10 Shows that Stand Out at the New York Fringe Festival 2016

It’s August, baby!  And that means right now, as I type, there are hundreds . . . hundreds of shows in the midst of rehearsals for this year’s New York International Fringe Festival which opens on August 12th.

But we’re not talking about hundreds of shows.

We’re here today to talk about ten.  Just ten.

As I did with NYMF, and as I’ve done with the Fringe for the past handful of years, I printed out the entire catalog of shows appearing in this year’s festival and scanned them for shows that stand out.

What does stand out?

It means it grabs my attention, gets me intrigued and makes my Producer spidey sense go off.

And now I’m going to tell you what those ten shows are and, more importantly, what about their description, title, blurb, etc. made me wanna write about ’em.  Why do we play this little game?  Because this is what ticket buyers go through each and every time they consider buying a ticket . . . especially for a new play or musical.  And if you can master marketing in a festival like the Fringe and make your show stand out amongst hundreds, well, you’ve got skill.

So, without further blah-blah from me, here are the Ten Shows That Stand Out At This Year’s Fringe!

1.  Black & Blue

Whenever a piece of theater addresses a topic that is also appearing in (way too many) headlines, an audience is going to be drawn to it.  Black & Blue, which has a terrific double entendre title, is about “a black man and a NYPD officer struggling to find common ground.”  Tell me you didn’t perk up when you read that description.

2.  Bonnie’s Future Sisters

It wasn’t the description of the show that got me to include BFS in this list (although it sounds fun enough).  It was their ad.  They took out a big ol’ half page (and well-designed) ad that appears on one of the first few pages of the catalog.  Most Fringe shows don’t have the budgets to advertise (or mistakenly don’t allocate any funds towards it).  If they do, they take mini-me sized ads.  If everyone else isn’t advertising, well that’s when you should.

3.  Chip and Gus

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about Chip and Gus.  This show, which takes place over a game of table tennis, has been pinging and ponging all over the city (and the East Coast) for a few years now.  The Fringe doesn’t have to only be a place to debut a new show.  It can be a place to remind people about a show that many (this guy) missed the first time around.  I’ll be at this one.

4.  Dream Ticket

In a year of such a unique presidential election, I’m surprised there weren’t more shows about a presidential election.  Dream Ticket is one that stood out to me, once again taking advantage of the times we’re in, and presenting the author’s take on the process of how we elect our supreme leader.  (I guess one of the reasons that we didn’t see more shows about elections this year is that not even a Fringe show could be as out-there and wacko as the real thing!)

5.  Einstein

Einstein is a guy that changed the world.  Yet he was kind of quiet.  Aren’t you interested in what he had to say?  Add that to the fact that this one-man show has some Awards from the Hollywood and London Fringe (awards, no matter who/where they are from, always help) and some good quotes as well, and he had me at he + l2 + o.

6.  Fallen Skies

There is something about D.H. Lawrence that just sounds like he (and his material) would be ripe for a musical, don’t you think?  The Authors of Fallen Skies sure did (all that romance sure does help) so they made a musical about his life . . . adapted from his actual text.  The best dramas open up the doors to a world the audience doesn’t know much about but is very curious about.  Given D.H.’s predilection for racy subject matter, I have a feeling a lot of people would be curious as to what goes on in his day-to-day world.

7.  Lunt and Fontanne

You know what theater audiences love?  Shows about the theater.  The Producers, It’s Only A Play, Drowsy Chaperone, Noises Off, etc.  The backstage story translates very easily to onstage.  So a play about “the most famous forgotten actor-couple in theater history?”  Yes, please, I would.  And this show has a little marketing bonus of the actors playing that famous couple being a couple in real life (Sounds like Daddy Long Legs, right?).

8.  Movin’ On Up

The first sentence of the blurb for this absurdist comedy reads, “It’s Funny-Or-Die in a graveyard.”  And bam, immediately I know what this is.  By using a classic “framing” device (also heavily used in Hollywood), not only did the Producers paint me a great picture of what the style of the show is, but they also associated the show with something with a great brand.  Sneaky, right?  Not at all. More like essential, especially when introducing a new and original show to the market.  When I pitch Gettin’ The Band Back Together to investors, I call it a “Will Ferrell movie live on stage.”  Now, not all people may like Funny or Die (or Will Ferrell), but that’s ok.  Marketing is about getting the people who will like your show to come see it, as much as it is about getting the people who will not like your show to not see it.  Remember word-of-mouth can be your friend or your enemy.

9.  Super!

Captain America.  Iron Man.  Batman.  Are these names of comic book characters?  Or movie titles?

Both, because people are obsessed with superheroes.  We haven’t seen any musicals hit the big boards yet with super-human powers other than Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (although Valjean did show off some Superman-like strength when he moved that runaway cart, and Elphaba can sure conjure up some @#$%), but I’m betting, as is Super!, a musical about a “young man with extraordinary gifts who must become the superhero the world needs him to be,” that a big one is to come.

10.  Zuccotti Park

You’re gonna think I chose this show because it’s got the components of an underdog, fight-the-system, Les Miz kind of revolution.  That may be true, but the reason this show stood out is that . . . well . . . I know the Director/Choreographer.  His name is Luis Salgado, and he’s been in Broadway shows as well as producing and directing shows for the last few years, and developing quite a good reputation in the process.  I can’t stress enough how Producers follow Directors that they know and like.  If I see a show that has snagged someone I respect to captain the ship, I instantly think, “Well this show must have something if So-And-So is directing it.”  Chose your Directors wisely, my friends.  They can draw the bees to your honey.


And there they are . . . this year’s crop of my catalog-cruisin’ stand outs.

You should take a trip through the catalog yourself and see what stands out (and then report back to us here!).

And if you want to see these shows, and any Fringe shows . . . or wait . . . ALL the Fringe shows, click here to enter our All Access Fringe Pass giveaway!

And happy Festival-goin’!


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.