouse (38 Water St., Brooklyn, NY; tel. 718/254-8779; www.stannswarehouse.org)
Long Island, NY: Tilles Center-Long Island University (720 Northern Blvd., Brookville, NY; tel. 516/299-3100; www.tillescenter.org)
New Jersey: NJPAC-New Jersey Performing Arts Center (One Center St., Newark, NJ; tel. 888/GO-NJPAC; www.njpac.org); Music on Main Street (United Methodist Church, 69 Main St., Woodbridge, NJ; tel. 732/602-6015; www.woodbridgeartsnj.com)