Broadway recently announced that it won't reopen its doors until at least June 2021. While there are plenty of ways to view filmed versions of old musicals and plays online (check out BroadwayHD), the shutdown means that it'll be much harder to get your fix of cutting-edge new theatrical works. Luckily, some of the most lauded shows of the past five seasons — from Pulitzer-winning musicals to whip-smart comedy specials to innovative concerts — have been filmed for posterity, and many are available to stream on your favorite platforms. Here is a watchlist for theater lovers that will hopefully get you over the hump until you can plan your next big trip to the Great White Way.
The Show: American Utopia
Performances: Oct, 4, 2019–Feb. 16, 2020 at the Hudson Theatre
Why You Should Watch: Former Talking Heads singer David Byrne, 68, made a name for himself in the 1970s and ‘80s for his innovative and artful approach to pop music, and his outsize spirit of creativity is on full display in this theatrical concert, which British music magazine NME wrote “just may be the best live show of all time.” Byrne is joined onstage by 11 musicians from around the world, who dance, march, sing and play for 100 minutes of perpetual motion. It's all captured on film by another New York legend, director Spike Lee, 63.
You'll Love It If You Like: the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense.
Where to Watch: American Utopia, on HBO and HBO Max
The Show: What the Constitution Means to Me
Performances: March 14, 2019–Aug. 24, 2019 at the Hayes Theater
Why You Should Watch: In this warm and thought-provoking one-woman show, playwright Heidi Schreck recreates Constitutional debate speeches she delivered as a teen to earn scholarship money from the American Legion. You'll learn a ton about the namesake founding document, as well as immigration, women's equality, domestic abuse, and the Supreme Court — topics that seem more important than ever just before the election. The show went on to be nominated for best play at the Tonys and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
You'll Love It If You Like: the Emmy-winning special Nanette by Australian standup comedian Hannah Gadsby.
Where to Watch: What the Constitution Means to Me, on Amazon Prime
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The Show: Freestyle Love Supreme
Performances: Sept. 13, 2019–Jan. 12, 2020 at the Booth Theatre
Why You Should Watch: Back while he was working on In the Heights in 2005, Lin-Manuel Miranda cofounded the improvisational hip-hop comedy musical group Freestyle Love Supreme, with a rotating cast that included Wayne Brady and Hamilton's Daveed Diggs and Chris Jackson. If you missed their short run of Broadway performances this year, watch the Hulu documentary We Are Freestyle Love Supreme, which includes behind-the-scenes footage and performances filmed over the past 15 years.
You'll Love It If You Like: Hamilton and Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Where to Watch: We Are Freestyle Love Supreme, on Hulu
The Show: Mike Birbiglia: The New One
Performances: Oct. 25, 2018–Jan. 20, 2019 at the Cort Theatre
Why You Should Watch: You might know Birbiglia from his many stand-up specials or his appearances in films like Trainwreck and TV shows like Orange Is the New Black. In his latest autobiographical one-man show — his first on Broadway — he charts his unlikely path to parenthood; he has a long way to go, considering that he starts by rattling off seven specific reasons he'll never have a child. If the show strikes a chord with you, check out the companion book he wrote with his wife, poet Jen Stein.
You'll Love It If You Like: the confessional storytelling style of David Sedaris or Jim Gaffigan.
Where to Watch: Mike Birbiglia: The New One, on Netflix
The Show: The Prom
Performances: Oct. 23, 2018–Aug. 11, 2019 at the Longacre Theatre
Why You Should Watch: In this charming musical, four out-of-work Broadway actors stage the ultimate PR stunt when they head to a conservative town in Indiana to help a lesbian high school student who has been banned from bringing her girlfriend to prom. The show was an instant cult hit, but it couldn't quite survive in a crowded season. Ryan Murphy, 54 — who is known for such projects as Glee and American Crime Story — revives the musical with a Netflix film adaptation starring Meryl Streep (71), Nicole Kidman (53), and James Corden.
You'll Love It If You Like: Schitt's Creek, which also follows a washed-up actress making waves in a small town.
