February 2021 Theater Openings Week 3: New York Pops Up Festival begins. Lillias White as Sarah Vaughan.

Below are the day-by-day theater openings from February 15 to 21st. In this third week of what’s normally a fallow theater month, we get a return to in-person performances, with the launch of the New York Pops Up Festival. But the excitement will be abstract for most of us (see Saturday for an explanation.)

Meanwhile, Lillias White portrays Sarah Vaughan online, one of the several works in honor of Black History Month, including actual slave narratives performed by LeVar Burton, Kara Young and Donja R. Love,  among others; the revival of a play imagining a meeting between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; the return of Theatre for One “microplays” by Lynn Nottage, Regina Taylor, Lydia Diamond and five other BiPOC women; and an intriguing new play about a rebellion in a women’s prison by Lee Edward Colston II.

The week also offers a peek at new musicals in development by Daniel J Merzlufft (of Ratatouille The Tic Toc Musical fame) Lauren Gunderson (most recently of The Catastrophist) and 80-year-old Oscar and Grammy winning composer Paul Williams.

Marsha Mason is involved in two audio dramas, from separate companies, one as performer the other as director.

The Metropolitan Museum is offering a week of director Franco Zeffirelli, seven operas he staged, including the most performed in Met history.

And a can’t miss: The return of a Purim play that was turned into a Broadway musical!

Monday, February 15

Adjust the Procedure
Spin Cycle on Stellar
Available through March 7
This new play written and directed by Jake Shore offers a peek into the business of higher education at a moment of multiple reckonings, with a Manhattan University forced to track rising cases of COVID on campus, handle immigration problems, suicide threats, and professors losing their minds. Starring Ed Altman, Adam Files, Meagan Moses, and Nicholas Miles Newton. 

Village Song: Episode 3
4 p.m. Available through March 6
Second-year students of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts explore Greenwich Village through song, spoken word, poetry, and imagery, in three episodes unfolding in the first three Mondays in February. (I loved Episode 1, and was disappointed by Episode 2, both of which are still available) Among the seven scenes and songs of Episode 3 are  homages to La MaMa, Kenny’s Castawaya, and buildings in the Village that no longer exist. 

Use Your Head for More
Baryshnikov Arts Center
5 p.m. Available through March 1
Using 30 minutes of “audiovisual portraits” with  “found sound” and personal archive, performer Justin Hicks re-imagines a conversation with his mother.

Sorry, Wrong Number
Keen Company
7 p.m.
Marsha Mason, Heidi Armbruster, Chuck Cooper, Jasminn Johnson, and Matt Saldivar star in this audio theater fundraiser inspired by the original 1943 radio broadcast by Lucille Fletcher that begins with a simple phone call, and follows the progression of one frantic night as Mrs. Elbert Stevenson accidentally overhears a murder plot while home alone and confined to her bed.

Poetry Electric: Terry Lewis Tribute
La Mama
7 p.m.
Hip Hop music, poetry and beatbox/beatrhyme in honor of Terry Lewis, also known by his stage name Kid Lucky, an American beatrhymer, beatboxer, singer-songwriter, teacher, and activist who died in October. 

Piaf….Her Story…Her Songs
Broadway’s Best Shows
7:30 p.m. available through Feb 18
French singer Raquel Bitton sings as Edith Piaf and (as the title strongly implies) tells the life story. of the late chanteuse (whose story was also told in the movie La Vie En Rose.).


Puccini’s La Bohème
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hours
This 1981 production of the tale of love among Bohemians in Paris (which young theatergoers might describe as the inspiration for the musical “Rent”) is the most-performed production in Met history. It launches a week of operas staged by Franco Zeffirelli, the Oscar-nominated Italian director and designer (whom moviegoers might know best as the director of the 1968 Romeo and Juliet filmed with unknown teenagers)

Give her God
San Francisco Playhouse
10 p.m. ET
In this play by Candrice Jones, two Black women must deal with racism while gathered at their mutual friend’s deathbed. This is part of the theater’s free “Zoomlet” series — table readings with discussions between creative team and cast before and afterwards.

Tuesday, February 16

night fishing
Berkeley Rep
One of the ten weekly audio plays in Place/Settings: Berkeley about specific places in Berkeley, California. In this one by Philip Kan Gotanda, an old fisherman makes his way on a chilly autumn night to the lake in the dark. He casts a line…and reels in the ghost he’s been seeking.

All on Her Own
2:30 p.m. ET
Janie Dee plays Rosemary Hodge in this 30-minute one-woman show by Terrence Rattigan about a woman  who, alone at midnight in London, has a secret burden to share that is both heartbreaking and sinister.

Cybertank Variety Show
4 p.m.
The Tank’s free virtual gathering place for dozens of artists every other Tuesday, this week with host Hunter Gause

Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition 
New York Public Library/National Black Theater
7 p.m.
Readings from the newly published anthology edited by Dr. Michelle Commande — essays, speeches, plays performed by playwright Donja R. Love, actor and director LeVar Burton, actors Kara Young and Nuri Hazzard, and a special reading produced by National Black Theater.

A Trip to Persia
Ars Nova
7 p.m.
A 60-minute “interactive online culinary event” with Chefs Behzad Jamshidi and Atef Boulaabi, exploring the unique fragrances and flavors of Persian cuisine

Verdi’s Falstaff
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hours

Wednesday, February 17

The Night Watcher
Primary Stages
Available through Feb 28
A virtual performance of Charlayne Woodard’s autobiographical, one-woman play  weaving together stories of the ways she has mentored the children who have called her Auntie.

