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One of the distinct advantages of living in New York City is the ability to spontaneously go see something. Got a free night? Grab rush tickets to Wicked, the Met Opera, or stop by a Bryant Park performance! But while snagging last-minute seats at a Broadway show is always a good use of your evening, don’t forget that Hell’s Kitchen is home to over 40 top-notch, innovative venues, producing some of the best new shows in town — many of them on W42nd Street or just a stone’s throw away. Best of all in this time of inflation — they are amazing value!

In addition to Off- and Off-Off-Broadway houses, we’ve included some of the area’s best cabaret, comedy and concert venues — another excellent way to spend an evening!

But what actually qualifies as Off-Broadway? Technically, theaters with seating capacity under 100 seats are considered Off-Off Broadway and theaters between 99 and 499 seats are considered Off-Broadway, but there are exceptions to the rule (City Center, while considered Off-Broadway, has over 2,000 seats!). Some believe Off/Off-Off-Broadway is a state of mind, producing theatre that leans less to the commercial and more to the experimental. What is clear is that regardless of venue size, many Off-Broadway theaters produce exciting new work that’s worth seeing and sometimes transfers to Broadway. Check them out and say you were there first! 

Read on for our guide to the best venues that are NOT Broadway — and support local neighborhood business and the arts in one fell swoop! Curtain Up!

Actors Temple Theatre — 339 W47th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
The Actors Temple is not only an actual house of worship (it’s the functioning synagogue of Congregation Ezrath Israel) but also a temple to creativity, housing a 199-seat Off-Broadway theater. Past productions included the well-regarded, long-running Soul Doctor, Wicked City Blues, Mandela and The Importance of Being Earnestly LGBTQ+.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater — 405 W55th Street, corner of 9th Avenue 
Home to the legendary American dance company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a gorgeous Off-Broadway venue showcasing new and cherished works from the repertory dance ensemble. The largest dedicated dance building in New York City houses a 275-seat theater and many state-of-the-art studios for the company’s educational wing.

Join Alvin Ailey Moves NYC! at the end of July. Ailey presents a free dance celebration for New York City, the cultural capital of the world.

American Theatre of Actors — 314 W54th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Founded in 1976, the American Theatre of Actors (ATA) is a long-standing Hell’s Kitchen repertory company as well as a rental venue with several blackbox and Off-Broadway classified (125-seat) theaters. More than 11,000 actors have appeared in ATA productions, including stars like Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Dan Lauria, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin O’Connor, William Fichtner, Edie Falco and Kathryn Hahn.

Now running…Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

AMT Theater — 354 W 45th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
A theater born with new works in mind, longtime Producer Al Tapper and Artistic Director Tony Sportiello have opened a brand-new Off-Broadway venue focused on showcasing first-run and workshop productions with Main Stem dreams. Tapper and Sportiello hope to serve as a launching pad for creatives looking to workshop their pieces and gain investors, as well as host yearly festivals and community-programming.

Now running…Youth production of Shrek Jr, premiere of producer Al Tapper’s musical revue, An Unbalanced Mind and new musical fable about thirty-somethings looking for love, Love Quirks

ART / New York Theatres — 502 W 53rd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
Short for the Alliance of Residence Theatres New York, the ART is a multiplex of performance spaces housing over 400 independent theater companies. ART assists artistic organizations with managing their rehearsal, office, training and performance venue spaces as well as their finances through grant writing, loans and advocacy work.

Bar Nine — 807 9th Avenue, between W53rd and W54th Street
Hell’s Kitchen’s very own dueling piano bar, Bar Nine makes for a brassy, boisterous evening of music across all genres (Broadway, country, jazz and more), where not only can you check out some of the best local talent in nightly cabarets, but join in on the fun yourself at their open mic and karaoke nights!

Now running…Masks and musicals open mic night, the rock and roll Bobby Allan Band and drag brunch lip synch performances.

Baryshnikov Arts Center — 450 W37th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue
Founded by legendary dancer, choreographer, and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, this 20,000-square foot Hudson Yards space houses not only several large dance studios for classes, artist residencies, and workshops, but also a 238-seat theater, which recently showcased Baryshnikov himself in a modern adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.

