What Is The Best City In The USA (New York excluded) For Theater?

Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
With San Diego critics announcing its nominations today.

So what is the best city in The United States for theater? Obviously I have to exclude New York from this thread for obvious reasons.
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar***
AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
Chicago is a great theatre town.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
LizzieCurry
Broadway Legend
joined:3/7/05
I was also going to say Chicago. And maybe Minneapolis?
"Don't patronize me, alright?" - BroadwayStar4
jpbran
Broadway Legend
joined:3/8/06
Chicago. Hands down.
AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
Boston is another city with a solid theatre scene.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
My Oh My
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/07
Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia immediately come to mind. I agree that Chicago takes top honors.

Los Angeles is a vast, fragmented film town with only two major, first run houses, and if you don't own a car, you better hope you happen to live near one of them because our public transportation system sucks balls.
Recreation of original John Cameron orchestration to "On My Own" by yours truly. Click player below to hear.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
That's true but Los Angeles also has a lot of talent that is supported by the film and TV industries.

Off the top of my head, I'd say Chicago, but only by reputation. I've never spent much time there.

But on the average, I saw almost as much interesting theater in LA as I did in NYC. About as many clunkers, too. But My Oh My is absolutely right; you have to be willing to drive to get to the theater in LA.

Updated On: 12/21/12 at 05:59 PM
givesmevoice
Broadway Legend
joined:12/2/07
The only other city I've seen theatre in was Boston, but some of my fondest memories of the theatre were there, so.
When I see the phrase "the ____ estate", I imagine a vast mansion in the country full of monocled men and high-collared women receiving letters about productions across the country and doing spit-takes at whatever they contain. -Kad
uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
I was amazed at how much theater Denver has. (And the rest of the state)
Just give the world Love.
broadwaydevil
Broadway Legend
joined:2/16/11
Seattle has some good theatre as well but after New York I think Chicago is unarguably the best.
Scratch and claw for every day you're worth! Make them drag you screaming from life, keep dreaming You'll live forever here on earth.
sally1112
Broadway Legend
joined:4/13/04
One o of my actor friends lived and worked in theater in Memphis, and tells me it is an amazing theater city.
I have only been there once and to see two regional productions (in two different theaters). Both were well done and fully attended.
Brave Sir Robin2
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/07
Well, it's more of a region than city, but Southern California is really good. There's Los Angeles, with the Ahmanson, Mark Taper, Pantages, Geffen, Pasadena Playhouse, and (on hiatus) the South Bay CLO. There are also lots of great theatres in Orange County..
darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
While Pittsburgh will never rank tops, it does pretty well, with the highly-respected Pittsbugh CLO, the Irish Classical, and a number of smaller, frequently stranger, theatres such as Attack Theatre, Quantum Theatre and Rage of the Stage, probably one of the only grand guignol theatres still creating new work consistently.
Theatreboy49
Broadway Legend
joined:3/8/05
I might be bias as I work in Chicago theatre but I am constantly amazed at the quality of work in this city. I saw Superior Donuts last night in a production that I cannot imagine was any better in New York (yes I know the show originally transferred from Steppenwolf). Besides the big equity houses here such as Goodman, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Mariott and Drury Lane I think the non equity work here is really something special and while of course there is alot of crap here (I argue there is in NYC or anywhere else) I'd say there is a ton of good things to see here.
<------ Me and my friends with patti Lupone at my friends afterparty for her concert with audra mcdonald during the summer of 07.
"I am sorry but it is an unjust world and virtue is only triumphant in theatricle performances" The Mikado

Broadway shows I have seen(in order): Avenue Q, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Lestat, Sweeney Todd, Rent, Legally Blonde, Spring Awakening, Curtains, Xanadu, South Pacific, Gypsy, In the Heights, [Title of Show], Catch Me If You Can, The Book of Mormon, Anything Goes, American Idiot, Porgy and Bess, Death of a Salesman, Once, War Horse, Newsies, Macbeth, Phantom of the Opera, Vanya Sonya Masha and Spike, Pippin.
My friends website: http://bwayjuvinile.wordpress.com/
SondheimFan5
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/10
For resident theatres, Chicago with Boston and DC close behind it.
DEClarke
Broadway Legend
joined:11/22/06
I think you'd find HOUSTON, TEXAS (with the second largest theatre district in the US) might surprise you.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Pittsburgh has the benefit of being the location of Carnegie Mellon, which I'm sure contributes a lot of eager, freshly-graduated artists to the local area.
temms
Broadway Star
joined:7/21/04
Chicago is great because of the variety. You have the touring shows downtown in the big barns. You have the big-time resident theatres like the Goodman and Steppenwolf and Chicago Shakespeare and the Cort. You have mid-size rental houses where bigger-but-not-huge shows can play like the Royal George, The Mercury, Victory Gardens, and the Athenaeum.

