April/May 2017: Eight Days in New York City
On April 25, 2017 Greg (from Palm Springs to LaGuardia) and Tom (from San Francisco to JFK) flew to New York City. Both of our flights were delayed because of rain in NYC, but we both arrived about the same time.
We rented a two bedroom apartment at 10th Avenue and 52nd Avenue. We each took taxis and arrived in good time despite the weather.
April 26, 2017: Buying Broadway Tickets
Before we ventured out, we agreed on a handful of plays and musicals for which we'd get tickets. We already had tickets to Hello Dolly (Bette Midler) and for Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (Josh Groban). We were successful in getting tickets to 6 more plays; every play and musical we wanted.
For lunch we went to a favorite pizza place - Don Antonio on 50th.
Our matinee today was Come From Away.
There was a reason that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited 30 something members of the United Nations and 600 members of the Canadian Consulate General to a performance of this "new musical" a few days after it opened in New York. This was a Canadian written, directed and produced show. There was also a reason that the invitation was refused by President Donald Trump (but accepted by Ivanka Trump.) You see, this true story expresses kindness from a small part of Canada to accept and care for the people of the world who were suddenly dropped on them in one day.
On "9/11" when the air space over the Americas was closed to any flights coming from anywhere, they were forced to land on a LARGE airfield in a SMALL part of Newfoundland, Canada. Suddenly, the small town of Gander (7,000 people) was doubled in size. The locals, realizing that they had to do something, stopped their daily life and provided for the 35 International jets which were lined up like sardines on their doorstep. They provided food, lodging, clothing and spiritual support to "the Plane People" with no hesitation.
At times, you felt as if all the thousands were on the stage, but the entire story was told by only 12 actors who changed roles quickly by a suggestion of an accessory. The story could have gone into the extreme tragedy that was happening "away" but kept the focus on what was happening "there" on the "rock on the edge of the world" and not falling over the edge of sentimentality. By the gradual exploring of the differences of the "Plane People" the activity concentrated on their commonality. The ensemble acting didn't really allow for any "stars" but almost all of the actors had a chance to shine as one character or another. The music was provided by a small band of Celtic style instruments which reflected the simplicity of life in Gander, Newfoundland, and kept the 90 minute production from stalling.
By the time the air space opened again, both the locals and "the Plane People" were changed forever. Life gradually returned to what was before, but as we know, it never really will. Ten years later, many of the "Plane People" returned to Gander to thank the locals. Friendships which began, were maintained. The lesson learned ultimately was simple--real life does not depend upon politics, religion or differences. The understanding of our sameness is what matters. PM Justin Trudeau has reason to be proud. "Blame it on Canada."
HELLO DOLLY!, our first evening's performance
The lights dimming caused a roar in the audience, already! You know you're in for a ride. Everyone knows the story, and there's nothing serious about it. So why not boost up the color, the volume and the silliness? Better yet, why not get the "Divine Miss M" to drive the trolley? We know that she's the one who will "arrange everything" and create the mood from beginning to end. The "shtick" is designed into the show, and all you need is a "mistress" of comic timing to pull it off. She doesn't disappoint. She couldn't. The audience of fans wouldn't allow it.
The supporting cast is also extremely strong and able to keep up with the parade. David Hyde Pierce is a grumpy, skinny curmudgeon who is able to make the most of the silence (rare) between lines. Again, a master of comic timing not seen since Jack Benny, his character of Horace Vandergelder "the famous half a millionaire of Yonkers" becomes the target for our Dolly. The rest of the cast is as good as Broadway has to offer, and all they have to do is carry out their intricate blocking, and sing out, and you're sure to have fun. And, you do.
Every set change brings on another roar from the audience, and each number is reprised to death. But, you don't mind, because you are happy to hear and see it again (even though the seats are more uncomfortable than the seats in the middle of a United Airline plane)!
People say that Bette falls into her Sophie Tucker character, but, truth be told…Sophie never did it so well. That is HER character, now, and nobody does it better.
A feast of music, color, dancing and comedy. What's not to like?
What fun!! Angela and I were just there last week. We had a great RAMEN dinner near the theater. IPPUDO --- Diane J.
Yahhhh! So glad to be on the guest list! I literally was outside watering the plants yesterday and thought of you guys wondering when you would be taking your trip ....and boom! Loved your first email... Todd H.
What fun! --- Eric S.
