Top Off-Broadway Shows to Watch in NYC This Season: Part One

While Broadway shows and musicals often top the list of must-do activities for visitors and New Yorkers alike, smaller scale and sometimes underrated Off-Broadway shows are making a heat wave this summer. In this Part One of my Off-Broadway crawl, find out how you can enjoy the thrilling theatrical experience in a more intimate setting (fewer than 500 seats), while making your wallet happier (admissions to Off-Broadway shows are generally less expensive than Broadway shows).


Here is a laugh-out-loud show that will fill a hole inside of you: 50 Shades! The Musical. Narrated through the lens of a three-person ladies book club that decides to read E.L. James' erotic best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey, this original parody tells the story of a recent college grad, Anastasia Steele, who engages in a kinky relationship with a business magnate, Christian Grey. The 60-minute musical is filled with raunchy jokes, sexual storylines, and steamy scenes, including a banging-from-the-back simulated sex scene right in the middle of the audience.


The musical's talented and energetic cast members who can sing, act, and arouse the audience will generate non-stop laughter throughout the entire show. Directed by Al Samuels and Rob Lindley, the show debuted in March and plays at the Elektra Theatre in Hell's Kitchen.


For a unique, immersive theatrical experience that takes you to an upbeat live concert with thundering drum beats, to an EDB club with a plethora of fist-pumping, and to an underwater fantasy world with mermaid-esque dancers belly flopping on the plastic tarp over the audience, Fuerza Bruta WAYRA is the show to attend.


This Argentinean-founded, multi-sensory theatre group returned to Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square this July with WAYRA, which features the very best of Fuerza Bruta with an addition of some never-before-seen elements. During the high energy, 80-minute interactive show, you will experience a stimulating sensory overload with loud sound, bright lights, and even cold shower...that is, if you are brave enough to stand in the middle of the theatre!


You may have seen them on television, but you can now see them live in person. iLuminate, a dance troupe that finished third place on ABC's "America's Got Talent," will electrify the audience with talented performers in glow suites dancing to the tunes of contemporary, hip hop, and Latin beats. The latest production of its New York show illustrates the story of Jacob as he fights off evil spirits after he gets his magical paintbrush stolen by a jealous villain. While the story plot may be a bit difficult to follow, the performance that showcases spectacular moves of the dancers who are lit up from head to toe will make you want to jump up and dance on stage. This family-friendly show recently celebrated its one-year anniversary at New World Stages in Hell's Kitchen.


The Red Poppy Ladies, an all-female percussion troupe from Beijing that has previously performed at the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games, recounts the story of Mulan in its interpretation of this 1,600-year-old folk tale.


There is no dragon friend Mushu, the handsome beau Captain Li Shang, or a sing-along of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" in this version of Mulan, but the show features powerful drumming with bare hands or sticks, modern pantomime, and some hair whipping as it follows the adventure of its eponymous character who disguises as a man to serve in the emperor's army on behalf of her ill father. The show performs at the Ellen Stewart Theatre in East Village.


Whether it be brooms, garbage cans, or Zippo lighters, anything can turn into a musical instrument at STOMP. This crowd's favorite show utilizes everyday objects as instruments to create the universal language of rhythm and sound. The performers come alive when equipped with household and industrial objects like kitchen sink, toilet plungers, or wooden poles as they communicate wordlessly through eclectic facial expressions, body movements, and high-energy drumming. After the show, you may have the urge to hit and bang on objects in your own apartment to create these contagious beats. STOMP celebrates its 20th year at the Orpheum Theater in East Village.

Stay tuned for Part Two of my Off-Broadway crawl!