So when Theresa and I were initially planning our wedding years ago, we went through every different type of wedding (big, small, church, beach, etc etc etc) and would inevitably end up in an argument because T’s family is big and mine is tiny, or the cost was crazy, or we couldn’t agree on some important detail and so on. For a while, talking about the wedding just meant arguing – which is strange because we don’t normally disagree that much. One day we were watching an episode of ‘The Office’, specifically Jim & Pam’s wedding, and in it the couple were having such a hard time that they ran away and eloped before returning to their friends for the party. I turned to Theresa and said “Let’s do that”. She agreed and from that moment on we stopped fighting about the wedding, a big weight was lifted off our shoulders and planning began to get fun.
And how did Jim & Pam get married?
On a boat in Niagara falls.
So that was our plan for a really long time – elope in Canada, not tell anyone and just run away. But of course plans change, gay marriage went through for New York (where we were going to honeymoon) and we thought it might be a little lonely by ourselves. So that is why we invited our immediate family and best mates. On the night of our perfect Wedding Day, Theresa surprised me with this – for years she had been saving her per diems (daily food allowance) from work tours to secretly pay for a couple of extras on this trip beginning with a quick detour to where our plans all started!
Wednesday we hopped on a plane to Toronto and Theresa drove us (on the wrong side of the road!) to Niagara and today, after a quick shopping run to find a cheap waterproof camera (thanks Target), we made that trip! “Does that mean there are photos of you both in ridiculous ponchos?” I hear you ask? Yes, yes it does.
Also, see that little boat at the bottom of the falls?
That’s where we went. This is what that looked like inside the haze…
It felt like being caught in a huge heavy downpour. We got drenched. Most people ran undercover, we decided to embrace it and had the best time!
We also made friends with the Captain and got a free second journey! He was a great guy although I doubt he would have been as awesome as our celebrant Annie!
Niagara itself isn’t much to write home about, mostly casinos and ridiculous tourist traps but the Falls make the trip so worth it! Today we head into Toronto for 1 night with a short visit with the Kempthorne’s before we are back to our scheduled programming: Boston!
PS – Yes, I did mention there were two surprise additions from Theresa (despite her agreeing to have no surprises on this trip). You’ll have to wait for the other one!
PPS – Happy International Stage Managers Day Friends!! Here is a double rainbow in your honour:
So we are literally sitting in line at JFK airport waiting to check in and feel that it is an opportune time to say a HUGE Thank You to everyone who contributed to our wedding/honeyfund/honeymoon in any way.
Thanks to your help we were able to see 30 shows in the 30 days we were in the Big Apple and it was absolutely amazing and more than we could have ever planned or dreamed it would be!
So Roll Call Time!
A.Nony Mouse Alex Yates Ali Bruce Amanda Grace Leo Anna Nuria Anne-Marie Ravlich Barbara Hanaray Bernard Hanaray Bridget Scanlan Bruce Commerer Bryan Barkla Cassi Mayersohn Chrissy Bell Clodagh Mills Commerer Family David Kempthorne Donny McDonald Elaine Walsh Elizabeth Barkla Helaina Keeley Ian Hanaray Jamie Johnstone Jamie Webster Jess Gersz Jo Silver John Clarke JP Twaalfhoven Katie Kempthorne Kim Hanaray Kirsty Danielson Kjersti Engeland-Fors Lauren Law Long Family Luca Evans Mary Carll Matt Evans Matt Smith Michael Wray Michelle Commerer Mick Bell Molly Hanaray Natalie Braid Natasja Bell Nola Galyer Nolan Hanaray Oliver Rosser Paige Kermeen Peter Hanaray Richard Trieu Ron Galyer Ruth Evans Sally Yates Sam Trieu Samantha Molyneux Sandra Rassmussen Scott Wilson Shannon Starr Sharon Wray Sr Trish Hanaray Susan McDonald Teresa Callaghan Therese Clarke Tiffany Kalin Tim Jansen Tony Marr Trieu Family Val Lynch
We appreciate and absolutely love all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
We loved our time in New York (although we never got a piece of real New York pizza – gosh darn it, we will have to come back sometime) and now today we say goodbye to this wonderful city and continue on in our journey – we are only HALF WAY through our trip after all!
Next stop – Surprise additional location #1! Just to create some antici…
So here we are. Final night in the Big Apple, this great city of New York. We’ve just arrived home after a day of farewelling this place in the world that hosted our most special Wedding Day and the greatest month of our lives.
