May 2021 Theater Openings, Week 2: Starry galas, a new musical, Kander and Ebb twice, Zora Neale Hurston unearthed

Below is a day-by-day selection of theater* that is opening between May 8 and May 14, 2021, including TWO tributes to Kander and Ebb (at the exact same time!), TWO new works about the effects of Covid, one of them an impossibly starry new musical; an unearthed musical by a celebrated central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, an all-Asian reading of Ibsen and an all-Black reading of Larry Kramer. Plus numerous fundraisers and galas, such as Lincoln Center Theater’s virtual video walk through its illustrious past and its promising future.

Saturday, May 8

Revelations Reimagined
New Jersey Performing Arts Center
7 p.m.
A documentary about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s signature work. RSVP for link to free video

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
Starring Patricia Racette, Maria Zifchak, Marcello Giordani, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Patrick Summers. Production by Anthony Minghella. From March 7, 2009.

The Normal Heart
One Archives Foundation
8 p.m. ET
A one-night-only virtual reading of Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Cast features Sterling K. Brown, Laverne Cox, Jeremy Pope, Vincent Rodriguez III, Guillermo Díaz and Jake Borelli. 

Marilyn Maye: Broadway, the Maye Way
Feinstein’s/54 Below
The exquisite 93-year-old sing takes on Broadway tunes. My review

Sunday, May 9

Missing Them
Working Theater
7 pm.
Reza Salazar and Anjali Tsui dramatize the stories of those New Yorkers who have died from COVID, as collected by The City non-profit digital newspaper

Handel’s Agrippina
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
Starring Brenda Rae, Joyce DiDonato, Kate Lindsey, Iestyn Davies, Duncan Rock, and Matthew Rose, conducted by Harry Bicket. Production by Sir David McVicar. From February 29, 2020.

Monday, May 10

Broadway Close Up: Kander and Ebb
7 p.m.
This concert and lecture series will look at the songwriting team that over 42 years, produced such musicals as CabaretChicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman as well as music for the Martin Scorsese film New York, New York

Broadway By The Year: The Kander and Ebb Years
The Town Hall
7 p.m. available through May 12
Songs from such shows as Flora, The Red Menace, Chicago, Cabaret, Steel Pier, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the spider Woman and The Rink. Cast includes Danny Gardner, Ute Lemper, Tony Yazbeck, Beth Leavel and Natascia Diaz.

Amas You Love
7 p.m.
A benefit featuring performances from four Amas musicals:  4 Guys Named Jose…and una mujer named María!, Distant Thunder, MĀYĀ and Hip Hop Cinderella as well as an original spoken word piece about Amas founder Rosetta LeNoire, composed and written by Rona Siddiqui.

Puccini’s La Bohème
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
Starring Teresa Stratas, Renata Scotto, José Carreras, Richard Stilwell, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From January 16, 1982.

Norm Lewis
Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages
8 p.m. Live only
A free concert both on the Lincoln Center campus outdoors, and online, by the Broadway performer who has portrayed Porgy in Porgy and Bess, Billy Flynn in Chicago, Javert in Les Misérables and the title character in Sweeney Todd

Tuesday, May 11

Con Dough: Stories of 1 in 5 Gentrified
The Tank
7 p.m.
a new documentary theater piece that captures the violence gentrification has done to low income communities and communities of color across NYC. 

Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
Starring Carol Vaness, Karita Mattila, Dawn Upshaw, Jerry Hadley, Samuel Ramey, Ferrucio Furlanetto, and Kurt Moll, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From April 5, 1990.

Broadway for Every Breath
8 p.m.
A concert to raise funds to fight India’s Covid crisis, organized by Shoba Naroyan and starring Jessie Mueller, Denee Benton, Ana Villafañe, Erika Henningsen, Nik Walker, Samantha Massell, Lindsay Heather Pearce, Sam Gravitte, Ryan Vasquez, Brittain Ashford, and Kennedy Caughell.

Wednesday, May 12

Hart Island and Cowboy Bob
New York Theatre Barn’s New Work Series
7 p.m.
Two new musicals: 1. Gizel Jiménez, Natascia Diaz and Rodney Hicks star in this excerpt of Michelle Elliott’s new musical about a sorrowful island that serves as a public burial ground for the lonely, forgotten or impoverished of the city. 2.Grace McLean and Ashley Pérez Flanaga perform an excerpt of this musical about Peggy Jo who, disguised as “Cowboy Bob” in a fake beard and a 10-gallon hat, was the slickest bank robber Texas has ever known.

