If someone mentions live theater in the United States, one of the first suggestions is New York City and Broadway. New York is great. You have Times Square and many other attractions, but it is incredibly expensive. Los Angeles is similar; it has great theater thanks to its proximity to Hollywood, but it is expensive and crowded. However, there are many great destinations that are just as good but come with a lower price tag. Here are the top 7 US cities for live theater shows.
Boston has one of the most culturally significant theaters in the United States. Better yet, it hosts many shows from Broadway. And, most importantly, many shows start in Boston before they get picked up by Broadway. Hit the Boston theater scene, and you might see a play before it becomes a Broadway hit. You could also hit the Williamstown Theater Festival that’s a short drive away.
Chicago has a history of producing comedy geniuses, and this city is a must-see if you’re into comedy. After all, it is the birthplace of long-form improv. However, its theater scene has much more than comedy. Many tours end here, and the local scene is worth exploring, too. The training programs in DePaul and Northwestern, for instance, will give you the chance to see budding talents before they hit the main stage.
Minneapolis has the most theaters per capita than any city in the U.S. except NYC. The Minneapolis theater scene is a mix of tours and local productions bolstered by the up-and-coming writers at the Playwright’s Center. It is even home to one of the oldest theater companies in the country, and they have a history of great live shows.
Seattle’s theater scene is notable for its risk-taking. The theaters in Seattle can take on more controversial topics or cater to more niche audiences because they don’t have the same economic burden as Broadway shows. They also deal with lower overheads, so they can host more experimental shows and be more ambitious than Broadway theaters that need to maximize revenue. You can also buy your tickets from an online reseller to save even more money over the cost of Broadway tickets.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco should be first on your list if you’re interested in opera. The city is home to the second largest opera company in the United States as well as dozens of live theaters. These feature a mix of classic and original works. For example, the Berkeley Rep hosts a mix of regional and world premieres.
Louisville, Kentucky, would make this list because of the 30 shows a year held at the Actor’s Theater alone. However, it is also home to the Humana Festival, a new theater festival. If there is a new play that’s creating a storm, there is a fair chance it premiered here first.
No matter where you want to visit in the United States, the odds are that there is a great theater center that you can hit. Or you could visit one of these cities, which we think are the best incubators for theater and the arts, to see shows not available anywhere else in the world.