Birdland Jazz Club — 315 W44th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
An iconic venue that dominated the New York City music scene for decades, Birdland took a brief trip uptown before returning to Midtown 26 years ago. Combining the best of New York’s jazz landscape with the best of Broadway, Birdland hosts crossover concerts where artists showcase their talents in both genres. For a Birdland starter, check out Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, a round up of Broadway greats playing every Monday evening.

Now running…The Birdland Big Band, Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party and more!

Broadway Comedy Club — 318 W53rd Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
A tiny, hole-in-the-wall venue on W53rd, Broadway Comedy Club is the home to a constantly rotating stand-up and improv roster, including some really excellent musical improv and, for the brave, open mic nights!

Now running…the nightly Main Room standard stand up comedy show, cabaret/comedy mashup On the Spot, Julius Carr Drive By Comedy and more!

Castillo Theatre — 543 West 42nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
An Off-Broadway venue focused on cutting-edge political theater for young artists, the Castillo Theatre is home to a rotating season of groundbreaking, avant-garde productions featuring the bold-faced name stars of tomorrow. 

The Chain Theatre — 312 W36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Neighbors to The Tank, The Chain Theatre company was initially based out of Long Island City before moving to Midtown West. Dedicated to producing theatre and film work that “provokes a visceral response”, The Chain has collaborated with Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe and produces new works and re-investigated versions of existing works as well as yearly new piece festivals and classes.

Now running… the One Act Summer Play Festival.

Don’t Tell Mama — 343 W46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Now in their 40th year, Don’t Tell Mama is a favorite among locals and visitors alike for nightly cabarets at their piano bar, cafe and two additional performance spaces. In addition to up-and-coming performers, Don’t Tell Mama has had the good fortune of hosting such headliners as Liza Minnelli, Paul Newman, Joan Rivers, Bette Midler, Rosie O’Donnell, Chita Rivera, Kathy Griffin, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Mario Cantone and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Now running…Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton (the original Motel in Fiddler on the Roof) sing Stephen Sondheim and Oscar Hammerstein, Amy Beth Williams’s cabaret A Thousand Beautiful Things, Mac Award-winning cabaret artist Tanya Moberly sings Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim and more nightly showcases!

Ensemble Studio Theatre — 545 W52nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
Speaking of new works, another excellent incubator is the Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST), founded in 1968 and still going strong nearly six decades later. EST focuses on discovering original, authentic new shows from up-and-coming playwrights. Just a few of the artists who have made their theatrical writing debut at EST include Steve Martin, Shirley Lauro, Edward Allan Baker, Robert Askins, Darrah Cloud, Elizabeth Diggs, Richard Greenberg, Albert Innaurato, Eduardo Machado, Olivia Dufault, Cassandra Medley, José Rivera, John Patrick Shanley, Christopher Durang and Paul Weitz.

Feinstein’s/54 Below — 254 W54th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue
Known globally for its glitzy headliners, Feinstein’s/54 Below is a crossroads of up-and-coming theatrical talents and award-winning established artists. Check out a wide variety of solo cabarets, special benefit performances and exclusive reunion concerts with your favorite Broadway casts of yore.

Now running…  Joe Iconis and Family Live, Make them Hear You: An Ode to Black Musicals and more!

Green Room 42 — 570 10th Avenue at W42nd St
Tucked away in the Yotel Hotel is the sleek, modern Green Room 42, home to a well-regarded roster of cabarets and new musical workshops from today’s and tomorrow’s theatrical greats. Past headliners include Josh Groban, Tina Fey, Katharine McPhee, Sara Bareilles, Alice Ripley, Eva Noblezada, Reeve Carney, Lillias White and many more!

Now running…Drunk Shakespeare, new musical Jesus of Suburbia and a wide variety of summer rooftop movie screenings sprinkled in with a few cabarets!

INTAR Theatre — 500 W52nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
Open since 1966, the INTAR Theatre (short for International Artists Relations) company is dedicated to highlighting, uplifting and showcasing the work of Latine theater artists. Frequently the home of world-premiere works including those from Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Manuel Puig, José Rivera, Luis Santeiro, Migdalia Cruz, Caridad Svich, Carmelita Tropicana, Eduardo Machado and Anna in the Tropics from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. Now back on W52nd Street, Intar skillfully navigated the constraints of pandemic theater by putting on site-specific, socially distant shows around the neighborhood.

