National Theatre Live offers professional plays for $20 on select screens this fall

I can’t be the only millennial who loves theater and also cringes over ticket prices. In Sarasota, we’re lucky to have a billion live arts options to choose from for entertainment, most of which are fairly affordable. But $30 or $40 can be a lot when you’re operating on a broke-college-kid mindset.

I was introduced to National Theatre Live years ago, when the 25th anniversary performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” was filmed and broadcast live to cinemas around the world. There was something acutely magical about knowing this production was happening right that moment, all the way in London.  

National Theatre Live saves those films, too, and frequently broadcasts encores of popular performances. They only choose to film select shows, and of those shows, only a few enjoy encore performances.

That’s how you know they’re good. And the best part is that you can get it all for just the price of a movie ticket.

It could have cost me over $100 to see “Phantom” live at the West End. Instead, I got to enjoy it for $15. There seem to be more “beamings” of plays in the fall than any other time of the year — and lots of them are coming to our area.

Oct 25: “Frankenstein”

This show was a sell-out hit at the National Theatre in 2011, and has been playing encores in National Theatre Live every few years since. Directed by Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) this show features Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating roles as Victor Frankenstein and his creation. The show explores deep themes of scientific responsibility, parental neglect, cognitive development and human nature. Plus it’s Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein” in October, what’s not to love?

Info: Hollywood 20, Royal Palm 20, and Sarasota 12. $20. 2 hrs.10 mins. 7 p.m. Click here to buy tickets.

Nov 15: “Hamlet”
Directed by Lyndsey Turner (Posh, Chimerica), this 2015 show features (again, sorry, he’s popular) Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. It’s an interesting mix of time periods, with brilliant acting, lighting and special effects that bring the show fully to life. Classic story here, if you skipped that one in English class: a country arms itself for war, and a family tears itself apart.

Info: Hollywood 20, Royal Palm 20, and Sarasota 12. $20. 4hrs. 7 p.m.  Click here to buy tickets.

Nov. 18: “The Deep Blue Sea”

Helen McCrory (re: Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter) stars as Hester Collyer in this masterpiece, respected as one of the greatest female roles in modern drama. When she’s found in the aftermath of a failed suicide attempt, the story of her affair with a former RAF pilot and the breakdown of her marriage to a High Court judge begins to unravel.

Info: Historic Asolo Theater. $20 ($18 for Ringling members). 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Click here to buy tickets.

Dec. 9: War Horse

Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, “War Horse” is the powerful story of a young boy, Albert, and his beloved horse, Joey, who is has been drafted to fight for the British in World War I. Caught in the middle of the fighting, Joey has a rather “Black Beauty” journey before landing in No Man’s Land while Albert, too young to enlist, goes looking for the horse to bring him home.

Ringing bells? Steven Spielberg made this story into a movie in 2011. The magic of the stage version is the absolutely stunning puppetry used for its title character, who is, in fact, a horse.

Info: Historic Asolo Theater. $20 ($18 for Ringling members). 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Click here to buy tickets.

I’ve only mentioned theatre, but National Theatre Live and Fathom Events also frequently show ballets and operas if that’s more your speed. Check local listings at the Ringling On Screen and Fathom Events websites.

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