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NYC May 2014- Day Ten: Purple Summer
Last Sunday Morning we met up with our friends Richard, Dennie and Alan and headed to a cafe in Hell’s Kitchen, to meet with some other friends of theirs, before heading to The High Line.
Unfortunately, being Memorial Day weekend, the cafe was closed. This was actually okay because that gave us the opportunity to revisit Chelsea Market. (First visit for our friends.)
Chelsea Market is in the Meatpacking District, near the Hudson River and The High Line. The building is a full city block wide and long.
It’s considered a “neighborhood market with a global perspective” and has become one of the most visited destinations in NYC over the past fifteen years.
Once everyone had a chance to grab a knosh, we headed for our morning stroll on The High Line.
This was Michael’s and my second visit this trip and Boy, what a difference! So many people! It was a beautiful, sunny morning and the paths were packed with people from all over the world. I have to say, I’m glad to have experienced the park with both more– and fewer visitors… either way, there is still a relaxing, peaceful atmosphere about it.
We stopped at various points along the way to enjoy the views of the city, the Hudson River and of course the wonderfully ingenious layout of the park itself. One of the great things about all the green spaces in NYC is that they are all unique. They all provide a different experience and have their own distinct vibe.
It was brought up in conversation that Chicago is in the process of creating it’s own version of The High Line, called The 606; creating an urban parkway on the abandoned, raised freight rails of The Bloomingdale Line. It’s scheduled for opening this coming fall.
Michael and I split from rest of the group as they headed towards Macy’s and we headed back to Times Square before our show.
Violet I hate to ever pass up the opportunity to see Sutton Foster perform. She embodies honesty, sincerity and loads of passion in every role she plays. This was one of the reasons we scheduled Violet as our last Broadway show this trip.
Violet has been around for awhile, although this is its first Broadway production. I was not familiar with it and had no preconceived expectations of it.
Violet is the story of a girl with facial scar, that sets out on a journey to be healed by a TV evangelist; finding herself, instead, along the way. In the end there is always hope.
I loved the story, the music and the staging. Performances were also good all around. Supporting Foster’s outstanding performance as Violet are Joshua Henry (Flick) and Colin Donnell (Monty), both enamored by her. In the ensemble, Annie Golden gives one of those really rare stand out performances that sticks with you.
Between shows, we stopped back at The Counter to see our friend Amy (who was starting her shift) one more time and had one of their delicious build your own burgers. Then, we headed up 10 blocks to our final show of this NYC visit.
Heathers the Musical No matter what your age, you’d have to practically be living under a rock to have not seen the cult-film, Heathers. Well, now Heathers is on stage in the form of a highly-entertaining Off-Broadway musical. We met up with our friends again and this was actually the only show that we all saw together, at the same time.
We all enjoyed it. Heathers is just crazy-fun. Even though I felt the pace of the performance was off a bit with multiple understudies in key roles, the show still works. Barrett Wilbert Weed leads the cast as the quirky, Veronica, commanding the stage at every turn.
There’s some really good music in this– and I can’t wait for the album’s release date.
A happy and satisfying, last production in our ten day, seventeen show adventure.
Before heading back to pack, we stopped one last time at the 8th Avenue Shake Shack for Concretes. We said our goodbyes, headed back to our place, feeling very fortunate to have had such a great time.
This had been our longest stay in New York to date– and it’s never long enough. It’s always bittersweet saying goodbye to our home away from home.
NYC May 2014- Day Nine: Crossdressers, Creatives & Curmudgeons
Planning our trip, we originally narrowed our show list down to twenty three productions we were interested in seeing.
We initially thought we had fifteen slots open but with some of the changes in the performance schedule, we were able to book seventeen shows.
That meant Saturday was going to be a three show day.
While we were trying to squeeze in all the other things we wanted to do in New York, we purposely left Saturday morning free, thinking it was already going to be a really long day.
As it turned out, Michael and I were up early and raring to go. So with our first show at Lincoln Center, we decided to head up that direction and took a walk in Central Park.
