Top 10 cities for live theater

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To pay homage to great performances, we’re listing the best spots in the world to see live theater.

Sunday night aired the 66th Annual Tony Awards, a celebration of the best theater to hit the Broadway stage this year. To pay homage to great performances – in musicals, straight plays and more – we’re offering our own critics’ picks for the top 10 cities in the world for live theater.

New York City, USA

Anyone who’s stood under the bright lights of Times Square knows just how magical New York’s theater scene truly is. The planet’s most talented actors, dancers, singers, directors, playwrights – need we go on? – set their sights on the Big Apple when it comes to showcasing their artistic abilities. From Sondheim’s musical masterpieces to The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park series (‘As You Like It’ is running now) to downtown’s lesser-known, stellar playhouses, New York’s live theater options are endless. Search and compare cheap flights to New York.

London, England

Shakespeare set the bar high when he wrote timeless classics – Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Twelfth Night, just to name a few – for the London stage. Four-hundred years later, London is still an epicenter of live theater, presenting not-to-be-missed plays and long-run musicals like Les Miserables, Jersey Boys and The Lion King in the city’s bustling West End. For a throwback to the days of yore, theatergoers catch shows in the South Bank, home to the National Theatre and the reconstructed (the first burned down) Globe Theatre. Search and compare cheap flights to London.

Athens, Greece

Nearly every aspect of Western theater is rooted in ancient Greek drama, from costumes to scenic design to plot structure. Thousands of years later, theater remains a pillar of culture in Greece. Athens alone has more than 148 theater stages, more than any other city in the world. Greeks and visitors alike take in shows at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus – located on the south slope of the Acropolis – from May to October annually, during the Athens Festival. Search and compare cheap flights to Athens.

Toronto, Canada

Toronto’s active theater scene makes it a must-stop for national and international touring companies year-round. The dramatic destination is less expensive than New York and Chicago, giving both Canadians and Americans reason to spend (less) money on first-rate, Broadway-style shows. Smack dab in the city’s Entertainment District are endless viewing options, including Toronto’s Second City and the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theater in North America. Search and compare cheap flights to Toronto.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The unique pulse of Buenos Aires is wonderfully evident on stages across Argentina’s capital city. A melting pot of local and international arts events, the city offers some of the best dance, theater and music performances in the world. Get tickets to an experimental play at the Belisario Club de Cultura or tap your toes along with flamenco, ballet and tango interpretations at the major Centro Cultural Borges. Search and compare cheap flights to Buenos Aires.

Paris, France

Lovers of plays and musicals will find thrills from Paris’ theaters’ exteriors, not to mention the actual performances taking place inside. Opera Garnier – situated in the 9th arrondissement – is an architectural wonder, and the inspiration for the novel-turned-musical The Phantom of the Opera, penned by musical theater master Andrew Lloyd Webber. Search and compare cheap flights to Paris.

Chicago, USA

The Second City holds its own against its East Coast rival, New York, thanks to a bevy of cultural offerings. Topping that list: theater. Chicago’s downtown, also known as The Loop, packs internationally renowned spaces – like the Goodman and Chicago theaters – into a historic multi-block-radius that’ll impress any drama lover. Further uptown, comedians put on side-splitting performances seven days a week at comedy and improvisation clubs, including the one-and-only Second City, where Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and other hilarious stars got their starts. Search and compare cheap flights to Chicago.

Vienna, Austria

Everything in Vienna is grand, and its theaters are no different. Whether it’s an operatic performance at the magnificent Theater an der Wien or a modern play at the English Theatre, the oldest English-language theater in continental Europe, audiences are bound to get their euros’ worth. Vienna’s Burgtheater, which features a rotating stage and staircases painted by Gustav Klimt, is also a must-visit. If you don’t have time for shows at each, take a guided tour – with camera in tow – for a close-second experience. Search and compare cheap flights to Vienna.

Beijing, China

Chinese playwrights have managed to create powerful masterpieces over the years while maintaining the tricky balance of placating government censorship. A major step forward, Beijing opened the gorgeous National Centre for the Performing Arts in 2007, which features opera, music and theater performances. Visitors looking for a taste of the traditional may want to catch an acrobatics show at the Tianqiao Acrobatics or Chaoyang theaters, where gymnasts and acrobats balance, jump and spin through the air, defying gravity and bringing audiences to their feet. Search and compare cheap flights to Beijing.

Edinburgh, Scotland

The ancient Scottish capital has entertainment of all kinds to offer, but most people know Edinburgh as a theatrical haven – in particular, for its annual Fringe Festival. For three weeks every August, thousands of performers take to numerous stages to deliver performances of every kind. Comedies, musicals, operas and performance art are undertaken by famous and anonymous thespians alike. Fifty-plus years in, the Fringe Festival has become synonymous with the capital. Search and compare cheap flights to Edinburgh.

(Images: New York, Randy Le’Moine Photography; London, thesolaris5; Chicago, –Mike–; Toronto, simon.carr; Paris, noviceromano; Athens, koadmunkee; Vienna, RaSeLaSeD – Il Pinguino; Edinburgh,; Buenos Aires, Svetlana Zhukova; Beijing, Nir Sinay)

Top 10 cities for live theater was last modified: June 11th, 2012 by Lauren Sullivan
Author: Lauren Sullivan (56 posts)

Lauren’s spent her twenty-some years of life saving up nickels, dimes and vacation days to see the world, typically with only a backpack in tow.