Irish Arts Center  — 726 11th Avenue, between W51st and W52nd Street
A consistently excellent source of quality theater, music and dance programming, the brand-new Irish Arts Center opened to much-fanfare late last year. The state-of-the-art $54 million project sponsored in part by Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne includes a poetry staircase, wood-paneled 200-seat theater and a pre- and post-show bar operated by reader favorite Ardesia Wine Bar.

Now running…Concerts from Declan O’Rourke, Pillow Queens in Residence and Muldoon’s Picnic.

Jazz at Lincoln Center — 10 Columbus Circle, between W58th and W59th Street 
A more intimate setting than some of the neighborhood’s other concert halls, the multiple venues within Jazz at Lincoln Center are an excellent place to catch a wide variety of jazz and jazz-influenced musical acts from artists around the globe, often with a spectacular view of Columbus Circle and Central Park South!

Now running… Currently between seasons on their main stage, intimate Dizzy’s Club hosts the Andy Milne Unison piano trio, a Cole Porter tribute at Songbook Sundays: Anything Goes, Aaron Diehl and Warren Wolfe honor John Lewis and more!

Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Cafe — 407 W42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue 
The clubby, Carlyle-esque venue below beloved West Bank Cafe, the Laurie Beechman Theatre is named after the late, great Broadway veteran and cabaret actress. The Beechman is home to a variety of solo concerts and cabarets.

Now running…Nightly stand-up comedy and cabarets abound!

MCC Theater — 511 W52nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
MCC’s newly renovated arts complex is a state-of-the-art Hell’s Kitchen venue and the latest for the over 50-year old Off-Broadway theater company, known as the incubator for buzzworthy new works such as Hand to God, Space Dogs and School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. Once again, we recommend grabbing a glass of wine or a bite to eat at the nearby Ardesia before enjoying some of New York’s best new works.

Now running…  Donja R White’s Soft, a New York Times critic’s pick about students in a correctional boarding school.

The New Group — often hosted at Signature Theatre, 480 W42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue
Known for their focus on new, boundary-pushing works both theatrical and multimedia, The New Group often takes up residence at Signature Theatre’s Hell’s Kitchen space (most recently with the world-premiere of new musical Black No More). Other notable past productions include Daddy, Cyrano (starring Peter Dinklage) and the new musical Clueless.

Now running…Pre-sale for Pulitzer Prize-finalist Will Arbery’s Evanston Salt Costs Climbing opens in August.

The New Victory Theater — 209 W42nd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue
One of the closest venues to Broadway itself, the New Victory Theater is a beloved Off-Broadway house focused on family-friendly programming for young audiences. Featuring a rotating program of theater, dance and music performances, the New Victory, per the New York Times, “puts trust in young audiences, treating children’s taste as no less sophisticated than adults.”

Now running…The New Victory summer dance program features a plethora of young-audience-focused performances, including showings from Les Ballet Afrik, Kinding Sindaw, Ballet Boy Productions and Passionfruit.

New York City Center — 131 W55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue
The gold standard for top-notch Off-Broadway musicals and dance performances, New York City Center is best known for its Encores series, in which long-unproduced shows are given new life, frequently headlined by a starry cast.

New World Stages — 340 W50th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Home to the Off-Broadway transfers of The Play That Goes Wrong and (now closed) Jersey Boys and Avenue Q, New World Stages is a multiplex of five theater spaces showing everything from children’s theater to new musicals like ¡Americano!, making it an excellent choice to catch lunch at the nearby Barking Dog in World Wide Plaza before heading to a matinee.

Now running… The Gazillion Bubble Show, The Play that Goes Wrong, Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo play this summer at World Wide Plaza.

Playhouse 46 at St Luke’s  — 308 W46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Another Hell’s Kitchen house of creative worship is Playhouse 46 at St Luke’s, founded by prominent New York-based artists and congregants of the progressive Lutheran church. Taking over the basement space previously occupied by the St Luke’s Playhouse, the new 160-seat Off-Broadway venue is a newly gut-renovated theater-in-the-round featuring new works like the widely acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival transfer Islander.