The sun appeared from behind the clouds, off and on and it turned out to be a rather nice morning.
Having been there many times before, we didn’t have a specific destination nor were we trying to see the whole park. We entered from the Fifth Avenue side and just started wandering.
Warm days like this, fill the park with tourists and New Yorkers alike; walking, jogging and bicycling through the many paths and trails.
We hadn’t planned on it but we had the time, so we found ourselves lunching at the recently reopened Tavern On the Green.
Closed in 2009, all the interior decor had been auctioned off and for a brief time the space was used as a visitors center.
We had eaten here twice before and enjoyed the gawdy decorating that included many Tiffany and crystal chandeliers.
Anyone visiting the historic landmark today will be in for a bit of a shock as the new operators have renovated the property, returning it to more of its original look and feel. It is a warm, open and inviting atmosphere that features a contemporary and reasonably priced, gourmet menu that features delicious offerings that are also beautifully plated. It was one of the best meals we experienced this time in New York.
Act One This production actually didn’t make our first cut but since the show we had scheduled closed early, we decided to see it, influenced by its five Tony nominations.
Lincoln Center’s production of Act One isn’t without its merits. The acting is good, the revolving, sometimes dizzying set, moves the action quickly between locations and the direction is good.
Based on Moss Hart’s best-selling autobiography of the same name, Act One would probably have benefited from some serious cutting and more humorous moments. (The show runs nearly three hours.) James Lapine both adapted and directed this piece. That, though interesting, was a little too slow paced for my taste. Combine that with uncomfortable seats and it made for a slightly less than enjoyable afternoon.
Coming out of the show there was a sudden downpour. Luckily, there was a subway entrance less than a block away. We only got minimally drenched. We went back to our place, threw our clothes in the dryer and got changed for our next show.
Mothers and Sons Tyne Daly stars in this touching drama about love, loss and connecting.
Terrence McNally has skillfully crafted a play that explores the lingering and devastating effects that AIDS has left on families affected by the disease.
Difficult conversations between a mother and her deceased son’s lover, ignite this play, questioning what was and what is.
It reminds us that though huge steps have been taken toward Equality in the past ten to twenty years, people essentially have not changed. Prejudice, pain and fear still overshadow the lives of so many.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Neil Patrick Harris is filling the house to capacity in this first Broadway production of Hedwig. You might say, this is the current hot ticket show. It has certainly generated a lot of media buzz.
Hedwig has a cult following that has grown over the years from the 1998 Off-Broadway production and the 2001 film adaptation. It has been performed all over the world.
Harris does a fine job inhabiting the role of Hedwig, an East German transgendered (albeit a botched operation) singer –probably singing the best in his career.
The show is flashy, trashy and full of special effects. It’s more of an event than a musical. There is a story that develops through the songs and updated dialogue. Still, there’s not a book-story, even by contemporary standards. It’s the equivalent of attending a very loud punk rock show. We enjoyed it but it definitely has a specific audience that is not traditional Broadway by any means.
It’s one of the most Tony-nominated shows (eight) this year, although I don’t real understand why.
NYC May 2014- Day Eight: Parks & Perfection
What better way is there to spend a Friday in New York than to venture away from Times Square, with friends, to visit friends? That’s how we spent the bulk of the day. The four of us ventured up to Washington Heights and Fort Tryon Park to visit our friends, Carrie and Joel. We’d never been up to that part of Manhattan before so it was nice to see something new. On previous visits, Carrie and Joel had always met us in Midtown, so we finally got to see their beautiful apartment too.
Fort Tryon Park was a great break from the noise of Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen and perfect for relaxing and conversation.
We decided not to go to the Cloisters but leisurely wandered around the park and had great views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. We chatted for awhile on a beautiful overlook and then headed to the Gaelic restaurant and pub, Le Cheile for lunch.
After lunch, it was back to Midtown for a little rest before our evening show.
If/Then Written by the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning team, of Next To Normal, Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey, If/Then is one of the only completely original musicals this Broadway season. No contemporary writing team better expresses our inner feelings and explores the human condition with such insight and style.
