See these Shakespeare-inspired shows in New York
These Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are putting fresh spins on the Bard's classics.
A Shakespeare story by any other name would sound as sweet. Chances are you've read plays like Hamlet, Macbeth, or Romeo & Juliet in school, but whether or not you loved them back then, these stories likely stuck in your mind. They are everywhere, after all — Shakespeare theatre is some of the most famous in history, and the plots of his plays have inspired many contemporary works.
Of course, that includes Broadway shows and Off-Broadway shows. Various plays and musicals put his characters in new settings, give their stories different endings, and even flip tragedies into comedies.
These shows prove that Shakespeare is far from outdated — there are countless ways to modernize, adapt, and twist his timeless stories. Discover the current New York shows putting a fresh spin on Shakespeare tales, plus some shows with Shakespeare mentions and references for fans of the Bard to keep an ear out for.
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What happens when Shakespeare's wife decides she doesn't like the ending of Romeo & Juliet and decides to write a new one where Juliet doesn't die? That's the premise of & Juliet, a new musical by Schitt's Creek writer David West Read, which sees Juliet travel to Paris to find new life and love. Her revised story is set to modern pop bops — think "...Baby One More Time," "I Want It That Way," "Teenage Dream" — all written by Max Martin, who & Juliet's creators call "the Shakespeare of Pop."
Shakespeare himself is a character in & Juliet, too, making real-time edits of his own and dropping fun facts about his life and work along the way. You won't even realize you're becoming a Shakespeare buff as you rock out to the music in this larger-than-life fun-fest.
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To be or not to be a tragedy, that is the question. Shakespeare's Hamlet is definitely a tragedy, but James Ijames has spun the story into a comedy in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fat Ham. Hamlet has become Juicy, a queer Black college student who, like Hamlet, is tasked with killing his uncle to avenge his father's death — and at a family barbecue, no less.
But Juicy isn't a violent man, and he wonders if there's another way to justice besides death. This fresh take on the Hamlet story is seasoned with savory food, family drama, and mile-a-minute roasts — the smoked and verbal kind.
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Sleep No More
Something Hitchcock this way comes at Sleep No More. This long-running immersive hit is adapted from Shakespeare's Macbeth and gives it a film-noir aesthetic inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's films. On five floors of the McKittrick Hotel, various scenes from Macbeth play out, and audiences get to wander around and explore them at whatever pace they'd like.
Though a traditional Macbeth would be generally the same at different performances, it's possible to go to Sleep No More multiple times and never have the same experience twice. You can explore different parts of the venue, and sometimes, you'll come upon a secret room or be chosen for a one-on-one interaction with an actor.
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"Why, sir, for my part I say the gentleman had drunk himself out of his five senses," says Bardolph in The Merry Wives of Windsor. That's essentially what happens at Drunk Shakespeare, in which five actors attempt to perform a Shakespeare play — but one does so after downing five whiskey shots.
Hilarity ensues as the other four actors must keep the show on track while going along with whatever outlandish acting choices the drunk actor makes. Drinks are also available for purchase, so audience members can join in the boozy fun. This certainly isn't your high school Shakespeare.
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The Lion King
Did you know the plot of The Lion King is based on Shakespeare's Hamlet? The young lion cub Simba, like Hamlet, must restore order to the throne after his evil uncle kills his father, the rightful king, and takes over. This being a family-friendly Disney show, though, there's a much happier ending than in Shakespeare's work. There are also all the beloved songs from the Lion King film, including "Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"
Get The Lion King tickets now.
People have compared Lin-Manuel Miranda to Shakespeare more than once. His masterful rap and hip-hop lyricism is like a modern version of Shakespeare's rhythmic, poetic writing. Not to mention that Miranda actually works Shakespeare's words into a Hamilton song.
A whole verse of "Take a Break" references Macbeth. Hamilton writes a line from one of the title character's monologues, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day," and compares himself and the other Founding Fathers to Macbeth characters.
That you shouldn't say "Macbeth" in a theatre, except on stage when called for, is one of theatre's best-known superstitions. Of course, it's called for in Miranda's show, but it is ironic that once Hamilton utters the name, things start to go wrong for him.
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This one-of-a-kind, no category musical isn't based on Shakespeare — it's about the six wives of Henry VIII, reimagined as a girl group who remix history with catchy pop music. But if you listen closely, Anne Boleyn name-drops the Bard in a song imagining what she'd have done if she wasn't beheaded. "Next minute I was signed, and now I'm writing lyrics for Shakesy P!"
Get Six tickets now.
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