This was so fun to read; really looking forward to the next 7 reviews! ... John and Jill P.
I made a note of Don Antonio for the NY visit ;-) On the last two visits to NY in 2007 and 2009 we ate at only in few restaurants... Michael G.
“Hello Dolly” is such a fun musical! Very impressed at your autograph-acquiring talents! It sounds like you’re off to a scintillating start! Love, Nancy D.
How delightful. Thanks. Ruth K.
Love it. Can't wait to join you on Friday and Saturday. ... Dorene K.
Wow, they really know how to have a good time. Maybe I should employ Tom as my travel person.! ...Jeanne H.
Today we had one show and it started at 7 PM. At noon we walked over to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Complex. Most of the exhibits are in and on the deck of the Intreipd Aircraft Carrier.
The Enterprise Space Shuttle was of special interest. There is a nice exhibit surrounding it. We couldn't go inside.
Another exhibit was a British Airways Concord on the Intrepid flight deck. You could buy separate tickets to take a guided tour of it, but we didn't.
Greg took this video of the Imperial Theater before the musical started. You see the "stage" and audience-seating.
NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
Wow! What can I say? This isn’t your “Father’s Broadway.” Take a chapter from “War and Peace”; take a conventional theater and reconstruct the entire interior; put 200 audience members on the stage; take every style of music from Opera, waltz, Russian folk, Schoenberg, EDM (Electronic Dance Music-for those of you NOT in the know; ) surround the audience (which ones are they?) with the choreography; dress the ensemble in “Mad Max” couture, and you have a small idea of the HUGE spectacle of “THE GREAT COMET.”
Yes, there is a story line. It is a chapter from “War and Peace” which along with all the Russian names and angst, becomes secondary to the spectacle. The chorus explains that “Princess Yelena "Hélène" Vasilyevna Kuragina” is better known as “the Slut.” That does help in the retelling. I think that the challenge that Dave Malloy, who penned the Music, Lyrics, Book and Orchestrations, faced was: How is it that I can dazzle an audience throwing every element of current technology at them, and make them feel that they got their money’s worth? He succeeded. We ate (perogies), drank vodka, played percussion instruments, sat slack jawed at lighting effects which would blow the electrical circuits out of a football stadium and heard powerful voices like Josh Groban’s. The talent and voices of the actors matched the “supersized” technology on display.
For those of you familiar with the chapter in “War and Peace,” you might be disappointed. But for those of you who would like to see the potential of BROADWAY (after HAMILTON) this is the show for you. And, not to worry, Josh Groban doesn’t phone it in. He sings from the core of his “padded, unwashed” character of Pierre and takes your breath away.
Hi Tom, You must be having a great time in the City!! Dick and I leave on the 1st May for Venice. A not to miss place in NYC. The High Line walk!! Truly amazing it survived as a train area and now a public walkway in the Air!! I have enjoyed your trips this year very much. This summer lunch is going to be at my house!! OK? My best, Dick
Wow, what a great day! Can't wait to see what happens next. Love it when my friends celebrate life enthusiastically. Hugs to you both. Ruth K.
Looking great, enjoy . Can't wait to hear about the shows. Tom O
|April 28, 2017: The Sun Came Out!|
Today was kind of a lazy day. Greg went up to the sun deck and took some photos of our vistas.
Our apartment is comfortable and cheery. We are on the 16th floor. As usual, the photos (from AirBnB) are large, spacious and roomy. The apartment is compact and perfect for the 2 of us.
We met our NY friend Dorene at a small Korean restaurant called Danji on 52nd Street, near our apartment for supper before the show.
Comedy written in 1939 by Noël Coward, “PRESENT” Laughter, (adjective, not verb,) deals with the mid-life crisis of an aging matinée idol, this time played by Kevin Kline—originally by Noël Coward, Himself. The title comes from an obscure song in “Twelfth Night”, which has no connection, whatsoever, other than to be pretentious. We all know that “pretense” is half the fun of a “Noël Coward.”
Anyway, comedy ensues. You see, many people have become obsessed with Garry Essendine (Kevin Kline) but, none more than himself. He feigns resisting the temptations presented to him by his fans, both married and not, but usually succumbs. One needn’t go in to all of the plot twists, but our Garry makes a mess of each situation. Noël Coward scholars have tried to tie some of these characters to his real life friends and relationships, but had to change the sexes of many of them.