House Rules and Little Miss Perfect
New York Theater Barn
7 p.m.
A one-hour virtual live stream of excerpts from two new musicals:
In “House Rules” by Kate Leonard and Daniel Merzlufft, Jacob Hunt is a forensics-obsessed teenager living with autism, whose family is thrown into chaos, when Jacob’s beloved social skills tutor is found dead and Jacob is suspect number one.
In Little Miss Perfect by Joriah Kwamé and Lauren Gunderson, Noelle struggles with her feelings for the female foreign exchange student being hosted by her conservative family, and with her own privilege as class president when her high school refuses to take steps in being more inclusive.

Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hou

Thursday, February 18

The Past is The Past
Manhattan Theatre Club
through Feb 28
A college student challenges a man in his 40s to a pool game in a pool hall; eventually they recognize each other, but (insert title here.) This play by Richard Wesley was originally in MTC’s 1974-75 season, and now launches their free new Curtain Call series, with a new cast: Jovan Adepo and Ron Cephas Jones.

The Madness of Hercules
Theater of War Productions
7 p.m. Live

Dramatic readings Euripides’ Greek tragedy about an unthinkable act of violence committed by an angry man with an invincible weapon—for audiences composed of concerned citizens, activists, students, and survivors of gun violence, in order to generate powerful dialogue between these communities. Featuring performances by David Denman, Frankie Faison, Taylor Schilling, Jumaane Williams and Nyasha Hatendi. Free but registered required.

Divine Sass: A Tribute to the Music, Life, and Legacy of Sarah Vaughan
Flushing Town Hall
7 p.m. POSTPONED due to the storm. New date not yet determined.
Tony-winner Lillias White (Dreamgirls, The Life, Chicago) portrays the seminal jazz singer in the second of the Flushing Town Hall’s Black History trilogy.

Here We Are
Theatre for One, at Court Theater
7:30 pm. through March 14
 The same eight one-on-one live virtual microplays written and directed by Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color that made such a splash last year in New York are being presented in Chicago — again virtually, and again free, but with different performers. (Read my interview with Lynn Nottage, one of the playwrights, to learn more.)

Puccini’s Tosca
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hou

Friday, February 19

For Which It Stands
New York Theatre Workshop
Available through February 22
In this play by Lee Edward Colston II, Ebony Hemmings sews American flags in the “Liberty Unit” of Lehigh Penitentiary near the end of her eight year sentence, when the woman she loves joins a worker’s strike against unfair and inhumane treatment 

The Outsiders
Laguna PLayhouse
through February 28
Christopher Sergel’s 1990 stage adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel (which Francis Ford Coppola famously adapted into a starry 1983 movie.) It follows the “Greasers,”  narrator Ponyboy Curtis and his friends,  as they navigate teenage angst and class warfare in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Far Away
Quantum Theater
Available through March 7
$10 to $50
Caryl Churchill’s surreal portrait of a descent into a hyper-partisan future 

Wilma Theater
Dive into a cyberspace underworld through this interactive website. Demons, both classical and contemporary, lurk among the virtual artifacts, waiting to be purged. Part of this Philadelphia theater’s weekly Hothouse Shorts.

Franz Kafka’s Letter to My Father
7 p.m. Fridays and Sun afternoons through March 28
In 1919, the ailing writer wrote a letter to his father full of intense mixed emotions.

Rona and Her Sketchy Friends
Ars Nova
7 p.m.
From the zany quarantine brain of Rona Siddiqui comes a video trilogy about a woman and the fleece-lined sweatshirt she dared to love.

Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hours

Fortunate Sons
Skylight Music Theatre
7:30, also Saturday
 A staged concert reading et in 1969 of a new musical by Oscar and Grammy winning composer Paul Williams, centering on the turbulent times during the Vietnam War and the first draft lottery held since 1942. Free but registration required, and a maximum of 350 patrons admitted.

Saturday, February 20

New York Pops Up
The New York Pops Up Festival is supposed to begin today, the first of what the governor has promised to be a thousand in-person performances throughout the state from now through June. Here is a description of what’s planned for today, but, although it’s free, it’s intended “for health care workers,” from which I infer that it’s by invitation only. (If my assumption is wrong, I’ll correct it.)

“Members of the artists council will lead a performance at the Javits Center as a special tribute to our healthcare workers. The performance will feature [bandleader] Jon Batiste, [countertenor] Anthony Roth Costanzo, [jazz vocalist] Cecile McLorin Salvant, [tap dancer] Ayodele Casel, and additional special guests joining forces for a one-of-a-kind live performance.  

“Throughout the day, the performers will travel around New York City, meeting audiences at various locations throughout all five boroughs in courtyards, workplaces, parks, and street corners, at the footsteps of locations such as, Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital, and St. Barnabas Hospital. Saturday will conclude with one of Jon Batiste’s signature Love Riots beginning at Walt Whitman Park and ending at Golconda Playground in Brooklyn.”

The Meeting
New Federal Theatre
7 p.m. repeated Sunday and Monday
a 1987 American play by Jeff Stetson about an imaginary meeting between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in 1965 in a hotel in Harlem during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. (The play was later televised on American Playhouse.)

Bizet’s Carmen
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hou

Sunday, February 21

Napoleon in Exile
Playing on Air
A re-release of the audio play by Daniel Reitz, directed by Marsha Mason, about a single mother and her young adult son who has ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).

Megillah Cycle
Congress for Jewish Culture
2:30 p.m., and then forever
The traditional Purim play in which Esther marries a Persian king and ends his persecution of the Jews, was recast in a modern shetl by poet Itzik Manger in 1936, then turned into a Broadway musical in 1968. It is now adapted further by director Mike Burstyn. In Yiddish with English subtitles.

Puccini’s Turandot
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m. Available for 23 hou

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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