There is something uniquely exciting about live theater. The presence and energy of the actors, the sense of collaboration between the performers and the audience, and the realization that every performance is unique combine again and again to guarantee the continued appeal and cultural resonance of this age-old art form. If “all the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare would have it, then the world’s greatest theater cities represent the crème de la crème of live performance. They also provide excellent locales for luxury apartments that offer access to an impressive range of theaters not found anywhere else.
A few blocks south of Central Park and Lincoln Center on the west side of Midtown Manhattan, New York’s Theater District and nearby Theater Row stand at the center of the theatrical world. Presenting everything from long-running Broadway musicals to independent Off-Off-Broadway shows, New York attracts talent and audiences from all over. For those who love live theater, this section of Midtown serves up an inexhaustible playbill of performances, from established classics to avant-garde works.
From its famed West End to Shakespeare’s Globe, the Barbican, and the National Theatre, London remains the capital of the English-speaking theater world, as it has been for hundreds of years. This vibrant scene has something for everyone including West End musicals, new dramas at Chelsea’s Royal Court Theatre, and innovative stagings of classics at the New Vic. Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company performs in London on a regular basis, and smaller outlets like the Bloomsbury and Tricycle theaters and the Battersea Arts Centre cater to those who prefer more intimate productions.
Along with its preeminence in classical music and opera, Paris has a grand tradition of Francophone theatre, from Molière to Jean Genet. Theatrical venues include Comédie-Française, Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, Théâtre du Châtelet, and Théâtre Mogador for musicals and the Théâtre Paris-Villette for contemporary plays. In recent years, the City of Light has begun courting younger and English-speaking audiences. A new company named Theatre in Paris produces plays with English surtitles, and the recently launched Paris Fringe festival offers contemporary shows as well as performances in English.
As the name of its famous comedy troupe The Second City suggests, Chicago prides itself on its theater scene and enjoys challenging New York’s U.S. preeminence in that regard. Improv theater was actually invented at the University of Chicago, and the city is particularly rich in comedy venues. Most of today’s great comics and comic actors once performed stand-up in front of Chicago crowds. While Steppenwolf, the Goodman Theatre, and The Chicago Theater are all anchors of the Windy City’s theatrical circuit, numerous other large and small performance spaces host everything from Broadway musicals to contemporary works to plays and operas performed in Polish and Lithuanian for two of the city’s top immigrant populations.
In Athens, plays are produced in or adjacent to some of the world’s oldest theatrical venues such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on a slope of the Acropolis and the Lycabettus Theatre on one side of Lycabettus Hill, which overlooks the city. Both have served as settings for the 60-year-old Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which in recent years has expanded to other performance spaces around the city and built its own dedicated site in the Tavros district. Modern theaters abound as well. The National Theatre of Greece and the Badminton Theater (converted from a 2004 Olympics venue) are two of the city’s major stages.
Toronto is home to a thriving theater scene that is centered near downtown within the city’s larger Entertainment District. Its Royal Alexandra Theatre is the oldest continuously operating theater in North America, and Soulpepper in the modern Young Centre for the Performing Arts is a renowned year-round repertory company. Each summer, the city hosts the Toronto Fringe and SummerWorks Performance festivals. The renowned Shaw Festival in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake as well as the Stratford Festival (formerly the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) effectively supplement the city’s booming theater scene, which includes a regular schedule of traveling shows from New York and London.
Home of the Sydney Festival, Sydney Theatre Company, and National Institute of Dramatic Art —whose alumni include Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchett, and Judy Davis—Sydney is known for its world-class theater scene. Many famous actors were nurtured in (and often return to) local theaters such as the Belvoir St Theatre and Griffin Theatre Company. Sydney boasts a wide range of venues large and small, including its celebrated Opera House, which contains two theatrical stages in addition to its concert and opera venues.
Latin America’s theatrical capital is Buenos Aires, home of the Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires and the Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires (CTBA), the leading performing arts center for the Spanish-speaking world. The crown jewel of the city’s theatrical venues, Teatro Colón, is said to be one of the most important and acoustically perfect opera houses anywhere. The national stage and comedy theatre, Teatro Nacional Cervantes, is just two blocks north of Teatro Colón, and the Teatro General San Martín is the oldest of the CTBA’s complex of seven impressive venues. Avenida Corrientes, “the street that never sleeps,” also known as the Broadway of Buenos Aires, serves as the historic center of this dynamic city’s theater district.