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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.











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.












NYC May 2014- Day Two: Bunnies, Boxing and Crowded Streets

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-Playbill-03-14Of 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.


9th Avenue International Food Festival

9th Avenue International Food Festival

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_1389306440Rocky 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.

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.


Our Living Rm/Kitchen at AKA.

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 Bathroom at AKA.

Our Bathroom at AKA.

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.

AKA Bedroom

AKA Bedroom

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_and_MurderA 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!

New Years Eve Ball from our window at AKA.

New Years Eve Ball from our window at AKA.

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.

New York 2014: Broadway Here I Come!


Times Square, December 2012.

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.

Lower Manhattan.

Lower Manhattan. December 2012.

New York, New York- Friday- Day One

I’m starting the day at Starbucks, which should be no surprise. Our first two days were great– beautiful weather with a brief downpour around midnight last night.

Friday we flew in to New York from Chicago, on time, which is a feat in itself. I could probably go on a rant about the crazy people that sat in front of me on the plane… strangers who basically decided to share their whole life stories on the flight. I could tell right away they weren’t together… the man constantly made eye contact with the woman and acted interested in her ramblings. If they were together, this would have never happened. Coincidentally, they both brought pungent food to eat on the plane. The woman was constantly waving cubes of cheese around in the air as she talked, while he sipped some strange smelling soup and devoured an extremely large sandwich. That was my in-flight entertainment.

Michael and I decided it didn’t matter where we stayed this trip, so we had reservations at the Hotel St. James. No frills– oh wait, they do have very slow, free Wi-Fi and extra pillows. An old hotel in the heart of the theatre district, it could definitely use some remodeling. Okay, a LOT of remodeling. It is clean though. Plus, we have the novel experience of using actual metal keys for room access, as opposed to the universally adopted swipe cards.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and around a bit before our show, glad to be back in NYC after a two year break.

Porgy and Bess was our first show Friday night. It is a strong, beautiful production and by intermission I thought I’d found another old classic to love. Unfortunately, and maybe due to the new adaptation, I found the second act rather dull and contrived. Audra McDonald was wonderful as Bess and could easily be on her way to her fifth Tony Award. The overall singing was terrific but the plot just felt old, lazy and bored. Not the perfect first show for our trip but it was enjoyable for the most part.

After the show, we picked up some snacks to take back to the room and crashed for the night.