Family & Leisure

Long-Distance Runners: Forever Young
The Fantasticks is gone, and you're not seeing The Producers until 2007. What to do till then? Don't waste your time and money on tourist shows. These champs were built for New Yorkers, and they're as good today as the day they opened.

Chasin' the blues away II: Blue Man Group.

The Lion King Four years later, The Lion King remains a magic spectacle. The best kids' show of a generation or more, Julie Taymor's production also packs enough downtown wit, whimsy, and stunning stage play to please even the most jaded critics, which it certainly did in 1998, when it won eight Tonys. Now and forever? Probably. Just don't call it the next Cats. (New Amsterdam Theatre; 212-307-4747.)
Cabaret Alan Cumming. Natasha Richardson. Jennifer Jason Leigh. Some of this generation's hottest talents have spent quality time in this decadent Weimar wonder, now starring Molly Ringwald and Raśl Esparza. From the revival's seedy setting — Studio 54 — to its tiny audience cocktail tables and nasty edge, the production is an inspired mix of grit and grace other producers can only hope to emulate. (Studio 54; 212-239-6200.)
Rent As any Rent-head waiting for standby tickets for the twentieth time will tell you, to see Rent for its historical value (brilliant author dies on the eve of the show's premiere) is to miss the point entirely. As Jonathan Larson wrote, "There's only now / There's only here / Give in to love / Or live in fear / No day but today." (Nederlander Theatre; 212-307-4100.)
Contact Director-choreographer Susan Stroman has given us some ecstatic and indelible images, including the sex-starved septuagenarians dancing with walkers in The Producers. But here she created a work wholly her own, an insouciant dance-theater event that includes a suicidal adman's fantasy that dizzily connects her restless choreography to a joyously kinetic vision of New York nightlife. (Vivian Beaumont Theater; 212-239-6200.)
Blue Man Group With a Grammy nomination, a Las Vegas show, and an army of touring blue men in their wake, the blue boys have grown from downtown oddities to international celebrities. Their show, which made performance art safe for the general public, has thrived because it actually improves every year, with the best sound design found anywhere downtown and a surprisingly strong musical score. (Astor Place Theatre; 212-254-4370.)
Photograph Courtesy of Blue Man Group.