We’ve been so incredibly busy the last few days that this could make for an EPIC blog but I’ll try to keep it brief! It feels like we’ve seen a lot of theatre in the last few days, amongst our other adventures so here we go..
It was pouring with rain on Thursday so we decided to stick to indoor activities. We headed out to Grand Central Station and took their audio tour which tells you all about the history of the building and gives you fun little facts as you walk around. It’s such a beautiful piece of architecture and it was some nice calm for our ear drums amongst the thousands of people swishing by us as we wandered. We wrapped our time at the station with lunch at the very American Shake Shack, which was pretty good, but nothing on Five Guys burgers (more on that another time). We also went to a shop called Forbidden Planet, which has a lot of sci-fi stuff and collectibles for geeks like us. We picked up a couple of Whovian things for Chels and then headed to Times Square via the Magnolia Bakery (yummy recommendation from Katie and Dave) and of course the subway, where we came across one of the regular characters who wears a drum kit and plays guitar in a similar fashion to Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. He sings pretty badly but he’s entertaining.
And then we headed to our show for the day..
Broadway Show #16: Aladdin
Where: New Amsterdam Theatre
Seats: Front Balcony
Favourite number: You Ain’t Never Had A Friend Like Me
Tickets purchased with contributions from: Tiffany Kalin, Lauren Law
Okay this was seriously COOL. We had so much FUN with this show! The script is all updated from the movie which was the first bonus – there’s still all of the recognisable lines but like the movie Frozen, they now have a self-referential script that talks about the fact that you’re watching them on a Broadway stage – for example, genie accidentally pulls out a Statue of Liberty souvenir from his pocket instead of the lamp when you first meet him (and explains that he did a little tourist shopping before the show); the Jasmine character is all updated to want to have an “equal relationship with a man of her choice”; the Sultan talks about the challenges of marriage and making it last… etc, etc. It’s all very funny and much more aimed at adults than we expected – just like the Disney movies can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
The genie was most definitely our favourite. We LOVED him and can’t rave enough about how much he deserved his Tony. The clip below is from the Tony Awards this year where he performed before receiving his Tony (Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical) and the clip doesn’t even do justice to how spectacular he was in the show. He carries the spirit of the original genie (Robin Williams) beautifully but he has also made the character his own – he’s a sassy black man who cracks jokes all of the time (there’s a lot of new material as well as the original jokes) and he works SO HARD on that stage dancing, singing, changing costumes, running around like a crazy – he is truly amazing and it was such a joy to watch him perform.
Friday was a fun-filled day as we headed to 5th Avenue to look at all of the shops that we could never afford (we even went inside Tiffany’s!). Our favourite by far was the infamous FAO Schwarz which is three levels of magic! Honestly, we felt like kids in this store. There was every toy you could ever want and crazily affordable, especially compared to the rest of the shops! We can’t get over how much more expensive things are at home. Even with the conversion rate, toys are so cheap here compared to NZ! Again, it’s pretty lucky we don’t live here otherwise I would definitely have left with a giant gorilla (as tall as me!) and Chels would have gone home with the Lego Statue of Liberty. We visited Zoltar, who’s in the shop, and got our fortunes told again but no wishes from us (we didn’t want to become Tom Hanks..).
We decided because we were dressed up for our show that we would go to a nice rooftop bar that Chels had been told about – Haven. It was really neat. The view of the city was great and the atmosphere was lovely. Reminded us a bit of Southern Cross in Welly. A perfect entrée to our show for the evening.
Then we headed to the Met(!) to see an opera..
Broadway Show #17: La Boheme
Where: The Metropolitan Opera
Seats: Family Circle
Favourite number: Act II Finale
Tickets purchased with contributions from: A. Nony. Mouse
This was a really wonderful experience to have over here because I worked on this show with New Zealand Opera just this year and so I was really excited to see it in a different country on a much larger scale. And that’s exactly what we got – the Met provides an extraordinary scale compared to NZ. The sheer size of the theatre is already double the size of our largest theatre in Auckland (4300 seats) and the stage has four substages where they shift between humungous sets for each act. It was amazing just to see the different settings for each quarter of the show. Of course it does mean that there is an interval between each act, so that can get a bit draining but the pay off is worth it.
The music was beautiful and the acting was great. It helps that I know the opera inside-out and back-to-front, considering it’s performed in Italian. I think it was slightly more challenging for Chels to get into it because of how unfamiliar she is with it. But that’s what happens for us with opera – it’s always much easier once you’ve studied the text! We both enjoyed Act II the best because there was just so much to look at – the market was enormous, there were huge numbers of people (they employ over a hundred “supers” – extras for the stage – for each of their shows), there were horses (REAL horses!) and the march at the end was made up of a huge band. It was really great! The clip above gives some idea of how big the finale was.