And we began by saying goodbye to our Wedding location, the Ladies Pavilion at Central Park.
On our way, of course we had to stop at the Halloween store we came across. All of the shops have decorated and are starting to rev up for the holiday. It was so awesome seeing all of the things available to buy. And we would totally have the best Halloween party at our house if we lived here. Really cool lights and decorations and freaky electronic jump-out-at-you fun things!
Funny that as fate would have it, we actually bumped into our celebrant as we entered Central Park – the gorgeous Rev Annie Lawrence, as we were walking through the park on our way to the pavilion. She was with an Australian couple, having just married them, and we stopped for a photo with her and a hug to say “till next time”.
We spent some quiet time together at the pavilion, reflecting on our perfect Wedding experience, then headed to what we believe to be THE best burger joint in NYC (the World probably!) – Five Guys Burgers. If you ever visit this city, please, PLEASE, go and get a burger from these guys. Talk about YUM!
Then after a brief farewell to our friend Jess, we walked to our final destination – 44th Street. 30 shows in 30 days and we decided that number 30 had to be our favourite. From all of the shows that have been gifted to us and that we have been privileged to attend, we chose one very special show that has come to mean so much to us…
Broadway Show #30: Hedwig and the Angry Inch Where: Belasco Theatre Seats: Front Balcony Favourite Number: Andrew Rannells and Lena Hall in EVERYTHING Rating: 10/10
Yes, that’s right, HEDWIG. We were so incredibly fortunate to be able to see Andrew Rannells and Lena Hall, once again, in this amazing show. And there’s no words to describe just how amazing it is.
6 weeks ago when we were in NZ, soon to embark on our journey, we tried listening to the soundtrack of this show and thought it was a bit weird and didn’t really get into it much but thought we should see the show as a part of our Broadway experience. And here we are, completely turned around in our opinion and loving the crap out of this show. Tonight was exciting and emotional and absolutely the perfect ending to our time in New York City. And to top it all off, we got to meet the two stars after the show once again. Both of them are so talented and so gracious in person and both generous enough to have a chat afterwards. We were even more the fan-girls this time, buying the poster for Andrew Rannells and the band to sign, and getting our photos with Lena Hall before she autographed our poster. Might seem silly but it was so fantastic for us and a really special ending to it all.
Tomorrow we travel onwards as we continue this amazing honeymoon.
Yesterday I got home and was feeling like we had the most magical day. And then I realised that I couldn’t choose that Sunday over any other day we’ve had. In fact, they’ve all been magical in their own glorious amazing ways. And here we are, at the beginning of the end. One day before we journey on. It’s a little sombre but mostly we’re just enjoying each and every moment, in the moment, as we live and experience it.
And we began yesterday with such a wonderful show..
Broadway Show #28: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder Where: Walter Kerr Theatre Seats: Centre Balcony Favourite Number: I’ve Decided To Marry You Rating: 8.5/10
Tickets purchased with contributions from: A. Nony. Mouse
This was so incredibly fantastic! (I know we say that about all of the shows but seriously… they are just SO GOOD!) We saw a bit of this earlier in the year when we watched the Tony Awards on tv and then the show won a bunch of awards so we were intrigued enough to see it. And it was most definitely worth it! The best thing about this show, unlike many Broadway musicals, is the density and complexity of the story. You really had to pay attention to not miss anything. It was all very cleverly interwoven and hilarious. Here’s the clip we saw from the Tony’s to give you an idea:
At the beginning of the clip, you can see one man, Jefferson Mays, having a few costume changes. Well he played EIGHT characters in the show! All of whom are murdered in hilarious ways. But the amazing thing watching him on stage was the pace at which he changed between all of his different characters, switching between them numerous times. He also had the biggest role in the show – all of his characters sang and danced. He was working his butt off! And was really funny. Here’s another small clip of him:
The set was amazing. It was a stage within a stage and the changing between scenes was very clever. Although we know a tonne of money would have gone into this budget, it occurred to us that the simplicity of the design and show (outside of the costume design required for Jefferson May’s characters) means that one day, if (when) this show’s performing rights becomes available, it will absolutely be possible for amateur companies to perform which is cool because it is such great writing and the music is wonderful and it inspires the thought that musical theatre can be as interesting in its story and as good as a really great play.
