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Photo Essay: Times Square Three AM

I shot these photos in Times Square, NYC, Monday May 26, 2014 at three AM—shortly before leaving New York to return to Chicago.

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Photo Essay: Times Square Six AM

These photos were shot in and around Times Square in New York City at 6 AM, Sunday May 25, 2014.

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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.)

View from The High Line.

View from The High Line.

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.

The High Line

The High Line

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-Playbill-03-14Violet 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.

heathersHeathers 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.

heathers-the-musical-off-broadway-poster-17There’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

The quiet solitude of Central Park.

The quiet solitude of Central Park.

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.

Sheep Meadow on Central Park's west side.

Sheep Meadow on Central Park’s west side.

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.

One of a number or bridges in Central Park.

One of a number of bridges 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.

The newly renovated and reopened, Tavern On the Green.

The newly renovated and reopened, Tavern On the Green.

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.

greenAnyone 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-Playbill-03-14Act 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-Playbill-02-14Mothers 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-Playbill-03-14_THUMBHedwig 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

Entrance to Fort Tryon Park.

Entrance to Fort Tryon Park.

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.

The George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park.

The George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park.

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-Playbill-March-2014-a-New-Musical-on-Broadway-Richard-Rodgers-Theatre-Music-Tom-Kitt-Book-and-Lyrics-Brian-Yorkey-with-Idina-Menzel-Lachanze-Anthony-Rapp-Jerry-Dixon-Jenn-Colella-Jason-Tam-Tam-0If/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 Seven: Everything Old Is New Again

We walked over to Pier 88 to meet Michael’s Mom & Dad and then went to lunch with them at Pom Pom Diner. They were sailing from New York on a long cruise leaving Thursday, so we were lucky enough to spend some time with them, having not seen them in over a year. It was overcast and we had a little rain but we somehow managed to avoid it.

Phantom-Of-Opera-Playbill-12-11The Phantom of the Opera I saw Phantom twice in New York just after it opened in 1988. First, starring Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman and the second time with Timothy Nolen and Patti Cohenour.  I’ve seen other productions since then, including the more modern (technically) Las Vegas version and have always found it to be entertaining.

When it originally opened (less than a year after Les Miserables), it was part of the British Invasion of Broadway and the mega-musical phase. Much like Disney’s entrance on the Broadway stage, many in the theatre community resented it and were unfairly critical. The fact is, Phantom has been running for 26 years on Broadway and with the exception of a few years prior to the movie version’s release, when attendance dipped, it has consistently sold at 85-100% of capacity.

Michael and I have both seen Phantom multiple times. I never considered it one of my favorite shows, yet I never fail to be thrilled and swept away by it. There were two reasons we chose to revisit it on this trip. First, It was one of only a few shows with a Thursday matinee. Second, we found out Norm Lewis was stepping into the role of the Phantom and that’s the real reason we bought tickets. We met Lewis last summer on the Broadway On the High Seas 3 cruise and were instantly enchanted. He is not only an amazing performer but a sincere and gracious person.

So the verdict? I can happily report that Phantom, with it’s current cast, looks and feels as fresh and electric as any show currently running on Broadway. The sound was excellent and the lighting tech and special effects, which remain pretty much unaltered, work flawlessly. (There are no intelligent (moving) or LED lights evident as there are in all the newer productions.)

Norm Lewis (Phantom), Sierra Boggess (Christine) and Jeremy Hays (Raoul) probably sing the show better than any previous cast. Both Lewis and Boggess bring so many more layers in vocal styles to their performances than I’ve heard from others assuming those roles. I have to be honest and say I’ve never liked the Raoul character in past productions. Now with Hays in the role, I finally did. Hays brings Raoul to life in a fully-rounded, brilliantly sung performance.

Lewis is not duplicating Crawford’s Phantom character. This is a departure from the way it is usually done when a replacement goes into a currently running show. I think Lewis’ character could be a little better developed– but I’m confident he will continue to grow in the role. He’s making it his own. Lewis’ Phantom is more a romantic and less the control-seeking victim of his predecessors. The same can be said for Boggess as Christine. This is not the weak victimized Christine of past seasons. Boggess makes her fresh, more confident and has full command of the stage. Boggess’ Christine seems to be more in control and makes choices, as opposed to being the victim of circumstance.

If you’ve never seen Phantom on Broadway and want a sure-thing– this is it.

Bullets-Over-Broadway-Playbill-03-14Bullets Over Broadway I have to sum up Bullets with one sentence: It’s been done before. Based on the Woody Allen movie, Bullets is just a plain fun, old book, entertainment. There is nothing new or fresh here and it’s been done  better, dozens of times before. It has a thin plot (complete with gangsters) and a score comprised of familiar catalog songs. The charm of the film doesn’t translate to the stage in this production.

I didn’t find anything unique in the staging or choreography and found that though all the actors give strong performances, they weren’t able to rise above the material. Don’t get me wrong, the show is enjoyable. It just isn’t something I’d go see again.

I didn’t expect a revelation here. I did expect that I would laugh, or at least smile a lot more than I did.

Last comment: How could anyone think that the song, Yes, We have No Bananas was a good way to end the show?

It’s beyond me.

Photo Essay: National September 11 Museum Opening Day

Visiting the National September 11 Museum on Opening Day (May 21, 2014) was my pilgrimage of sorts. It was a solemn, emotional and a very personal experience for me. I’ll writing more about the experience in my next post. Here are some of the images I captured on this historic day. (The taking of photographs is off limits in many areas of the museum.)

The National September 11 Museum stands watch near one of the Memorial Pools.

The National September 11 Museum stands watch near one of the Memorial Pools.

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Ceremonial activities outside the museum prior to its official opening.

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Following the opening ceremony and unfurling of the National 9/11 Flag, it was solemnly escorted into the museum just before visitors were admitted.

Twin Tridents, part of the World Trade Center South Tower Facade greet visitors as they enter the museum's exhibition

Inside the museum, Twin Tridents, salvaged from the World Trade Center South Tower Facade, greet visitors as they enter.

 

Changing Panels and overlapping audio accounts of 9/11/01 surround you as you pass through the section of the exhibit.

Changing Panels and overlapping audio accounts of 9/11/01 surround you as you pass through the section of the exhibit.

Looking down on the slurry wall and Last Column in Foundation Hall.

Looking down on the slurry wall and Last Column in Foundation Hall.

A panel of gradually changing Missing Flyers are projected in the exhibit.

A panel of gradually changing Missing Flyers are projected in the exhibit.

A massive, moving tribute.

A massive, moving tribute.

Looking down the remnant of the historic Vesey Street, Survivors' Stairs.

Looking down the remnant of the historic Vesey Street, Survivors’ Stairs.

The Survivors' Stairs carried many to safety on 9/11/01.

The Survivors’ Stairs carried many to safety on 9/11/01.

In Memoriam honors all the victims of 9/11 and includes an inner gallery that honors the memory of each individual.

In Memoriam honors all the victims of 9/11 and includes an inner gallery that honors the memory of each individual.

WTC box column remnant.

WTC box column remnant.

South Tower grillage.

South Tower grillage.

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A section of the North Tower radio and television antenna.

Ladder 3 damaged on 9/11. All the firefighters from this vehicle perished.

Ladder 3 damaged on 9/11. All the firefighters from this vehicle perished.

The steel beam cross from Ground Zero was a symbol of hope and rememberance.

The steel beam cross from Ground Zero was a symbol of hope and rememberance.