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Archive for the ‘Great White Way’ Category


New York makes me nervous.  The constant rushing, people walking every which way, mobs of people moving shoulder to shoulder – it makes me irritable and brusque at the same time it stimulates and invigorates.

It doesn’t help to stay in the theater district during Thanksgiving time.  Broadway around Times Square is one packed people mover, everybody with their own agendas and absorbed in their own worlds.  And if it’s raining?  Forget it – expect to be poked and prodded with umbrellas – no body part is off-limits as people rush in every direction hurrying to their destinations.  Me included, by the way.  I have no patience for strolling tourists who block entries to stores and stand gawking at the galaxy of mega neon signs in high-rise city.  They stand in the middle of the sidewalk, oblivious to pedestrian traffic around them.  This is every man and woman for themselves time and I find my temperament adjusting accordingly.

When we finally make it to the hotel and into the pint-sized elevator to our closet sized room the quiet becomes a deafening respite to the symphony of noises outside.  Sigh…. and collapse onto the bed.  At home in Tennessee, every window invites a view of the woods and gardens.  Here on the 6th floor of the Amsterdam Court Hotel on 50th between Broadway and 7th – I get a peek through a dirty window at an even dirtier building next door.  There is no nature to soothe the senses until you make it to one of the many small parks – and the mother of them all, Central Park.

And yet – I love it.  For a short time it’s the only place I want to be.  Enveloped in a myriad of foreign languages, I love the direct and forthrightness of life in the Big Apple.  Listening to New Yorkers yell at each other as part of casual conversational discourse is refreshing and reminiscent of home in Philadelphia.  That’s just the way North Easterners talk to each other, thank you very much.  A brusque, in your face, no holds barred style of conversing.  Say it like it is, no hidden agendas.  Ahhhhh… home.

The sophistication, the melting pot of nationalities, the open-minded acceptance of every creed and sexual identity is what America is about.  Should be about, anyway.  And I appreciate the individual expression of it all.

But I’m also glad to come home.  To take a rest from the crazy, bustling, busy busy busy world of NYC to the woods, hills and mountains of Tennessee.  The nervousness fades, the irritation subsides and the deep breathing resumes.

Carry on…

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NY - the BroadwayEvery year or so we head to New York for an orgy of theater, one performance after the other.  We see more shows in 4 or 5 days than some people experience in their lifetimes.  It’s my favorite thing to do and fills me up until our next visit. Theater has always been my first love and I dreamed of being a star on a Broadway stage one day.  But reality took over and eventually my sensibility caught up to the realization that performing was not my strength.  That didn’t dampen my love for the performing arts, though, and attending top quality theater is necessary fuel for my soul.

This trip takes place pre-Thanksgiving, 2011, when we attended 7 stage shows in 4 days.  Here’s a snapshot to tickle the taste buds for the rest of you theater lovers with plans to visit the Great White Way.

Fantasticks has been around for 50 years and this is the first time I’ve seen it.  What a delightfully intimate experience in this small off-Broadway stage where our front row seats had the actors practically in our laps during some of their leaps.  It’s a sweet love story built around a contrived feud between two neighbors.  Songs are lovely and the performers are real pros.  Pop star Aaron Carter is in this show and while he’s adequate as the young love interest, he’s the weakest link on the cast.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a feast for the senses, in fact, it’s actually an experience of sensory overload.  Of course there are the Rockettes– but their backdrop is a 3 story high screen on which runs a variety of technicolor scenes from stars of the Milky Way to a computer generated tour of NYC streets.  More than 1200 costumes are worn in this show, all color coordinating with the sets, backdrops and lights.  The double-decker “tour NY” bus seen in one scene is 34 feet long and 12 feet high, yet is dwarfed against the scenes running on the LED screen behind it.  It’s an amazing show, impressive in every way!

Hugh Jackman at the X-Men Origins: Wolverine p...

Hugh Jackman on Broadway might have been my favorite experience this year.  This man can do it all – act, sing, dance, ad-lib and his breezy, natural showmanship is a sheer delight.  He’s supported by 6 gorgeous “dream girls” whose voices provide beautiful harmony and whose dance skills add sexy flair to his choreography.  Jackman is on Broadway for just 10 weeks before he leaves to film the role of Jean Valjean in the movie version of “Les Miserables.”  If you can swing it – his show is not to be missed!  Hugh Jackman on Broadway

Sister Act is a high energy musical after the first 20 minutes or so.  It was a good show, not my favorite.  The acting disappointed me and wasn’t Broadway calibre, in my opinion.  But once the music and staging kicked in I started enjoying myself, especially the large ensemble numbers.  Actress Patina Miller (Deloris) is the real reason to see the show.  She belts out song after song with a strong stylized alto voice that epitomizes a Broadway star.

War Horse is a stunning play staged at Lincoln Center depicting the 8,000,000 horses that were killed during WWI.  This is what theater is supposed to be.  Inventive and effective staging offer the perfect blend of “see what’s being said” vs. allowing your imagination to tell the rest of the story.  The Irish brogue is flawless and the horses … ah the horses…impressive life-sized puppets, each operated by 3 people who control all movements both large and small.  Subtle ear twitching, snorting, trotting and galloping all accomplished by the humans beside and underneath – yet all any of us see are horses.  Live, spirited, muscular, living-breathing horses.  Uncanny and incredible!  Definitely deserved its Tony!

Sons of the Prophet, a comedy that does provoke a number of laughs with the twisted perspectives of its characters, is well acted and interestingly staged.  But its story of relentless dysfunction among its characters grew tiresome for me – partly because the 1 hour 45 minute play had no intermission and partly because its circular story seemed to go nowhere.  At one point it just started, and at a similar point it simply ended as though the entire play was just a lift from a typical dysfunctional series of events among the participants.  I must say that there wasn’t a weak performance among them though, including Joanna Gleason who’s been seen in many TV series and movies in her career.

Billy Elliot is a really powerful musical about the dancing dreams of a young boy despite his non-supportive working class mining family.  This show has it all – strong story, powerful music, quality voices and effective staging and set design.  There are 4 boys who play Billy; we saw Peter Mazurowski who’s a killer little dancer at 11 years old but whose forte is not yet singing.  You’ve got to hurry to catch this show because it closes in early January.

Excellence at its finest is what Broadway is all about. It doesn’t matter if a show is happy or sad, you’ll usually find me crying in the audience overwhelmed by the sublime.

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