You remember that girl, Adele Dazeem? Yeah, she’s in it. That’s the one and only, Idina Menzel. She’s not just in it, she is it.
Oh yeah, and remember that Mark-guy from Rent? He’s in it too. Anthony Rapp is reunited with Menzel in this fascinating production.
You know how you sometimes wonder, What if…? If/Then explores that question through two different scenarios , had Menzel’s character, Elizabeth made different choices. The action moves back and forth between the two choices in a beautiful telling of what might have been.
The entire supporting cast is wonderful. In addition to Rapp, it features James Snyder (we saw in Cry Baby) and the phenomenal, LaChanze (I saw previously in Once On This Island), were among the standouts. Jenn Colella (we saw in Chaplin) as Anne, is a performer to watch. I was extremely impressed by her impressive vocal skills.
The show is funny, moving and takes you on a journey none of us will ever experience— but some might wish they had.
If/Then is by far, one of the best, if not the best new show currently on Broadway.
NYC May 2014- Day Three: Bridges & Body Switching
We had lunch at one of our favorite spots, Havana Central, Times Square (151 West 46th Street) and as usual, the food was excellent. We both had the original Cuban Sandwiches with black beans and yellow rice. As a kid, we used to go to the Silver Ring for Cuban sandwiches in Ybor City, Florida. Lots of places offer Cubans but most aren’t authentic. Cuban bread is crusty and has a specific taste. Most places don’t use Cuban bread. Havana Central is the only place (other than Silver Ring) I’ve found that makes a good Cuban sandwich. We’ve tried many things on the menu and all has been quite good. The service is also fast and courteous.
The Bridges of Madison County How do you critique one of the most gorgeous shows Broadway has seen in years? First, I should probably say that I have not read the book nor seen the movie, so I wasn’t bound to any comparisons.
Bridges is the perfect marriage of story and song, beautifully told through wonderful staging and exquisite vocals. The entire cast is brilliant. I do have to single out Kelli O’Hara (Francesca) and Steven Pasquale (Robert), supported through outstanding performances by Hunter Foster (Bud) and Cass Morgan (Marge).
In my opinion, this is O’Hara’s best performance to date. Her character is beautifully layered and she sings Francesca with such a committed, passionate skill. Passquale’s vocals moved me like no other male vocalist has done in many, many years. His voice literally lifts the score and raises it through the roof.
Marsha Norman has expertly adapted the book to weave and intertwine with Jason Robert Brown’s lush score producing a work that grabbed my soul from the very beginning and didn’t release it even after the final bow. Brown’s orchestrations are so full and magical I can’t find the words to describe their beauty. Show show completely envelops you.
Most shows, or their respective productions, have not had the ability to reach me the way this did. It is the most passionate, romantic production Broadway has seen since probably The Light in the Piazza or Stephen Sondheim’s darker, Passion. I was so moved, I had tears in my eyes for nearly the entire performance, from the very first notes.
We saw the closing performance, adding to the electricity in the theater. It is a very sad statement that a show this incredible could not find a Broadway audience. Worse still, is that it was snubbed by the Tony committee in the Best Musical and Best Actor categories— which, at the very least, is a travesty.
Under My Skin I’d hoped we were in for a good old-fashioned comedy after the emotional matinee.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this, other than it is a rather amateurish male-female, body-switching comedy that is entertaining but completely predictable.
Written by the married writing team, Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser of Who’s the Boss? and The Nanny fame. Their sitcom influences are readily apparent here. The only thing missing were the commercials and a badly needed laugh track.
This was not what I expected from a professionally produced (Off Broadway) production but can see the show having an active life in the community theatre circuit in years to come.
NYC May 2014- Day One: Get There, Get Settled, Get Going
Leaving Cash was especially hard this trip and I stressed out a lot over it. He’s in good hands but he’s old and lonely and barely leaves our side. We got up at 2 AM to finish last minute packing and head to the airport for our 5:55 AM flight. In typical, O’Hare fashion, they only had one checkpoint open and the line was ridiculously long– and not moving. Luckily, they opened another checkpoint and we rushed down to it, making it to our gate with about five minutes to spare.