The cast is quite good, and well known. It’s fun to see Kate Burton playing a lighter comedy role. Cobie Smulders, of “How I met your Mother” fame, plays a very thin lipped upper crust Britt. However, speaking of the “Britt” part, sometimes the language gets in the way of comprehension—but you laugh anyway, so as not to be left out. We all know that one of the real strong points of Kevin Kline is his ability to do physical comedy. You have to wait until the second act for that to happen. As usual, with British plots, there is much to establish before you get to the real boiled beef.
WHAT AN INTRIGUING EMAIL FROM YOU! good theatre, devine digs, spicy pancake, etc. Had no idea you guys are such gourmands. We miss you, too. Peggy M.
Always enjoyed watching Kevin Kline. What fun! Ruth K.
Dear Tom, Great photos- NY skyline looks like a postcard shot.. I love Kevin Kline. Did you see him in De Lovely, story of Cole Porter? He was fabulous. So many people missed it because the reviews were so negative. Thanks again for your travel update. We are in MN. Might snow tomorrow. I can't time it right! Bye for now. Rosemary J.
Enjoyed your last 2 days. The Comet of 1812 sounds really interesting. Todd H.
|April 29, 2017: 90 Degrees in the City|
This morning we had tickets to the "Irish Outsiders" tour of the Tenement Museum. We started out in the museum shop where we watched a video of this area of New York City. It was once the most densely populated place in the US if not the world.
In the 1930s, a law was passed that buildings like these had to replace wooden staircases with metal or stone, plumbed for gas and water. The owner of this building decided to board it up with the exception of the retail space on the ground floor.
The building stayed sealed up until the 1980's when the idea of a tenement museum was being formed and this building at 97 Orchard Street was found.
Our tour began on the 4th floor. The first rooms were as they were found in the 1980s. The next set of rooms were restored to what they would have looked like in the mid to last 1800 up until 1932. The story of a family who lived in this building was told through census records, death records, christening records, etc.
After the tour of the museum, we race back "uptown" to the Music Box Theater.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN
The show which began its previews in Washington DC, back in 2015 found some faithful cast members who stayed with the show through its ultimate Broadway engagement at the end of 2016, at the Music Box Theater. What I find interesting, here, is that it is indeed rare for a relatively unknown young actor to fall upon a role which features all his talents, and catapults him to stardom with just one role. BEN PLATT, still in his 20’s fell into that role, and is a tour de force playing Evan Hansen. He has missed only 1 performance from the beginning.
Evan is a teenager who struggles with extreme social anxiety, and is asked by his therapist to write a letter to himself expressing hopeful feelings for the first day of his senior year. Without giving too much away, that letter falls into the wrong hands, and creates a scenario of its own, based upon little lies, easier to face, which become BIG lies which are painfully destructive.
With basically a bare stage and platformed furniture pieces, with social media projections, the story is told as we follow Evan’s anxiety, fears and hopes. “Theater” finds its own way to tell a story. Sometimes it is done with detailed spectacular scenery; and other times by the detailed emotional energy which is generated by the actors. When done correctly the simplest of scenes leaves you as breathless as a spectacle. Such is the case with “Dear Evan Hansen.”
The music is written by the same duo who recently received an Oscar for “La La Land” Pasek & Paul. There are some nice tunes, but what I enjoyed most was their way of incorporating the song into the dialogue. Most songs begin as the actor speaks a line which happens to be in the same key as the song which ensues.
In a few days, watch for BEN PLATT to be nominated for Best Actor in a New Musical, and then watch him win on June 11. He deserves it.
THE MURDER AT HAVERSHAM MANOR or THE PLAY THAT GOES wRONG
As you can tell by the title, something is not going to go right. Well, that is an understatement. Nothing is going to go right. This murder mystery play performed by the Cornley University Drama Society has some unfortunate “mishaps.” THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, however, goes perfectly right. There are a group of British actors who formed the “Mischief Theatre” and have been presenting some plays as an ensemble cast, and they hit upon this play which they premiered in London in 2012. They have proceeded to travel around Britain, and finally made it to “The Great White Way” Broadway in April of 2017.
The same group of actors who, by now have become a real team have created a play in which nothing, and I mean, NOTHING is spared. Physical, visual, technical and mental comedy abounds. It’s, of course, impossible to describe the hundreds of “mishaps;” the ‘humour’ would be lost in the translation. But let us just say that there is very little left to the imagination, or on stage—for that matter, at the end of the production.