Playwrights Horizons — 416 W42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue
A New York cultural institution for over 50 years, Playwrights Horizons is known as the production birthplace of many seminal works, including but not limited to Sunday in the Park With George, Grey Gardens, Once On This Island, Falsettos and A Strange Loop. A show you see at Playwrights may very well go on to win the Pulitzer, a Tony, or simply an award as your own personal favorite, but regardless, their season is always worth catching. 

Now running… the world premiere of acclaimed playwright Will Arbery’s Corsicana.

Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater — 304 W47th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue 
Opened in 1977 as one of the first bilingual theaters in the US, the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater’s (PRTT) Manhattan location is a refurbished 19th century firehouse. The complex features a state-of-the-art 190-seat playhouse and rehearsal studio and is home to groundbreaking, world-premiere, multi-disciplinary shows with a focus on the Puerto Rican and Latine cultural experience.

Now running…A festival of classic Latine play readings called The Refocus Project.

The Producers Club  — 358 W44th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Tucked away up a set of stairs on W44th Street is the Producers Club, a five-venue complex composed of intimate, blackbox-style studio theaters and screening rooms. The Producers Club is frequently home to workshops and readings of new pieces, sketch comedy and improv shows and indie movie screenings.

Second Stage — 305 W43rd Street and 8th Avenue
Created as a venue for contemporary plays and musical to get a “second” wider run, Second Stage is a long-standing Off-Broadway staple, producing new works that become future classics, including Next to Normal, Between Riverside and Crazy, Metamorphosis, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and more.

Now running… Election dramedy 53% Of and “sports-inspired fantasia” Patience play will run uptown this summer — while on W42rd St the Tony Kiser Theater hosts new musical Between the Lines based on the novel by bestselling author Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha Van Leer.

The Shed — 545 W30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
One of the newer spaces in town, The Shed is Hudson Yards’s resident venue for a rotating program of theater, music, dance, digital media and immersive performances. Broken up into several performance spaces, The Shed includes a 500-seat theater and a 17,000-square foot open concept area for large-scale performances.

Now running…Open Call multi-sensory performance events run through the summer at The Shed, including the sold-out (standby line available) Yo-Yo Lin, who will explore the chronically ill body, JJJJJerome Ellis’s (also standby only) celebration of Black music and movement and Benjamin Akio Kimitch’s piece exploring the valleys of grief through Peking Opera, Japanese taiko drumming, and dance.

Signature Theatre — 480 W42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue 
Founded in 1991 by the late, great James Houghton and Joyce O’Connor (both lifelong Hell’s Kitchen residents), Signature Theatre is dedicated to elevating the work of talented, innovative playwrights through their exclusive residencies. From Anna Deavere Smith to Edward Albee to Sarah Ruhl to Dominique Morrisseau, Signature is frequently the host of world-premiere, thought-provoking works that will stay on your mind for days. As a bonus, the complex itself features an exquisite public lobby and cafe that is perfect for meeting friends before the show or working on your own masterpiece.

Now running… Currently between seasons, Signature is hosting a pop-up activation called Emancipated Stories focusing on people who have been affected by incarceration.

Sony Hall — 235 W46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue 
Originally opened in 1938 as the Diamond Horseshoe vaudeville house, this basement-level club-meets-theater is a favorite for Broadway benefits (including events from Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS) as well as concerts and private events.

Now running… Broadway Sings Taylor Swift, Jay Electronica, and more!

Stage 42 — 422 W42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue
One of the larger Off-Broadway houses, Stage 42 has a 499-seat capacity. A Shubert Theatre venue, Stage 42 was the Off-Broadway home to the critically-acclaimed Yiddish language production of Fiddler On the Roof  and is the future home of the first revival of smash-hit musical Kinky Boots.

Now running…Performances of Kinky Boots start at the end of July!

Swing 46 — 349 W46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Enjoy live jazz, swing and musical standards and get out your dancing shoes at Swing 46, entertaining Hell’s Kitchen and New York nightly since 1997. Looking to dust off your dance skills but not sure where to start? Make sure to check out their regular classes!

