UPDATE: New addition from Olney Theatre, the A.C.T. and Dallas Theatre Center. Plus “Slings and Arrows.”
Nothing can replace live theater.
But while we find our way through this time of theatrical shutdowns, there are options for viewing work from the stage…from your living room.
I’m not talking here about movie adaptations. I’m talking about shows that were actually staged on stage and transported via cameras to your home. Or, at least, stayed true to the theater script even if played without an audience.
Here’s a rundown of streaming options on where to find shot-from-the-stage gems.
(NOTE: This is a work in progress. If you know of others, let me know and I will update.)
It’s not a happy show, but the Pultizer-finalist “Gloria” by Branden Jacob-Jenkins is being streamed by A.C.T. Tickets are being offered as pay-what-you-can.
Another pay-what-you-can offering, “American Mariachi,” comes courtesy of Dallas Theater Center. The play-with-music concerns a woman caring for her ailing mother who attempts to form an all-women mariachi band in the 1970s.
Through July 1 you can watch Folger Theatre’s “Macbeth,” directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. There’s also a batch of special features.
Another subscription service, this one is focused more on opera and dance. However, theater buffs can find plenty of treasures. Recent additions include the 2018 “Julius Caesar” from the Donmer Warehouse and a load of Classic Spring Theatre’s Company’s Oscar Wilde productions including “A Woman of No Importance.” The RSC and Globe Shakespeare productions alone are worth the price (and here I got to experience two productions of “Love’s Labour’s Lost”) but if the classics don’t appeal to you, there aren’t many other choices. UPDATE: MarqueeTV is offering free 30 days of streaming when signing up. FURTHER UPDATE: MarqueeTV has added weekly Saturday evening premieres, which will include the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Twelfth Night.”
The Maryland-based company is offering a $20 ticket to a streaming production of Jordan Harrison’s “The Amateurs.” The offer is only available from March 28-April 5. It’s also offering free online classes beginning March 30.
Richard Bean’s “One Man, Two Guvnors” with James Corden and Sally Cookson’s devised “Jane Eyre” will soon be available free via National Theatre Live. The productions will air each Thursday on YouTube.
Sign up for free with your library card (You do have a library card, don’t you?) for access to Satyricon Theatre’s “The Seagull,” Vakhtangov Theatre’s “Smile Upon Us, Lord,” The Wooster Groups “To You, The Birdie!”, Moscow’s Young Generation Theatre’s “Lady with a Lapdog,” and a lengthy slate of performance artists’ work.
The paid streaming service features productions you may have seen on PBS or elsewhere (“Kinky Boots,” “Red,” “Indecent,” the BBC complete Shakespeare from the 1970s/80s). But there are also recent dramas including “Pipeline,” “Thom Pane (based on nothing),” and “If I Forget.”
Gems including the Stratford Festival’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (my favorite Bard comedy–see below) and, for completists, “King John.” You’ll also find oddities such as the West End musical version of “From Here to Eternity” (lyrics by Tim Rice) and a slate of Spanish-language plays.
More? “On the Exhale” with an intense Marin Ireland. “Buried Child” with Amy Madigan and Ed Harris.
For £9.99 a month, the British streamer offers Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet in “All My Sons,” the Regent’s Park production of “Into the Woods,” the revival of “Funny Girl” with Sheridan Smith (which I wrote about here), Tricycle Theatre’s “True West,” and Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions of “Twelfth Night,” “Macbeth” and a post-apocalyptic “Troilus and Cressida.”
One-time-only, live readings of plays are on the menu for this site, with proceeds from all events will be directed to arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 virus. First up: “A Doll’s House, Part 2” on March 26. March 29 brings Alice Ripley in “The Pink Unicorn.” Missed them? Check out the link above for the schedule.
With a PBS membership, you can see Denielle Brooks in the delightful Public Theatre production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” Laura Benanti in “She Loves Me,” Kelli O’Hara in “The King and I” and more.
If you are in the NYC viewing area, you are in luck. WNET’s outstanding Theatre Close-Up series has recorded productions of such shows as “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play,” Richard Nelson’s Gabriel family trilogy, “The Originalist,” “Buyer and Cellar,” and a breathtaking “Uncle Vanya” starring the great Jay O. Sanders. Some of their recordings, including “On the Exhale,” have found their way to other services. Here’s hoping more do as well.
