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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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 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.
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.)
Monday we met with our friends Steve & Amy (from home) who happened to be in NYC this week as well. We had a great time socializing and made our first visit this trip to The High Line with them. The High Line, which runs above Gansevoort Street to 34th Street on Manhattan’s West Side, is a public park built on what was once a historic freight rail line. It was a beautiful sunny day and only took us about an hour to walk the whole park. We’ll be returning with other friends from home later this week and hopefully I’ll get some good pictures to share.
Short on time, the four of us headed back to Times Square and Havana Central (our second time this trip) for lunch before parting ways.
The Cradle Will Rock We actually had tickets for another show that we ended up giving to friends. When we found out that this special, one night only, benefit concert was happening, we couldn’t miss it.
I’m a huge fan of Patti LuPone. Given the opportunity, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see her recreate her Oliver Award-winning performance in this historic, ground-breaking theatrical work.
The staging was a benefit for The Acting Company, which originally produced the show under the direction of John Houseman. This concert staging directed by Lonny Price, featured LuPone and a number of other original company members, as well as more recent alumni.
This is a work I hope to produce one day. Its political and social message are still relevant today and I have a specific vision for staging the piece.
Tuesday, Michael and I both did a lot of exploring on our own. I’m not sure how much ground Michael covered but I’d traveled over five miles (tracked on my Fitbit) before noon. We initial thought we’d find a new destination to visit and then decided to just explore instead. The great things about a big city is there’s always something new to see, it’s always evolving and there are always things you hadn’t noticed before.
Friends arrived in the afternoon and while I was off exploring 6th Avenue and Bryant Park, Michael accompanied them to the TKS booth to get their show tickets and then to stand in line for the lottery for Kinky Boots tickets (which they won). We had dinner at Yum Yum Bangkok before splitting up to go to our shows.
All The Way “All the way with LBJ!” Bryan Cranston IS LBJ. You won’t see any evidence of Walter White (Breaking Bad) on this stage. From his first breath in a solo spotlight, Cranston gives an incredibly layered performance as President Lyndon B. Johnson, proving his versatility and skill as as actor and showing that a true performer can successfully thrive on stage and screen equally.
Written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bill Rauch, All The Way follows LBJ’s journey from the Kennedy assassination through Johnson’s reelection as President. It carefully weaves the personal, public and political struggles LBJ had to juggle while blazing the trail in his fight for civil rights.
The story was skillfully told by an ensemble of veteran actors, supporting Cranston. Some of the other stand out performances were given by Brandon J. Dirden as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Betsy Aidem as Lady Bird Johnson/Katharine Graham/Katharine St. George; Michael McKean as J. Edgar Hoover/Robert Byrd; and Robert Petkoff as Hubert Humphrey.
All The Way is Tony-nominated for Best Play and Best Actor (Cranston), and has already won the Outer Critics Circle, New York Drama Critics’ Circle and the Drama League awards for Best Play.
On the way back to our apartment, we stopped and picked up Concretes at the Shake Shack. (8th Ave. & 44th St.) With multiple locations, this is THE spot for ice cream treats in New York City. The lines are almost always out the door but they move fast and you always get great service.
I tried to sleep in but after waking a up a few times, I found myself heading to Starbucks at 5 AM– after I realized I forgot to get ground coffee for our room. Times Square is always so peaceful early in the morning. I love experiencing the drastic changes in the energy as the day progresses. Even though I try to walk the perimeter of the area going to and from shows to avoid the crowds, it’s still a fun vibe to be in the heart of — just in small doses.
We relaxed most of the morning, staying near our apartment, knowing it was going to be a long day. We left around noon, took a walk and did some exploring before our matinee. It was a beautiful day in the upper 60’s and sunny.
Of Mice and Men I don’t get too many opportunities to see professionally produced classic dramas. Choosing OM&M was more about the show itself than seeing James Franco. Sometimes star power works for a production but actors still need to prove they belong there.
The first act was pretty solid, only to fall apart in the second act. I don’t understand why anyone would think it was a good idea to sanitize the most dramatic moments of the show, leaving them void of emotion. How can characters completely disassociate themselves from feelings where death is concerned? That is exactly what happens in this production.
