Right now the theater world is obsessed with the contest for the Tony Awards: Who’s ahead, who’s behind, and who got snubbed. A handful of plays and musicals—and scads of actors and designers—will be biting their nails in anticipation of the glitzy ceremony on June 10. Much as we wish all the Tony hopefuls luck, we also think this is a good time to look beyond the Great White Way and see what equally brilliant work might be playing downtown or in Brooklyn. If we gave out golden statues to overlooked shows, these would be first on our list.
You can be sure every parent in the tristate area is being badgered by their children, who are begging—no, demanding—to see Harry Potter on Broadway. But how about something different but no less magical? The wonderful New Victory Theater is presenting an interactive show in which young audience members follow the footprints left by a panda who lives in China. Your kids will learn all about China’s history, culture, and amazing inventions (yes, fireworks!). 209 West 42nd Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Midtown; June 7–17; $20
Broadway geeks already know what links My Fair Lady, now playing at Lincoln Center, to this lesser-known work from 1965: Both feature book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Now the Irish Rep is reviving On a Clear Day, starring Stephen Bogardus, Phantom of the Opera‘s John Cudia, and the luminous Melissa Errico. The quirky musical concerns a woman trying to quit smoking through hypnosis and the psychologist who falls in love with her—and her past self. Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), Chelsea; June 15–August 12; $50–$70
Like Mean Girls?
Try This Ain’t No Disco
Who’s meaner than Tina Fey’s high school alpha gals? Maybe the club-hopping queens in this musical, set in the bad old days of 1979 New York. The show tracks the seedy, glamorous, and doomed worlds of Studio 54 and Mudd Club and has everything: sex, drugs, mirror balls, and gender anarchy. The period-style tunes are courtesy of Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s Stephen Trask, along with Peter Yanowitz (the Wallflowers). Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), Chelsea; June 29–August 12; $25–$80
If you made it through four hours of barroom nihilism in Iceman, you are in peak condition for Eugene O’Neill’s equally brutal family drama. The great Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville star as James Tyrone and his morphine-addicted wife, Mary, in this London transfer. Clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, it’s a breeze. BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Fort Greene; through May 27; $35–$150
Like The Band’s Visit?
Try Gone Missing
For those who love musicals that push the boundaries of subject matter and style, The Band’s Visit is like manna in the desert. However, you might also want to try a revival of the 2003 “docu-musical” by the troupe The Civilians. With a witty, glittering score by the late Michael Friedman, this show examines the concepts of loss and absence—people, memories, prized objects. It’s like an episode of This American Life set to really smart pop tunes. New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), Midtown; July 11 and 12; $25–$125