Three lesser-known theater shows that deserve a shot

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Underrated theater shows

Even if you've never stepped foot inside of a theater, you've probably heard of Wicked, The Lion King, and The Phantom of the Opera. If you’re a bit of a theater geek, there are probably a slew of other titles that you find recognizable, including Jersey Boys, The Book of Mormon, and Avenue Q.

Those well-known titles are frequently among the top sellers here at TicketNetwork, as evidenced by Mike’s monthly Top 10 events. Of course, those shows arguably rise to the top because they tell a moving story, the actors are fantastic, and it strikes the right combination of music, costumes, and mood — but that doesn't mean worthy theater shows stop and end with the biggest names.

What about some shows you may not have heard of, but still might be worth checking out?

My Name is Asher Lev

Synopsis: My Name is Asher Lev is about a young artist who is struggling to reconcile his artistic talent with his father’s desire for him to grow up and become something "useful." It doesn't help that his Jewish community in 1950s Brooklyn is against his art, too. If he’s not spending time working on religious art, they ask, then what’s the point?

Why I’m interested: The show combats an issue that I think many can sympathize with: do you pursue what you love or do you go after what your parents want? There are only three actors in this entire play — Ari Brand is Asher, while Mark Nelson and Jenny Bacon play his parents, plus all the other male and female roles — which I think makes it even more amazing. Tickets for this show are available through May.

What critics say: The Huffington Post’s Michael Glitz called the show "one of the best shows of the year". Stumbling upon Ari Brand’s talent, he wrote, "makes you know how that art dealer felt when she first saw Asher's work. It doesn't happen often." Scott Brown, of Vulture, wrote that My Name is Asher Lev is "spare, piercing, and beautiful."

Water by the Spoonful

Synopsis: The second in a trilogy of plays, Water by the Spoonful is the work of Quiara Alegría Hudes. It follows a former soldier who served and was injured in Iraq as he readjusts to life in Philadelphia. A parallel story, taking place in cyberspace, connects characters that frequent a Narcotics Anonymous online chat room.

Why I’m interested: First, it’s a self-contained play that doesn't require audiences to have seen the first one. Second, it’s like getting two plays in one — the story of the soldier, and the story of the Narcotics Anonymous chatters. As much as I love glitz, singing, and over-the-top costumes in a play, I also love moving stories, and this seems to have it. The show only runs until January 31, but that still leaves plenty of time to snag tickets.

What critics say: Frank Rizzo, the resident theater columnist at the Hartford Courant, wrote that the play is "a very funny, warm and, yes, uplifting, play with characters that are vivid, vital and who stay with you long after the play is over."


Synopsis: Ann brings former Texas governor Ann Richards’ life to the stage. The production details the intimate moments of Ann’s life, including everything from her rise to becoming the 45th Governor of Texas to her infamously-scathing remarks about then-president George Bush Sr. at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

Why I’m interested: So it may not have started on Broadway just yet, but I’m already interested. It debuts in February, with tickets available through June. Biographical tales usually only work if the subject is interesting, funny, accomplished, or has something that sets them apart. Ann Richards embodied it all. Regardless of your political affiliation, there’s something to be said for the second female governor in Texas. Plus, Emmy winner Holland Taylor, who's starred in "Legally Blonde" and "Two and a Half Men," wrote the play and stars — and was even personal friends with Ann.

What critics say: The show had a limited run in (where else?) Texas, where it played to sold-out crowds. In Chicago and Washington, D.C., it became a critically acclaimed hit. Sophie Gilbert of the Washingtonian wrote that Ann was like an extended SNL skit crafted with such affection that it’s "hard not to feel the tenderness radiating from the stage." She went on to call Taylor's performance "extraordinary."

I’m all about rooting for the underdog — those lesser-known shows or products or items that are awesome, but often go unnoticed. Wait. That makes me a hipster. Great, now I have to deal with the fact that I’m a hipster. I’ll be mulling this over at farmer’s market sipping organic coffee wearing suspenders and writing my novel about nonconformity on my typewriter.