Was there a “Hunger Games”-style backstage contest for who got to sing “Popular” and “Defying Gravity”?
That was my first question when I saw the lineup for the PBS special “Wicked in Concert,” hosted by the original stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, on Aug. 29. My personal pick for the first song is Alex Newell, who turns up alongside Mario Cantone, Gavin Creel, Ariana DeBose, Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Nettles, Amber Riley, Ali Stroker and more. This tribute to Stephen Schwartz’s songs should keep fans happy until the show returns to Broadway (Sept. 14) and hits the big screen (eventually, one day, possibly-maybe, who knows).
Quick: What performance so stunned Sheryl Lee Ralph that she described her reaction like so? “You ever see the cartoons where the lion roars, and the people are pinned to the wall? It was like that.” The answer — Jennifer Holliday’s in “Dreamgirls” — can also be found at PBS, where “Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age” is now streaming. The documentary covers musicals from 1959 to the early ’80s and includes interviews with Carol Burnett, Liza Minnelli and Dick Van Dyke. pbs.org.
Lloyd as Lear
Admit it: You are curious to know whether Christopher Lloyd, still best known for his comedic roles in “Taxi” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy, could pull off “King Lear.” Maybe not curious enough to travel all the way to Lenox, Mass., where the actor recently took on the daunting title role outdoors, but streaming the show from home is an easier way to find out what went down in the Berkshires. Nicole Ricciardi’s production for Shakespeare & Company earned wildly divergent reviews, which is often a sign that at least something is going on. Through Aug. 28; theatermania.stream.
If you are really feeling adventurous, head to the Hollywood Fringe, which takes a “free-for-all approach,” unfettered by that tyrannical institution known as a “curative body.” Will it be exciting, terrifying, or both? Just select “streaming” as a filter, take a deep breath and dive in. Through Aug. 29; hollywoodfringe.org.
‘George M. Cohan Tonight!’
The title character of this biographical show is not a household name, unless the house hosts a coven of musical-theater experts. Yet if you have ever been on Times Square, chances are good you have at least glimpsed a representation of Cohan: It’s his statue next to the TKTS booth. Cohan was such an influential songwriter, director and producer in the Broadway of the early 20th century that he has earned two biopics, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “George M!” — portrayed by James Cagney in 1942 and Joel Grey in 1970, respectively, which is a quite a range of actors — and this bio-show, which premiered at Irish Repertory Theater in 2006. The company is now bringing back an abridged digital version of Chip Deffaa’s musical, starring Jon Peterson. Through Aug. 29; irishrep.org.
The indefatigable British director Emma Rice is a master at translating films to the stage — which is a lot harder than you might think. Only a few of those productions have crossed the Atlantic, most notably the lovely “Brief Encounter,” which made it to Broadway in 2010. Now comes her adaptation of “Bagdad Cafe,” Percy and Eleonore Adlon’s 1987 art-house staple, in which two women form a bond in a Mojave roadside joint. It was an unlikely project (a West German production set in America and starring the great CCH Pounder long before she found television fame), boosted by an unlikely hit song, “Calling You.” The show is in person at the Old Vic and streaming for a limited time as part of the company’s famed In Camera series. Aug. 25-28; oldvictheatre.com.
‘The Blackest Battle’
In this new hip-hop musical by Psalmayene 24 and nick tha 1da, Bliss (Gary Perkins) and Dream (Imani Branch) fall in love in a dystopian America. Unfortunately, they belong to enemy factions that engage in fiery rap battles, which goes to show that futuristic America is just like Shakespearean Verona of “Romeo and Juliet.” Raymond O. Caldwell’s production is presented by Theater Alliance, in Washington, D.C. Through Aug. 29; theateralliance.com.
‘Ni Mi Madre’
The intimate Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, in New York City, has decided to expand it footprint by making the shows in its new season available in person and online. First out of the gate is this solo, written and performed by Arturo Luís Soria (who was in the Broadway cast of “The Inheritance”). The story, inspired by Soria’s own mother, looks at the relationship between a parent and her queer son. Through Sept. 19; rattlestick.org.
Two Leading Men Open Up
Back in 1996, Adam Pascal brought some rock hunkiness to musical theater when he played a guitar-strumming bohemian who made shapeless sweaters look sexy in “Rent.” Pascal went on to build a solid career through shows as diverse as “Aida” and “Something Rotten!” Now he looks back in wonder in his concert “Adam Pascal … So Far.” Through Aug. 24; stellartickets.com.
Another Broadway star exploring solo waters is Norbert Leo Butz, who a few months ago found himself in Vancouver, shooting the science-fiction series “Debris.” (He plays a C.I.A. operative, and if you think that’s a stretch for this amiable star, check out his expert turn as a loser marina owner in “Bloodline.”) The gig left Butz time to work out new arrangements for some of his favorite pop tunes, which he’s now performing in his acoustic concert “Torch Songs for a Pandemic” at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Happily, one of the performances is livestreaming. Aug. 21; 54below.com.
The British press showered Ronke Adekoluejo with praise for her performance in Benedict Lombe’s “Lava,” a continent-spanning monologue that explores issues pertaining to identity via the travails of a British-Congolese woman. The show recently had an in-person run at the Bush Theater and worldwide audiences can now check out a streaming version. Aug. 16-21; bushtheatre.co.uk.