Fast and fun!
Hi Tom, I doubt that patrons of the Mt Angel Oktoberfest would get into poutine with kimchi ... Your brother wants to join you next year for a NYC trip. He was there just a few weeks ago. Kim S.
I am enjoying these updates as usual and I always admire the writing! Jeff S.
Looks like you're having so much fun! Educational, entertaining, and (maybe?) extraordinary-- just trying to keep the alliteration going! That photo of the tenement room looked pretty snazzy compared to photos I've seen of what they were like in the 20s. Someone took some furniture polish to the table, huh? Anyway, good to take the "Irish Outsider" on the tour--How soon we forget how hard certain immigrants had it on their arrival to this country that we want to make GREAT AGAIN! I heard it was hot in D.C yesterday., so maybe in NYC, too? It is Coastal CA Hot here today--80 or so! Hurricanes headed to the South--just as we head there. Have fun!! See you in June, I hope, Greg. Roberta G. & Robert W.
Sounds like you’re having a blast! Nancy D.
Thank you very much Tom. You are having a very exciting time and certainly are seeing many interesting plays and shows. Dick and I fly away tomorrow to our first stop magical Venice. I know NYC will be a wonderful time for you both. Best wishes. Dick P
Dear Tom and Greg, Thanks so much for sharing your adventures in New York!!! We are truly awed by the number of stage productions you have enjoyed. How fortunate you are. Your travelogue is immensely informative and a delight to read. Again, many thanks ~ happy traveling. David and Rolf
Wow! Are you guys having fun yet??? LOL (and that's laughing out loud to you,young fellers, not little old lady) What a great holiday!! Hugs,
|April 30, 2017: Sunday in Manhattan|
Of course the musical is based on the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” which over the years has developed practically a cult status. The book for the musical has been in the works since 2009. The road to production was as difficult as most big musicals. This one, however, didn’t take the usual course. It was announced that “Groundhog Day” the musical would premier during the 2016 season at the OLD VIC THEATRE in London as the debut season of its new director. The production, now in New York was recently announced as the winner of the “Laurence Olivier” award for best new musical as well as best actor in a musical in London.
The New York production, recast with American actors, has the same lead actor Andy Karl who premiered and won in London. This New York production was also plagued with a rough start, in April, where technical difficulties closed the previews. You might have heard that the lead actor just 2 days before opening had an accident on stage and tore his ACL (knee). The understudy Andrew Call replaced Andy Karl (!) who now does a few shows during the rehab.
We got to see Andy Karl perform. He now incorporates his leg brace into the show, as he is seen many (many) times getting out of bed in his boxers. But he doesn’t seem to pull back in his performance. The show depends upon technical tricks to keep the same day to day repetition from getting too stale. I counted no fewer than 4 turntables in concentric circles which kept things moving. The production is super ‘slick’ as is Andy Karl’s performance. His character is not a nice person, but his reputation as a handsome weather forecaster gives him an excuse to be abusive.
The plot follows the film with an eventual change in the character of Phil Connors, and a romantic relationship. The fans of the film will not be disappointed.
Greg made reservations at Taboon, a Middle East restaurant on 10th Avenue. It was on the same street as our theater and across the street from our apartment.
|May 1, 2017: Monday, our Day of Rest|
We had the chance to book a play today (a couple were performing on Monday), but we decided to take it easy. We met NYC friend Patrick for lunch at a Peruvian fusion restaurant called Pio Pio at 10th Avnue near 44th Street. I had Lomo Saltado Filet fresh vegetables, stir-fried with soy sauce, spices, red onions, cilantro, tomatoes, served over french fries with white rice. (This is normally prepared with slices of filet mignon. Greg had stuffed pepper and Ceviche Limeño (Spicy), a classic Peruvian seafood dish tossed with a citrus juice marinade. Patrick had several kinds of ceviche.
After lunch, Patrick dashed back to work as we walked north to the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle. On the 3rd floor was a Microsoft store. We spent some time looking at the Surface Studio ... an amazing all-in-one with a huge display. A new peripheral is the "Dial" which is a cylinder that you set on the table of screen and you can us it to make very small changes in drawings, for example. I think it does a lot of other things, too!
We walked through Central Park (the south end) before returning "home".
Tom & Greg, Thank for taking us along. Your smiles are the best part. Travel safe, Lisa M.