Now running… Nightly swing sets from the Stan Rubin Orchestra, Bill Malchow, Michelle Collier, Deanna Kirk, the Ron Sunshine swing orchestra.

The Tank — 312 W36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue
Founded in 2003, The Tank has been “a home for emerging artists” for nearly two decades on 36th Street, focusing on providing creatives with a space to experiment and workshop new pieces and ensuring that ticket prices stay affordable. The Tank has two theater spaces that produce 13-18 world or New York premieres a season.

Now running… Trash and Dark Fest sustainable theatre festival and nightly short-run shows!

Terminal 5 — 610 W56th Street, between 11th and 12th Avenue
More concert venue than theatrical, Terminal 5 is still a formidable performance venue in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. The multi-room, 3,000 seat space born out of a shuttered nightclub houses several distinct concert rooms and frequently welcomes billboard headliners on tour.

Now running… KCON (a tour celebrating Korean culture and K-POP).

Theater 555 — 555 W42nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
Purchased from the Upright Citizens Brigade by longtime Broadway and Off-Broadway producer Ed Krebs, Theater 555 is a 160-seat Off-Broadway venue featuring short-engagement productions. Grab a cup of coffee at adjacent Romeo and Juliet Colombian Coffee before catching a matinee!

The Theater Center — 210 W50th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue
The last home of the longest-running Off-Broadway show in New York’s history (and the world’s longest-running musical!) The Fantasticks, The Theater Center is now home to the long-running Off-Broadway play The Perfect Crime as well as newer productions the Friends and The Office musical parodies.

Now running… Long-running mystery drama Perfect Crime, and spoofs The Office! A Musical Parody  and Friends! A Musical Parody.

Theatre At St Clement’s — 423 W46th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue 
Established as an Episcopal Church in 1920 on W46th Street, St Clement’s was converted into a full-time theater in 1962 — except on Sundays, where an altar is placed on the set of its currently running production for church services. St Clement’s is known for bringing world-premiere, avant-garde work to Hell’s Kitchen, including Garden of Earthly Delights  by Martha Clarke, Juan Darien by Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal and the recent André and Dorine by the Kulunka Teatro Company.

Now running… Tennessee Williams’s classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Theatre Row — 410 W42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue
Just next door to Playwrights is Theatre Row, a multi-venue complex filled with everything from 199-seat proscenium theaters to 50-seat studio-style blackboxes. Theatre Row is home to a constantly rotating cast of companies and productions, making it an excellent place to see a wide variety of genres. Most shows here play for daily short engagements, so be sure to stay updated on their current offerings, which range from children’s theater to City Center Encores-style revivals (like the excellent A Class Act we at W42ST got a chance to check out this winter!). 

Now running… Fun for all ages, there’s a new musical version of Winnie the Pooh! and Sesame Street. Also playing are productions of Rent, The Magnificent Seven, Prince Charming You’re Late, The Head of Richard III, Chains, She Wolf, Camp.

The Town Hall — 123 W43rd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue 
Despite being tucked away in between several On-Broadway theaters, The Town Hall is technically an Off-Broadway house. Designed by famed architects McKim, Mead and White, the venue has been a meeting space (it was founded by and once the home of suffragist advocacy groups), active cultural center, and performance space since 1921. Now, the Town Hall is home to frequent one night only benefit concerts, cast reunions and theatrical panels.

Now running… Broadway by the Year, Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway Live and more!

Westside Theatre — 407 W43rd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue
Originally a Second German Baptist Church built in 1889, the Westside Theatre has gone through centuries of dramatic change, transforming from a house of worship to a nightclub to a Methadone clinic and finally to a theater, where it now houses long-running Off-Broadway favorites like Little Shop of Horrors.

Now Running… Don’t feed the plants at the revival of Little Shop of Horrors!

* All photos by Phil O’Brien or from the theaters/productions.

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1 Comment

  1. Oh yeah! It really warms my heart to learn that most off-Broadway productions involve experimental structures and stories which tend to be slightly more interesting than commercialized ones. If this is true, then I should buy some tickets immediately so I won’t miss a great show. My relatives and I are going to spend the weekend in Manhattan, and I figure we might as well go and watch a stage play while we’re there.

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