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
Starring Jane Eaglen, Katarina Dalayman, Ben Heppner, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, and René Pape, conducted by James Levine. Production by Dieter Dorn. From December 18, 1999.

Thursday, May 13

Tales from the Wings: A Lincoln Center Theater Celebration
Lincoln Center
7 p.m.
Jordan Donica, Rosemary Harris, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Ruthie Ann Miles,
Seth Numrich, Steven Pasquale, Paulo Szot,  Ayad Akhtar, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Bartlett Sher tell their favorite anecdotes about past productions introducing video excerpts of the shows. plus a preview of the 2021-22 season.

Symphony Space Gala
7 p.m.
$35 – $40,000
An evening of cocktails, concert, and conversation with Kate Baldwin, Roz Chast, Britney Coleman,Jane Curtin, Nikki Renée Daniels,Santino Fontana, Jason Gotay, Melora Hardin, Gildart Jackson, Jane Kaczmarek, Jeff Kready, Sonia Manzano, Patricia Marx, Colum McCann,Rashidra Scott, Nathaniel Stampley, George Saunders, Meg Wolitzer

Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
Starring Renée Fleming, Christine Schäfer, Susan Graham, Eric Cutler, Thomas Allen, and Kristinn Sigmundsson, conducted by Edo de Waart. Production by Nathaniel Merrill. From January 9, 2010.

MAC Awards
8 pm
The 35th annual awards of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets

The Sound Inside
Goodman Theater
8:30 p.m. ET Live. Through May 16
Mary Beth Fisher and John Drea star in this play by Adam Rapp that was on Broadway starring Mary-Louise Parker (My review of the Broadway production) Creative writing professor Bella values her solitude but finds herself opening up to Christopher—a reclusive, mysterious freshman with lofty literary aspirations. As the two connect beyond the classroom, Bella realizes she must ask Christopher for an impossible favor. 

Friday, May 14

Roundabout’s Refocus Project
Available through
Zora Neale Hurston’s theatrical adaptation (with musical numbers) of her 1925 short story about a charismatic, guitar-playing wanderer who initiates a love affair with a married woman in a rural Florida town.

John Gabriel Borkman
Pan Asian Rep
6 p.m.
Ernest Aduba stars in a reading of Ibsen’s play about the relentless and ruthless pursuit of power leading to loss and perdition.

The Audition
Metropolitan Opera
7:30 p.m.
This feature-length documentary takes you behind the scenes of the Met’s National Council Auditions, in which, each year, thousands of hopefuls compete for a cash prize, the chance to sing on the Met stage—and the opportunity to launch a major operatic career. Directed by Susan Froemke.

8 p.m.
A starry cast chronicles COVID-19’s impact on five very different relationships ,with each couple’s story told by a different songwriting team and director. Conceived and written by novelist Jodi Picoult and playwright Timothy Allen McDonald. Starring Kelli O’Hara, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patti Murin, Colin Donnell, Denée Benton, Rubén J. Carbajal, Matt Doyle, Max Clayton, Daniel Yearwood, T. Oliver Reid and Josh Davis. Music and lyrics by Doug Besterman, Zina Goldrich, Marcy Heisler, Kate Leonard, Douglas Lyons, Daniel J. Mertzlufft, Rebecca Murillo, Ethan Pakchar, Rob Rokicki and Sharon Vaughn

*A few caveats:
This calendar lists shows only on the day they “open.” Some are live and available only for that one performance. Some are repeated live over several dates. Other shows are available as recordings for four days, or a week, or longer.  (I’ll put down how long they’re available, if I know.)
My definition of theater for the purposes of this calendar generally does not extend to variety shows, cast reunions, concerts, galas, panel discussions, documentaries, classes, or interviews — of which there are plenty, many worth checking out. My focus here is on creative storytelling in performance. (I make an occasional exception for a high-profile Netathon,involving many theater artists, or a novel event)
Pre-pandemic, it was relatively easy to put together a monthly calendar of openings, because theaters, companies and producers worked way in advance.  Since physical theaters were shut down , many shows are put together at the last minute, sometimes not even announced until the very day of their launch. (And there have been last-minute cancellations too.) So the listings here, even though a weekly calendar, are just a taste of what to come. (But there’s a good reason to offer such a calendar, even if incomplete: The shows (especially the ones in-person) are selling out quickly.

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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