But beyond that the non-eq scene is great, and smaller companies that play in storefront spaces and small venues like the Theatre Building or City Lit do really great work for very cheap tickets (though the actors don't get paid much, but they're doing it for the love.) Plus you have the improv scene and Second City, the original "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind" and those sorts of oddities, and it all adds up to a very broad scene.

The one thing I feel that Chicago doesn't have much of is good new musical theatre. For all the great work that gets done there, I can't think of a single musical since "Grease" that originated in Chicago (not counting an out-of-town tryout) and went on to be a big hit.

The Chicago Reader has a great comprehensive listing of what's playing. You can check out what's on right now at the link below:
Chicago Reader Theater Listings
Addison D.
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/12
I have to add my voice to the Chicago chorus.

A one-off trip to the Goodman many years ago turned me into a subscriber, and I made five or six Thursday-Sunday theater trips a year for several years. As has been noted above, once you get your bearings and begin to cast your net beyond the big Equity houses, the variety of options is astonishing. The William Finn festival at the Theater Building was a theater milestone for me--giving me the chance to see several shows that I knew/loved only though their Cast Recordings.

If you add in Ravinia, the Lyric Opera and the Improv scene, it's really a world-class city.
You think, what do you want? You think, make a decision...
Griffin2
Swing
joined:11/11/11
I'd like to add to the Chicago vote! I see shows every visit and have been very impressed at everything....... last trip I went to Drury Lane, the Marriott and the Lookingglass.
Jungle Red
Broadway Legend
joined:8/13/12
No one has mentioned San Francisco, original home of Wicked (and in a slightly lesser voice, Lestat).
"Bill Clinton is the ultimate whore! He stole Madonna's crown." -Jim Colyer, on 10/29/2012
Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
It seems that Chicago is the clearer winner here, but what show has it had this year to make it great? What has Chicago tried out before going to Broadway in the last 10 years?

I have been to Chicago once, where I saw Billy Elliot and The Lion King and The Story Of My Life (New Victory).
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar***
Theatreboy49
Broadway Legend
joined:3/8/05
Phantom of London, this year alone NYC has currently 3 shows from Chicago there 1 on Broadway (Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf) and 2 Off-Broadway (5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche and the recently closed A Twist of Water). We have had several pre-broadway tryouts this year (although they dont really count) and our Regional Theatres put on shows that rival anything broadway has to offer (The Goodman's The Iceman Cometh comes to mind as of late).

<------ Me and my friends with patti Lupone at my friends afterparty for her concert with audra mcdonald during the summer of 07.
"I am sorry but it is an unjust world and virtue is only triumphant in theatricle performances" The Mikado

Broadway shows I have seen(in order): Avenue Q, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Lestat, Sweeney Todd, Rent, Legally Blonde, Spring Awakening, Curtains, Xanadu, South Pacific, Gypsy, In the Heights, [Title of Show], Catch Me If You Can, The Book of Mormon, Anything Goes, American Idiot, Porgy and Bess, Death of a Salesman, Once, War Horse, Newsies, Macbeth, Phantom of the Opera, Vanya Sonya Masha and Spike, Pippin.
My friends website: http://bwayjuvinile.wordpress.com/
Updated On: 12/23/12 at 03:16 PM
Owen22
Broadway Legend
joined:2/24/11
Obviously Chicago.

But don't count out Los Angeles. Besides having acting talent to spare, there is tons of theatre going on all over this spread out metropolis. I believe the NoHo Arts District hosts the largest confluence of theatre spaces per square whatever than any place on earth. Quality is up and down in these fringey spaces, but along with some major subscription companies, its not a bad theatre town.

Its not far from San Diego either which I think hosts four different Lort A or B houses of their own.
someone.else's.story2
Leading Actor
joined:3/18/07
Chicago, probably followed by Boston, then. Minneapolis.
Seattle has some interesting stuff going on, as well.

LA small theater is pretty hit and miss. Some great work being done here but also a lot of "showcase" stuff where people are just trying to get agents or on a tv show.


Denver theater is one of worst cities that I've seen (save for the work at the Denver Center).
I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. ``oscar wilde``
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
LA small theater is pretty hit and miss. Some great work being done here but also a lot of "showcase" stuff where people are just trying to get agents or on a tv show.

But that's true of New York, too, unless things have changed a great deal.

I don't think the number of shows a city sends to New York is a good barometer unless your taste runs to large, commercial pieces. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Finally, any city that holds a "William Finn Festival" gets my vote. I still say Chicago.

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