Two new names are joining the roster of New York’s Off Broadway theaters – and the back stories of the West Side venues couldn’t be more different. One is pretty much a single man’s vision, while the other is a corporate project. So let us explore…
Producer Al Tapper looked around at his newly completed 99-seat theatre — not long ago a sea of construction materials, now a sparkling new Hell’s Kitchen performance venue filled to the brim.
The AMT Theater, a new works incubator from Tapper and Artistic Director Tony Sportiello was long in the making — taking over the shuttered Davenport Theatre during COVID to transform it into a state-of-the-art Off Broadway house with a focus on world premiere pieces.
Since opening in July, AMT has produced a youth theater production of the musical hit Shrek as well as its inaugural premiere, An Unbalanced Mind — a five-character “trunk song” musical revue by Tapper featuring Dana Aber, Gil Brady, LR Davidson, Josh Pyram and Michael Reilly, many of whom have performed in Tapper and Sportiello’s previous works.
Sportiello told the audience gathered for a preview of the show that the team was happy with their first creative ventures and with the design of the space: “When people hear about the black and white look, they’re a bit skeptical. Even I was skeptical!” he said. “But the finished product looks like a real work of art, and everyone’s been impressed. In my opinion, it’s the most unique and striking Off-Broadway theater in the theater district.”
“We want to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Tapper. “We want to do new shows, to encourage new writers and directors. We want to feature children’s shows and get young people involved in theater at an early age. We also want to do cabaret because, well, it’s just fun. We also want to serve as a regional theater to the people in our immediate area, to draw on their energy, and solicit their opinions — because we truly value the community around us.”
Further down 9th Avenue, another venue is readying its doors for opening — this time, the 160-seat Midnight Theatre sponsored by Mastercard and operated by developers at Manhattan West. Tucked away in the complex on W33rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue, it is slated to host a variety of acts, ranging from musicals to magicians to comedy shows. The venue also features a high-tech digital projection system that can instantly change the decor of the space.
Creative Director Warren Adcock (also responsible for the experiential show The Magician at the NoMad hotel) has teamed up with restaurateur Josh Cohen (of the white-hot Williamsburg spot Lilia) to create a total sensory-immersive experience, including an in-venue restaurant called Hidden Leaf and a 70s-Italian-disco cocktail joint called Midnight Cafe.
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The pan-Asian cuisine at Hidden Leaf and curated cocktails of the cafe complement the team’s vision for an all-in-one night out for New Yorkers, said Adcock in a statement to Thrillist. “With the theater opening, this completes the dream of creating the ideal New York night out all under one roof. There’s been such a positive response to the opening of Hidden Leaf, and it’s been rewarding to see guests come enjoy the dining and cocktails that we have to offer. We are beyond excited to extend their experience inside the walls of the tech-enhanced Midnight Theatre with intimate, one-of-a-kind storytelling across magic, music, comedy and much more.”
While visitors may be transported, they won’t be able to forget the credit card brand’s ever-present grip on the experience, as each performance kicks off with an introductory video heavily featuring Mastercard branding. Priceless…
The AMT Theater at 345 W45th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue) is now open.
The Midnight Theatre at 75 Manhattan West Plaza (between 9th and 10th Avenue) opens September 21.