All in all it was a wonderful experience and it was really special being inside the infamous Met.
Yesterday we met up with Cassie, a friend from university, in the morning at a wonderful bakery/café called Tisserie. It was so great and the food was delicious! We had such a lovely time catching up with her and then we walked together to our next show..
Broadway Show #18: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Where: Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Seats: Rear Balcony
Favourite moment: The Escalator
Tickets purchased with contributions from: Trieu Family
This play was SPECTACULAR. The story, of course (for those of you who haven’t read the book – read it!), is beautiful and engaging and moving. And the show was no less of an experience. They’ve really brought the story to life in such a fantastic way.
The show is born out of the National Theatre of London and is currently in previews on Broadway so we got the tickets really cheap. But we would have paid more for that experience! We can’t rave enough – it was SO GOOD. The actors were amazing and the movement (it’s a physical theatre piece) is incredible, so inspiring. The set is a whole character on its own – it moves in all sorts of directions and things open and pop out and drop out and light up…amazing. And speaking of lighting up, the AV is the most incredible design I’ve ever experienced. I mean sure, they would have a sizeable budget for this show, but it’s the first time I’ve seen AV where it is properly and invisibly integrated into the show in a way that doesn’t interfere. And it’s perfect for the autistic themes running through the piece – it’s like seeing the inside of Christopher’s (main character) brain. And our Christopher, played by Taylor Trensch, was a heartbreaker, completely wonderful. And he carries the whole show, working his butt off for the two hours. It’s no wonder he shares the role with another guy throughout the week.
And just like the book, Christopher is a wonderful character that we fall in love with and root for throughout the whole story. And just like the book, we empathise with him and equally empathise with his parents and teachers who are living with an autistic child. It’s fantastic – there are not enough adjectives to describe how much we truly enjoyed this experience.
And for those of you who aren’t travelling anytime soon to New York or London, the show is actually coming to NZ on the National Theatre Live series – which is a programme where they film live theatre shows from London and then screen them in cinemas worldwide. You might think that it’s not worth seeing a theatre show in a cinema but I’ve seen two shows this way now and the way they film it, you couldn’t get that kind of view from a theatre seat. I highly recommend you find out the National Theatre Live screening of this show in your town and see it. It’ll be worth it! Oh, and read the book too – you won’t regret it.
After that show, we headed out to Lower Manhatten and found ourselves on GAY ST! We checked out a bit of the LGBT area and shops and then met up with our friend Jess for dinner and a stroll through Washington Park before our next show..
Broadway Show #19: Solitary Light
Seats: General Seating
Favourite number: Firefly
Tickets provided by: Jess Gerz
Jess, who lives in New York, is a costume designer and is currently the Asst Costume Designer and Wardrobe Supervisor of an off-Broadway production – Solitary Light. He offered us tickets to see this gem and we were really excited not only to see his work in action but also to tick off another NYC show experience – watching something off-off-Broadway.
This show is about a factory fire that took place in 1911, which killed 146 garment workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Jess told us a bit about the history including that the reason the workers died is because the owners had locked the doors from the inside to keep the employees all working overtime. So when the fire broke out, they couldn’t escape and many tried to jump from the ninth floor of the building to get out… pretty grim really. But apparently this event is what helped lawmakers to bring in rules on child labour and better working conditions with unions. So I guess that’s the light at the end of the tunnel..
The show was really beautiful. It was only an hour long and we could have sat there listening to their singing for longer. It is amazing to us the overflow of talent in this city. There are an endless number of performers who are working their butts off, waiting in diners (including singing diners!) to earn a buck and they’ll do anything to get work and practice their craft in the hope that they’ll get their break on the bigger stages, moving from community theatres to off-Broadway to Broadway. This cast was no exception – they had crystal clear voices that were really beautiful and they shone in their harmonies, which were aplenty.
The score was great too. It was folksy with guitar, cello, violin and piano and really catchy – in a good way. We especially loved the number ‘Firefly’ because the harmonies were truly beautiful and there was one actress in particular, who played the main love interest, who had a gorgeous voice and also played the mandolin during this number. She was really great!
The lighting design was interesting – a lot of shadow and streams of light in use – but I thought it was a shame sometimes that we couldn’t see the performers faces in some important moments. The costumes made up for this (Jess, you are amazing!!) – we LOVED the design of the costumes, all period and all their own unique design, and we thought the hair design was perfect for the era as well.
We had a really good time and stoked to see something off-off-Broadway.
We finished the night off with sorbet from Jess’ favourite ice-cream shop around the corner and then headed home again.
Tonight we have a completely different experience from anything we’ve ever done!! But more on that later…
Til next time,