Where to Watch: The Prom, coming to Netflix
The Show: American Son
Performances: Oct. 6, 2018–Jan. 27, 2019 at the Booth Theatre
Why You Should Watch: It's hard to think of a timelier show than Christopher Demos-Brown's emotionally wrenching play. Separated parents — played by Scandal's Kerry Washington and Rescue Me's Steven Pasquale — sit in a Miami police station late one night waiting to hear news about their missing biracial son. The play's original director, Kenny Leon, helms the movie version, which received an Emmy nomination for best TV movie. (Bring the tissues.)
You'll Love It If You Like: topical movies about race in America, such as Fruitvale Station and Do the Right Thing.
Where to Watch: American Son, on Netflix
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The Show: SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical
Performances: Nov. 6, 2017–Sept. 16, 2018 at the Palace Theatre
Why You Should Watch: Don't write off this good-natured family musical just because it's based on a Nickelodeon cartoon: Sure, it's sweet and silly, following the underwater goings-on of the namesake sponge and his friends in Bikini Bottom, but it has an incredible musical pedigree. Rather than being written by just one composer, songs were divvied up among such legends as David Bowie, Steven Tyler (72), and Cyndi Lauper (67), plus contemporary hitmakers you love, like John Legend and Sara Bareilles. The musical — which tied for the most Tony nominations in 2018 with 12 — was captured on film for the televised special The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage!
You'll Love It If You Like: irreverent, kid-friendly shows like Shrek the Musical (which is streaming on Netflix).
Where to Watch: SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, on Amazon Prime
The Show: John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons
Performances: Oct. 19, 2017–Feb. 25, 2018 at Studio 54
Why You Should Watch: Inspired by the almost total lack of Latin heroes in his son's history textbooks, Colombian-American multihyphenate John Leguizamo, 56, set about to create his own curriculum, cramming 3,000 years of history — from the Mayans and the Aztecs to Pitbull — into 110 minutes. The finished product is standup–meets–TED Talk, complete with charts, timelines and maps that Leguizamo scrawls on his blackboard like some mad (but brilliant) professor.
You'll Love It If You Like: any of Leguizamo's past one-man shows, such as Freak and Ghetto Klown.
Where to Watch: John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons, on Netflix
The Show: Springsteen on Broadway
Performances: Oct. 3, 2017–Dec. 15, 2018 at the Walter Kerr Theatre
Why You Should Watch: This concert residency by the Bard of the Garden State was one of the hottest tickets in Broadway history. Prices maxed out at $850 on Ticketmaster, but scalpers sold seats for upward of $6,700! Springsteen, 71, has said that the 960-seat theater is one of the smallest houses in which he has performed in decades, allowing for a spare, intimate set built around storytelling and stripped-down arrangements. If you couldn't score a seat, Netflix debuted the filmed version mere hours after the final performance.
You'll Love It If You Like: Bruce's critically acclaimed 2016 autobiography Born to Run.
Where to Watch: Springsteen on Broadway, on Netflix
The Show: Oh, Hello on Broadway
Performances: Sept. 22, 2016–Jan. 22, 2017 at the Lyceum Theatre
Why You Should Watch: You might not know Nick Kroll and John Mulaney by name, but you'll certainly recognize their faces: As a Saturday Night Live writer, Mulaney created the breakout character Stefon and has hosted three times, while Kroll starred on the fantasy football–themed sitcom The League. In this absurdly hilarious two-hander, they play Gil Faizon (Kroll) and George St. Geegland (Mulaney), two Upper West Siders with a shared love for theater, Alan Alda, Steely Dan, and tuna fish sandwiches.
You'll Love It If You Like: the comedy specials of Steve Martin, 75, or Martin Short, 70.
Where to Watch: Oh, Hello on Broadway, on Netflix
The Show: Hamilton: An American Musical
Performances: Opened July 13, 2015, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre
Why You Should Watch: What more is there to say about Lin-Manuel Miranda's once-in-a-generation masterpiece? The rap musical about Founding Father (and spoiler alert: duel victim) Alexander Hamilton racked up the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy and the Kennedy Center Honors. One of the bright spots of 2020 was when Disney+ decided to surprise-release a filmed version with the original Broadway cast just in time for Independence Day.
You'll Love It If You Like: that original Founding Fathers musical 1776 — or rap.
Be prepared to listen closely: The musical packs in an average of 144 words per minute.
Where to Watch: Hamilton, on Disney+