Does “Springsteen on Broadway” count as a theater production? I say yes. But there’s more here, too, if you look deep.–particularly if you like shows focused on a name entertainer or two being themselves. Among the choices: John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons,” “Steve Martin and Martin Short’: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Lives,” and a bunch of Mike Birbiglia one-man shows including his recent “The New One.” (I’ll let others debate the difference between these and stand-up comedy specials.) Want a fuller stage? Netflix also has the Broadway production of “Shrek,”
Not exactly fitting into the shot-from-the-stage category but of interest to buffs, there are some made-for-TV obscurities including 1955’s “One Touch of Venus,” the 1962 “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Tony Randall and Boris Karloff, and 1956’s “Bloomer Girl” with Barbara Cook. There’s also the pretty-much-taken-right-from-the-stage “Top Banana” with Phil Silvers. You can also catch 1986’s “Barnum,” starring a pre-Phantom Michael Crawford and Del Shores’ “Southern Baptist Sissies.” Amazon Prime also has James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury in the stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
I’ll let others argue the difference between opera and musical theater. For now, let’s just agree on the coolness of the Metropolitan Opera streaming a different opera every night on its website, www.metopera.org.
Strap yourself in as one of the country’s leading regional theater offers its epic adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel “2666.” It’s structured into five acts, each staged in its own unique style.
Before going on hiatus, the IRT had a hit show with “Murder on the Orient Express.” It’s now available for streaming, offering not only a way to enjoy a show you may have missed but also to help Indiana’s leading LORT theater. Tickets are $25.
For $15, you can watch a production of Danai Gurira’s play “Eclipsed.” The offer is only available through April 1.
The German company, which premieres at least ten shows a season, is opening up its archives for online viewing. Productions include “Hedda Gabler,” “Peer Gynt,” and “Art.” Most on the content will have subtitles.
From the site: “During the suspension of our performances we offer an online substitute programme that includes TV recordings of productions from all decades, from the founding to the present day. The programme will be available daily from 6.30 pm until midnight (German time)…In addition members of the ensemble will send video messages from their domestic isolation. Every day before a recording is broadcast, we publish short readings, improvisations, stories or songs at 6 p.m.”
“The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway” and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” would make for a very interesting double feature.
Tucked away in the midst of all of the animated characters and the snippets of relived high school musicals on “Encores” are the real-life actors in Broadway’s “Newsies” (not to be confused with the film version, which is also available through the mouse.
The 2013 Broadway “Romeo and Juliet” with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad is hidden here along with “Jesus Christ Superstar Live” (I’ll let others argue, etc.).
This free streaming service (with commercials) has the 1981 “Pippin” with Ben Vereen. (And, violating my own rule of only-shot-from-the-stage, I’ll mention that it also has the 2018 film version of “Hello Again” and a batch of documentaries on “The Fantasticks,” “Hamilton,” and more.)
There’s an abundance of Shakespeare available here a la carte. Take a look at the Globe to Globe lineup, which includes a Korean production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a Macedonian “Henry VI, Part 3,” and a “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in British sign language.
For a decade now, this Seattle-based hasn’t just presented, but produced original video of stagework including experimental pieces from around the world. For example: “Songs at the End of the World” features a Dutch-Flemish group of actors/musicians exploring “dreams, choices and possibilities” in a musical piece set in Antarctica. Want to expand your horizons? A free trial is offered through April. Details here. (Thanks, Betsy).
The network’s “Culture in Quarantine” series has announced adding six productions to its lineup: “Macbeth” with Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack, “Othello” with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago, “Romeo and Juliet” with Bally Gill as Romeo and Karen Fishwick as Juliet, “The Merchant of Venice” with Makram J Khoury as Shylock, “Much Ado About Nothing” with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as Beatrice, and “Hamlet” with Paapa Essiedu in the title role. No word yet on when they will be posted.
Another international presenter/producer, Cennarium offers shows from the stages of Brazil, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and more. (Pictured: “The Cabaret of Lost Men.”) I haven’t explored the content yet but like this philosophy: “95% of large theatrical productions are restricted to major cities. The vast majority of the populations around the world do not have access to performing arts. Cennarium takes the greatest performing arts spectacles and performances from the world’s main cultural capitals and makes them available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, we foster the international performing arts community by providing content to a wider audience.” It’s offering a free 10-day trial. (Thanks, Janet.)
This unique artists-run company creates what it calls “soundstage musicals.” That is, musicals shot on stage but without a live audience. Actors sing live but musical and underscoring is added later. I wrote about one of its productions, “No One Called Ahead,” for Midwest Film Journal.
And allow me one that breaks my own “live theater” rule for one that’s about theater. “Slings and Arrows,” the outstanding Canadian series, is available for binge-ing. Acorn is offering a 30-day trial with code FREE30.
Know of more? Send me a note.