Chris O’Dowd is wonderful as the simple-minded, Lenny. His character, gestures and mannerisms are all fully developed and well acted. James Franco gives a strong first act performance as George but then fails to find any real emotion in the pivotal moments of the second act. He fakes vomiting at one point and wipes away a few imaginary tears but that’s it. Based on the overall tone though, I’m not sure how much of it is Franco’s or director Anna D. Shapiro’s choice. It just didn’t work for me. What should have felt tragic was left feeling rather mundane.
I also thought Jim Norton was miscast here as Candy. He’s a great actor. I just felt he lacked the earthiness needed for the role, making him seem out of place.
It’s sad to see a production with so much promise, fall so flat.
The 9th Avenue International Food Festival Fifteen city blocks of food and beverages. A sea of people mixing tourists, families and a neighborhood crowd. The festival reportedly draws an average of 200,000 people over the annual two day event. We spent a couple hours walking around and sampling some of the food between shows. Most visible: Roasted Corn, Fresh Lemonade, Beer and Crepes. What is it about standing and eating crepes outdoors? I don’t really get it.
It was definitely bustling but no worse than Times Square and not hard to weave in and out of the crowd. There were a couple of blocks dedicated to children’s entertainment and for the most part, it was the typical mix of vendors you’d find at any outdoor festival anywhere in the world.
Rocky the Musical I always cringe when I hear another movie is being made into a musical. Is there no original source material anymore? Sometimes we choose shows for the spectacle and wildcard potential. Rocky was pretty much panned by the critics but we don’t always agree with them and we took a chance.
There’s a lot of money up on that stage and some actors that are giving their all. Unfortunately, all that effort doesn’t hide the major flaws in the material. Rocky is an iconic movie and story. I just can’t figure out how it could be told so poorly. Even with the spectacle, I thought it lacked energy and electricity.
Set in the 1970’s, as in the movie, costumes weren’t always period appropriate (skinny and stretch jeans) and the use of modern technology IN the story just added confusion. Particularly in the final fight scene, live video used “in the arena”– multiple screens used as part of the action and others used at the same time so the audience could see what was going on– all created a chaotic atmosphere.
Andy Karl (Rocky), Margot Seibert (Adrian) and Terence Archie (Apollo Creed) are all up there trying to do the best with what they’ve been given. I just did not understand the casting of Dakin Matthews as Mickey. I just didn’t buy it.
Basically, the set is the show. It moves, turns, twists and spins. The book and music are not that memorable– A huge disappointment coming from one of my favorite writing teams Ahrens & Flaherty.
If you know me really well, then you know that New York is my city. We try to get there at least once a year and this will be Michael’s and my longest stay yet. Ten days in the Big Apple… tickets to 17 shows and lots of other exciting activities planned. We started booking our trip a couple months ago, looking for the best deals on rooms and show tickets.
This year, in addition to visiting friends that live in NYC, two of our friends from home will also be in New York– part of the time– and joining us on some of our excursions, adding a different dimension to our trip.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum My most anticipated event this trip is attending the National September 11 Museum on the official opening day, May 21st. 2014. I’ve been to the memorial twice before but anticipate that the museum will be a heightened emotional experience. I’ve already contributed a few images to the museum’s Artists Registry and hope to add more after this visit.
Broadway & Off Broadway Shows I know it sounds insane, 17 shows in 10 days…. but this is what we do. We always try to get a mix of plays and musicals, throwing in a few Off Broadway shows as well, if our schedule permits. This year’s line up includes: A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder, Of Mice and Men, Rocky, The Bridges of Madison Country, Under My Skin, The Cradle Will Rock, All the Way, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Casa Valentina, Phantom of the Opera, Bullets Over Broadway, If/Then, Act One, Mothers and Sons, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Violet, and Heathers the Musical.
Something Old, Something New Each time we come to New York, our main goal is to see lots of shows and I think a lot of our friends think that’s all we do. But, we always try to experience as much of this amazing city as possible– time and weather permitting. Of course, we have a few restaurants and neighborhood destinations (sights) we try to visit every year, like Central Park— but we always try to add at least one new destination each trip and mix new restaurants in with a few old favorites. This year, we’ll be visiting The High Line for the second time, and will be venturing to the far north reach of Manhattan to visit The Cloisters and its surrounding Fort Tryon Park.
We’re also hoping to make it to this year’s edition of the annual Stars in the Alley concert, several street festivals and a (new to us) historical sight or two.
I hope to be blogging daily about our NY adventures– that is, if we’re not too busy out doing.