Live theater in Central New York

From community productions to touring casts of Broadway shows, live theater in Central New York is abundant. Musicals and plays engage intellect and emotion and make for a great night out.

Get your tickets for these 15 theater companies and venues — including 3 historical theaters — for drama, comedy and much more. Several offer performances and educational opportunities for youth.

Actors from a live theater performance in Central New York
Photo: Amelia Beamish

Baldwinsville Theatre Guild

Founded in 1942, Baldwinsville Theatre Guild is the oldest continually performing non-professional community theater group in New York State. A robust organization west of Syracuse, the guild stages a variety of shows each year such as major Broadway musicals and notable plays like The Sunshine Boys and The Laramie Project. Shows are performed on the stage in the education center of First Presbyterian Church of Baldwinsville.

Breadcrumbs Productions

Breadcrumbs devises immersive plays and highlights original work. In residence at Wunderbar in downtown Syracuse, their focus is on pushing the boundaries of storytelling, advancing the sustainability of a career in the arts and promoting radical inclusion of underrepresented communities. A 24-hour play making festival and Marie and the Nutcracker Prince, an immersive retelling of a classic tale, are examples of their creative work.

actors in the Addams Family
Photo: CNY Playhouse

CNY Playhouse

Every season, the ambitious Central New York Playhouse puts on a different production each month. The troupe presents a variety of live theatre, ranging from one-night cabaret performances and magic shows to well-known musicals and plays including Mamma Mia and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Performances take place at their theater in Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt.

Cortland Repertory Theatre

Cortland Repertory Theatre was founded in 1972 after the then-associate director of theatre at SUNY Cortland and a local real estate developer recognized the need for a quality summer theater experience in Central New York. Programming began at the Little York Lake theater in nearby Preble and continue each summer. Since 1998, seasons typically offer three musicals and three non-musicals with shows like The 39 Steps and Newsies. In 2015, Cortland Repertory expanded to a second location in downtown Cortland; performances and other events such as Cosplay Karaoke and live music take place fall through spring.

touring Broadway cast of Beautiful: the Carole King Musical
Photo: Famous Artists/Joan Marcus

Famous Artists

Famous Artists has staged productions in the Syracuse area for more than 60 years. For the last two decades, it has brought national tours of Broadway productions to various stages in Syracuse. A partnership with NAC Entertainment helped Famous Artists become a nationally recognized series, with full-week and multi-week shows. Lion King, Jersey Boys, Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera are just some of the headlining shows.

Landmark Theatre

Opened in 1928 as the Loew’s State Theatre, the Landmark is one of several architectural gems in Syracuse. Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, the opulent theater featured a “million-dollar chandelier” in the lobby, originally created by Louis Comfort Tiffany for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s mansion. Since those days, the theater has hosted top musical acts, comedians and stage shows. In summer 2020, the theatre will undergo a renovation to create a more comfortable seating configuration while maintaining a historically accurate appearance, increase accessible seating and improve aisle lighting. The marquee will be upgraded to a modernized replica of the 1928 original, with LED energy-efficient lighting and high-resolution video capabilities.

Le Moyne College

The drama and arts department at Le Moyne College stages shows that are open to the public. Each year, the department produces three main stage, faculty-run productions and three student-driven productions in the black box theatre. Past shows include 9 to 5: The Musical, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Our Town. The Gifford Family Theater produces shows for all ages.
In 2020, the college celebrates 20 years of theater program performances at the on-campus W. Carroll Coyne Performing Arts Center.

Photo: Ellen Blalock

Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company

The Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company celebrates and offers the richness of multicultural experiences with performances coming out of an African American tradition. The company is named for Paul Robeson, a 20th century stage and film entertainer and activist. Past shows include The Wiz, A Tribute to Motown and A Soldier’s Play.

Rarely Done Productions

This performing arts organization uses theater, dance, art and music to engage and enlighten audiences. Their productions of original, alternative and seldom-seen works – such as Vanities, She Kills Monsters and Regrets Only – are staged at Jazz Central in Downtown Syracuse. With its current season (2019-2020), the group celebrates its 15th anniversary.

performers from RENT during rehearsal at Redhouse
Photo: Redhouse Arts Center

Redhouse Arts Center

The Redhouse Arts Center is a multi-arts organization dedicated to interdisciplinary works in the theater, music, and visual arts. In addition to mainstage shows such as Fences and Avenue Q, the Theatre Experience Series features productions that are focused on creating an educational experience for both participants and audiences. The Open Hand Theater, specializing in puppetry, is also located at Redhouse in Syracuse.

The Rev Theatre Company

The Rev Theatre Company, formerly the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival/Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, is based in Auburn. It’s one of the largest professional musical theatre organizations in New York State and home to the nation’s largest resident touring youth education program. In addition to main stage productions of well-known pieces such as South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza, creative teams behind new original musicals present works-in-progress for audience feedback in a program called The PiTCH.

The Stanley Center for Arts

The Stanley Center for the Arts

Now hosting renowned plays, comedy acts and musicians, the Stanley is one of Central New York’s most glamorous old theaters. Utica’s Stanley Theatre opened in 1928 and its interior featured Baroque, Moorish and Mexican influences. Large marble lions, terra cotta tiles, cherubs and angels and a star-dotted ceiling which gives one the feeling of being outdoors during a performance were all part of the original glamour. The Stanley’s marquee, now digital, evokes the old days of vaudeville and has been a Utica landmark from the beginning. When visiting the Stanley, don’t miss the interior chandelier, installed during 2006 renovations. The 7,000-pound steel-and-glass fixture is the largest free-hanging LED chandelier in the world.

 State Theatre of Ithaca

Ithaca once boasted 17 elaborate movie and vaudeville palaces in the downtown area. The State, open since 1928, is the last remaining historic performing arts theater in Tompkins County. The interior design incorporated Moorish, Renaissance Revival and Collegiate Gothic elements, the latter a nod to the founders Cornell University alumni status. At slightly more than 1,600 seats, it is one of the largest entertainment venues in the Ithaca area. Many improvements and upgrades have been made over the last decade. In addition to theatrical productions, comedy shows, ballet performances and readings, classic movies are shown via digital projector filling nights that would otherwise be dark.

Syracuse Shakespeare Festival

The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Merry Wives of Windsor. These and many other Shakespearian works have been presented outdoors at Thornden Park Amphitheater by Syracuse Shakespeare-in-the-Park. Acting in Elizabethan costumes and settings, the company’s mission is to bring the beauty, language and poetry of The Bard to the community.

actors on a two-level stage set
Toni DiBuono, Skip Greer, Susanne Marley, Regan Moro, and Madeleine Lambert and (bottom) Thamer Jendoubi in “The Humans” at Syracuse Stage, April 24 – May 12, 2019. By Stephen Karam. Directed by Mark Cuddy. Scenic design by Tim Mackabee. Costume design by Christina Selian. Lighting design by Josh Epstein. Sound design by Danny Erdberg. Photo by Michael Davis.

Syracuse Stage

Syracuse Stage, founded in 1974, is Central New York’s premier professional theater. Over 40+ seasons, it has challenged and entertained audiences with classic and contemporary plays, including several world and American premieres. As the professional theater in residence at Syracuse University, the school’s drama department has a mutually beneficial relationship with Stage and performs a variety of works here throughout the school year.