Michael and I sat across the aisle from one another on one of the bumpiest flights I’ve ever flown. It was like riding through Chicago’s pothole-filled streets towards the end of winter. The guy next to me, though wearing headphones, treated a good section of the plane to his Beyonce playlist for most of the flight. I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything but was really surprised the flight crew didn’t tell him to turn it down.
Morning traffic was a little heavy at 9 AM and our impatient taxi driver rode the tail of every vehicle we followed, slamming on the brakes multiple times to avoid a collision. There were more than a few close calls as the driver refused to let anyone merge in front of us. Somehow, we managed to arrive at our destination safely.
Home Away From Home AKA Times Square, is primarily an extended stay, apartment & condominium building and was a perfect choice for us. It was in the same price range as some of the regular hotel rooms we were looking at and it is actually larger than the average NY apartment. We have a full kitchen, washer and dryer and all the other amenities you’d hope for. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Suffice it to say, we absolutely love it. In addition, there is a penthouse lounge, terrace and business center open for our use, with free Wifi throughout the building. Believe it or not, most places still charge a daily rate for WiFi. Having it on premises, means I won’t be spending nearly as much time at Starbucks, using theirs, as I have in recent trips.
Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, as we’d expected, so we checked our luggage and grabbed breakfast at Cafe Un Deux Trois next door. I’m sure I’ll probably mention it again later– we’re also staying next door to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris. Some of the people watching opportunities have already been interesting as this show draws a much more diverse crowd.
We spent the remainder of the time before our room was ready, shopping for some supplies and relaxing in the penthouse lounge and terrace. When we got to our room, we unpacked and check out our view which includes a clear shot of the crystal New Years’ Eve ball, high above Times Square. We took a short nap and then we were off to our first show.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder– You know the saying: Save the best for last? Well, we may have made a huge mistake and may have seen the best, first. Not that it’s an entirely bad thing– I mean, what a way to start a show binge! No matter what I write here, I won’t be able to fully capture my true feelings and appreciation for this show. The best I can do is to say that once in awhile, a show comes a long when everything about it is just right… and everything about this production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is seamlessly delightful.
The solid book and score by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak captures the music hall style but they didn’t allow themselves to get trapped by the genre and produced a thoroughly engaging, funny and rich work. The music here is essential to the plot and there are some simply gorgeous moments. Most shows I’ve seen have at least one moment, song or scene where I find myself wanting them to hurry up and move on. Not here. I was completely drawn in from start to finish.
Director and Choreographer, Darko Tresnjak and Peggy Hickey have done a superb job staging this wild romp with moments of inspired genius. Their work together is a seamless blend as is their guidance of the tremendous cast. When a production is this good, it’s impossible to tell where one person’s work begins and another’s ends.
Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham are equally brilliant in their roles. They are both Tony-nominated this year but what gives Mays the edge over Pinkham is that he plays eight roles, sometimes leaving the stage as one and re-entering as another in just seconds. The featured women: blonde vixen, Lisa O’Hare; the lovely, Lauren Worsham; and I can’t leave out, the adorably funny, Jane Carr– are all perfectly cast.
All the technical aspects are perfect for this production but I have to single out Linda Cho’s costume design. Her costumes are not just appropriate and highly functional, they are flawless. Her use of color and especially the exquisite textures in her period designs should place her as a top contender for a Tony Award this year.
We had terrific front row, left orchestra seats last night… thankfully, we were not front row center. both Mays and Pinkham are spitters. Needless to say, the audience in the front center seats were showered with more than a good view of the stage.
I would definitely see Gentleman’s Guide again… and I’ve added it to my list of shows I’d love to do in the future. It’s just bloody good fun!
