Best of Manhattan: Arts and Entertainment

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best triple threat on broadway: the three billies of billy elliot

david alvarez, kiril kulish and trent kowalik: all three have singing, acting and-most importantly-dancing chops. little wonder that they consistently upstage veteran broadway actors whenever they show up on the scene. consider the tony awards celebration at radio city music hall last june, when the three tony-nominated youngsters walked away with their statuettes. it was the first time that three actors have shared a tony award for the same role. and the lessons to be learned? boys can do ballet and win, star quality gave these guys an edge and when it comes to pure talent, a triple threat is a triple threat is a triple threat. -dd

best off-broadway show that should have been on broadway: toxic avenger

new world stages, 340 w. 50th st. (betw. eighth and ninth), 212-239-6200

so many screen-to-stage adaptations try to be hilarious camp gold and just end up being crappy on more than one level (if the spiderman musical ever gets made, this might be its fate). the toxic avenger, however, flips that formula and makes a hilarious and powerful rock-opera out of a film camp classic. this show embraces its silly roots and, in doing so, surpasses them to make a truly unique experience. when people say that theater is supposed to be fun, this is what they're talking about. -ms

best celebrity spawn actress: lily rabe

with her performance earlier this year in richard greenberg's an american plan, lily rabe (daughter of actress jill clayburgh and playwright david rabe) confirmed the opinion of critics who have been hailing her as an actress to watch. brittle and charming, she exhibited both genuine stage presence and that modicum of real oddness that stars are composed of. holding one's own against broadway icon mercedes ruehl is no easy task; that rabe did so with effortless poise and confidence cements her status as one of the best stage actors of her generation. -mp

best up-and-coming theater center in manhattan: 59e59 theaters

59 e. 59th st. (betw. madison and park), 212-753-5959

it's the new hip theater center in manhattan. with three stages offering productions from all over the world, plus a chic bar on the mezzanine, the 59e59 theaters complex is the ideal place to see experimental theater. executive director elysabeth kleinhans launched its first production back in february 2004, and she continues to be its driving force. whether it's the annual "brits off broadway" or "east of edinburgh" festivals, the world premiere of a new play or a homegrown writer with new work, the center continues to be at the cutting-edge of contemporary theater. sure, broadway is glitzier, and lincoln center has been around longer. notwithstanding, this new state-of-the-art complex carries real weight in the theater community. -dd

best places to rock uptown-tie: the whitney (945 madison ave. at 75th, 212-570-3600) and the guggenheim (1071 fifth ave. at 89th, 212-423-3500)

we usually don't think "museum mile" when on the hunt for indie rock, but these two fifth avenue stalwarts have given us fresh reasons to stay uptown. this past summer, the guggenheim introduced the "it came from brooklyn" music and literature series, coinciding with the museum's 50th anniversary. the idea is to showcase up-and-coming talent (for example, the experimental music duo high places) alongside established stars (writer colson whitehead). the series "reinforces the museum's identity as a versatile, dynamic site for a variety of mutually invigorating art practices." yeah, well, we just like seeing multimedia entertainment in a beautiful space.

over a the whitney, a nifty series called "whitney live" has brought in acts like new jersey hipster rockers titus andronicus and the ever-charming vivian girls. we like the no-nonsense first-come, first-served seating policy, and the fact that these shows are free with museum admission-which is pay-what-you-wish on fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. -ce

best reading series: in the flesh reading series

third thursday of every month at happy ending lounge, 302 broome st. (betw. eldridge and forsythe)


even though happy ending lounge is most closely associated with its namesake series (which has picked up and moved to joe's pub), there's something a bit naughtier brewing at the broome street den of debauchery. now in its fourth year, "in the flesh," hosted by rachel kramer bussel, features established and up-and-coming writers sharing their frank, funny, frisky tales of love and lust. even more impressive: the series manages to do so-for the most part-without veering into creepy territory. tension is cut by asking the audience to anonymously submit sexy secrets, and it doesn't hurt that bussel provides hundreds of cupcakes and not-to-be-missed miniature peanut butter cups to lull everyone into a sugar-induced sense of security. normally we would avoid an erotic reading series like the plague, but after venturing down here to catch a friend reading her dirty dissertation, we were charmed by the humor of the readers and crowd and not at all displeased by the fact that everything we heard was actually-surprisingly-sexy. -bvb

best theater news: angels in america coming back to the new york stage

in september, the signature theater company announced that it would be reviving tony kushner's modern classic angels in america in new york for it's 2010-11 season-the first time the show has been remounted since its 1994 close. as lucrative as it is to have shows like bye bye birdie brought back to life-and to have movie stars deign to take the stage-we're sure it will be a lot more fulfilling to put on a show that actually has something to say. and we're sure some famous faces could make sure the theater stays packed. -bvb

best new galleries-tie: parkett at caroline nitsch project room (534 w. 22nd st., 212-645-2030) and hauser and wirth (32 e. 69th st., 212-794-4970)

are dealers still opening galleries now that the boom's over? in short yes, though this year, temporary exhibition space and expanding pre-existing enterprise dominate over newbie experimentation. parkett, for example, a publication known for its collaborative features with artists, opened a temporary exhibition space at caroline nitsch project room to display a 25-year, best-of magazine ephemera retrospective. meanwhile, blue-chip european giant hauser and wirth inaugurated its posh new space exhibiting allan kaprow's yard with reinventions by william pope l., josiah mcelheny and sharon hayes. pope l. went so far as to hire an obama impersonator to orate a collage of clippings by the artist and kaprow over a darkened pile of tires. it's incredibly moving. -pj

best bookstore for people who still believe in the power of print: revolution books

146 w. 26th st. (betw. sixth and seventh), 212-691-3345

if you're looking to pick a bookstore based on personality, why not go all out and choose one that's actually got a purpose? what sounds more fun: going to the starbucks in a barnes and noble to sit in silence, or venturing into revolution books in chelsea to receive a lecture about the significance of the chinese cultural revolution? exactly. this communist bookstore, which sells only revolutionary materials, isn't messing around with twilight displays, and we salute that. as manager travis morales told us earlier this year, "if you come to the bookstore most nights, you can get an idea of what a revolutionary society is going to look like." -ms


deirdre donovan, charlotte eichna, paddy johnson, mark peikert, mike spence, bathsheba van buren

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