Good Day Tom, Have enjoyed seeing all your pictures. Look forward to hearing more about your trip from you and Greg. Fondly,
I must say you two must be among the best looking guys in New York!
Lovely seeing you both today. Sorry I had to run back to work. I am going to watch Lazy Eye tonight. Thanks for the recommendation. Safe travels to both of you. Next time drinks at my place and a longer chat. Patrick N.
Great trip. Thanks for sharing! Rosemary J.
Tom, Thoroughly enjoyed as always your travels to NYC with great pics and informative news. You make me feel like I wish I were there too! Safe trip home and please give a hug to that tall good looking Irishman alongside of you. Kevin
Hi Tom, We fly away today. Really would like to see the musical. Next time! Have a great time. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is considered a masterpiece of the late great architect Louis Kahn. Could be very moving. Best to you, Dick P.
Hugh Jackman walks by and you were in the restroom? Oi-vey! The rest of your Sunday sounded very cool. And the shows you're seeing! Ei-chee-wa-wa! 'Makes me want to climb on a plane right now and visit the Great White Way. Larry M.
|May 2, 2017: Last Day in NYC|
Our last day and last play.
I took my Surface Book over to the Microsoft Store on 5th Avenue (about 1 block away from Trump Tower). I am unable to copy and paste between different Office programs and made an appointment for an "expert" to help me with it.
From the day before we knew there was a new announcement from MS for today and it was happening when we got there. (New Surface Laptop.) My problem is specific to the very recent Win 10 update and my version of Office/Business/Pro/Plus. I will have to fix it another day.
For lunch we went back to Becco's (Lidia Bastianich's lower-priced restaurant which offers pasta specials, $25 bottles of wine). We ordered the "Sinfonia di Pasta" for which the servers bring 3 different pasta dishes by and gives you a small serving of each. The problem is that they keep coming back until the balcony you are sitting on starts to sag.
Our last play in NYC: Amélie.
Forced into home schooling by over protective, neurotic and germaphobe parents, young Amélie had very little contact with the outside world, observing it with her telescope. Her imagination, on overdrive, created a bizarre world of mostly positive images which allowed her to survive her isolation. When finally she leaves the confines of her parents and moves to Paris she is determined to become a “do-gooder.”
She delights in the eccentric. She is befriended by other eccentric people who have personality quirks, and together they go about their lives doing the best they can. Amélie concocts and executes elaborate schemes to affect the lives of those around her. She finds love, but it’s not an easy task. But love wins in the end….N’est-ce pas?
Based on the 2001 film Amélie this production opened on Broadway in March 2017.
Both Tom are Greg and safely back in their respective home in California. Tom constructs the framework for these emails with photos and some text. Greg is the superb writer of our reviews of the plays and musicals. Thanks for joining us in this adventure!
Loved the whole trip. Thanks for sharing.
Tom & Greg, Thank you for sharing your NYC adventures !! Ron M.
Hi Tom, What a trip you have had!! Thanks for sharing. Wishing you safe travels to California. And come back to Oregon soon. The Strawberry Fest?? Blessings, Rev. Deb P.
Hi Tom, Welcome home. Ken
Hi Tom, Thank you for sharing your New York trip with us. Especially the FOOD. While at working looking at your pictures made me want some. Sorry I will not be able to come when Ruth and Bev are there maybe nest time. Aloha
Amazing! It was another trip for the ages - so sad to have missed you this time around. Hugs and kisses…. Jen F.
Thank you, Tom and Greg, for sharing your adventures. A highlight of my day! Mark M.
Welcome back! Diane J.
We loved the movie Amelie--being set in the real Paris, made a lot of difference and she was great! Our renter in Winona (named Dominique) has a 9 mo old daughter named Amelie after the movie! So sorry it isn't doing so well--hope YOU are! I thought you were going to Toronto, Greg? R&R
Thanks so much for sharing. I really need to go soon. Glad you're both home safe. Loving life in Zion National Park...Greg, check out Facebook. Linda D(?).
Thanks Tom for including me in all who receive your travel emails. Levonne G.
Thank YOU, for sharing them! Nancy D.
Thank you so much for including us. We love reading your daily journals. Very professional! Todd and Kevin
As always, great coverage of the food fare and activities. Why are you not writing for a magazine???? What a fun trip you had, and I got to go along; thank you. Regards, Sandra B.