Another Rainy Day in New York City We’ve often experienced rain in NYC but it was a literal downpour last night– to the point of streets and sidewalks flooding. We left the theater, sans umbrellas but in water resistant jackets, made it a few blocks and stopped under cover to see if it was going to let up. In doing so, we ran into Mare Winningham, currently starring in Casa Valentina, also avoiding the rain. There is always a bright side to every situation if you look for it!
The rain let up a bit and we picked up pizza on the way back to our place and turned in around midnight. Tired, full and happy.
BROADWAY MUSICAL SPRING AWAKENING HITS THE NAPERVILLE STAGE
Box Office: 773-614-7846
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BROADWAY MUSICAL SPRING AWAKENING HITS THE NAPERVILLE STAGE
Naperville, IL — Surging Films & Theatrics and Introspect Theatre jointly present the Award-Winning Broadway musical Spring Awakening, January 31- February 2, 2014 at the Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Avenue #131, Naperville, Illinois 60540.
Excitement is building in the Chicagoland area as Surging Films & Theatrics and Introspect Theatre gear up for their joint production of the controversial and award winning hit musical, SPRING AWAKENING, with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater.
Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, SPRING AWAKENING is a rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play. Set in the rigid and repressive late 19th century Germany, SPRING AWAKENING follows a group of students navigating their way through the timeless story of teenage self-discovery and coming-of-age anxiety in a powerful celebration of youth and rebellion. Alternative rock ignites the stage as part of the folk-infused score that fuels the inner angst of the capricious teens. SPRING AWAKENING is rated R for language, violence, and sexual content.
Artistic Directors Jeff Linamen and Billy Surges have assembled a phenomenal cast for SPRING AWAKENING, featuring outstanding talent from all over the Chicagoland area. Surges leads the cast in the role of Melchior Gabor, a smart, headstrong boy who refuses to bow down to society’s rules. He is best friend to Moritz Stiefel (Billy Chengary), a troubled and uncertain boy, unable to handle the pressures he receives from his parents and peers to succeed. Rounding out the trio is Katie Meyers as Wendla Bergmann, an innocent young girl, exploring her blossoming curiosity to tragic results.
The large cast features Amara Brady (Martha), Taylor Bright (Thea), Tyler Clayton (Otto), Becca Heitz, Noelle Humbert (Ilse), Marc James, Mark Johnson (Adult Man), Gabi Knoepfle, Alex Knoll (Ernst), Chris Knudsen, Jennifer Lenius, Brandon Piper, Jordan Piper (Anna), Katie Long Piper (Adult Woman), Brandon Pisano (Hanschen), Vince Tolentino (Georg) and Aiyanna Wade.
Following its conception in the late 1990s, SPRING AWAKENING received further development leading to its Off-Broadway debut in May 2006. The original Broadway production of SPRING AWAKENING opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on December 10, 2006. Its cast included Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele and John Gallagher, Jr. with a creative team led by director Michael Mayer and choreographer Bill T. Jones. The original Broadway production won 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Direction, Book, Score and Featured Actor (Gallagher). The production also garnered 4 Drama Desk Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Album.
The success of the Broadway production has spawned numerous productions worldwide, including a production in London’s West End that won 4 Laurence Olivier Awards including Best Musical.
Surging Films & Theatrics and Introspect Theatre are presenting the full, uncut version of SPRING AWAKENING, January 31 at 7:30pm, February 1st at 2pm and 7:30pm, and February 2ndat 2pm at Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., #131, Naperville, IL 60540. For ticket information, visit www.surgingfilms.com or call 773-614-7846.
SPRING AWAKENING contains strong language, sexual situations and mature themes and may not be appropriate for younger or sensitive audiences. Recommended for ages 15 and up.
Presented by Surging Films & Theatrics and Introspect Theatre
January 31, 2014 at 7:30 PM
February 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM
February 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM
Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., #131, Naperville, IL 60540
BOX OFFICE: 773-614-7846
Directors Jeff Linamen & Billy Surges
Music Director Seth Durbin
Choreographer Billy Surges
Billy Surges, Surging Films & Theatrics
Jeff Linamen, Introspect Theatre