In the evening, we treated ourselves to enjoying one of our favourite shows a second time:
Broadway Show #29: Matilda Where: Shubert Theatre Seats: Balcony Favourite Number: Quiet/ When I Grow Up Rating: 8.5/10
This was, once again, a beautiful show and wonderful experience. We had a different Matilda this time, Eliza Holland Madore, and she was smaller and adorable and so great. It’s incredible to see such a young person carry a massive show on their shoulders. The script is huge and she leads a lot of the singing as well.
It felt a little like a sombre book-end of our trip (although our actual book-end will be tomorrow night but more on that later) because it was the first Broadway show we saw. And it was truly wonderful. We love this show and have every intention of getting the soundtrack to continue our enjoyment of it in future. This one will hold a special place for us always.
Now, we gave you ‘When I Grow Up’ last time. So this time, here’s a clip of one of my other faves – ‘Quiet’:
There was no lottery win for us today (thanks for those who voted but we’ll have to catch Kinky Boots next time!) so we headed to the High Line instead, arriving just after the sun set. It was great! A disused railway track that has been turned into a public walkway – what’s not to love?
So yesterday we broke a personal record – Three shows, 12 hours! Madness! Which means we’re going to share this blog. So here goes…
Broadway Show #25: The Fantasticks Where: The Jerry Orbach Theatre Seats: Centre Orchestra Favourite Number: Abduction Ballet Rating: 7.5/10
Tickets purchased with contributions from: Alison Bruce
T here: This show was… fantastic! 😉 We have a bit of a history with this show – it’s become a discussion topic at Red Leap and many jokes and lots of team charades fun has been had with the “Fanta-sticks”! *you had to be there* So it was really great to finally be able to see the infamous show we’ve talked about for years. And as for Broadway, it’s quite famous too. It’s the longest running Off-Broadway show ever! It’s been running since the 1960s so even if we didn’t have our own relationship to the show, we would have gone just for the historical experience! So we were Off-Broadway for this show and we were in the smallest theatre we’ve been to in NYC – maybe about 100 seats – and there were only 25 or so people in our audience. But it was so beautifully intimate because of this. There was a very small stage (even smaller than The Basement) and the 8 actors filled it with fun and laughter.
The theatre we were in is named in honour of the man who first played the character of Narrator/ El Gallo, so that’s pretty cool. Our version of this guy, played by Edward Watts, seriously looked like McSteamy (if you watch Grey’s Anatomy then you know who I’m talking about). And he was really charming and sang wonderfully and was funny too. And seriously white teeth. What is it with white teeth in this country?!? They must have some serious chemicals in this country or maybe they just implant fake porcelains regularly.. or something. Crazy white.. Anyway, I digress – this show is an ensemble piece and really hilarious. It was very ‘panto’ which we weren’t expecting and it was like bad American acting but deliberate with how heightened it was so we really enjoyed it. Our favourite characters by far were The Old Actor, Henry (played by MacIntyre Dixon) and his sidekick, The Man Who Dies, Mortimer (played by Michael Nostrand). These roles seem to be the sort of roles that retired actors return to after a long career to have some fun. These guys would have easily been in their 70s and they were hilarious! They are the clown roles of the show so there’s a lot of slapstick and self-referencing that takes place. There’s also a lot of Shakespeare references from the character of Henry which made for even more hilarity for those of us who understood the references. And then Mortimer does exactly what his character description suggests – he’s an actor who is an expert at dying. At he gives a few examples along the way which are great. Much fun was had at this gem!
One Down! Two to go!
Broadway Show #26: Disgraced Where: Lyceum Theatre Seats: Centre Balcony Favourite Moment: The fight Rating: 9/10
This show forced us to reflect on our ratings a bit because it was the first time that we’ve been to a serious American play and after the experience we really weren’t sure how to compare it to a musical. So we had to rate it on its own merit with a result of a high score. We chose to see this because after seeing Curious Incident… and really enjoying it, we thought perhaps our enjoyment was because we could relate to the “English-ness” of the play, being from NZ, so we wanted to experience an American play to see how different it might be. And what an experience it was. It was like an exceptional ATC or Silo play (we exited feeling similar to our experience of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit). In fact, we’re pretty damn sure that one of those companies will have it on their radar already, especially considering that it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. And well deserved too. To be honest we picked Disgraced half because of the Pulitzer, half because of cast member Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother – although neither were relevant by the end.
The play explore its title – disgrace – in relation to race and the American culture and its relationship to religion, in particular Jewish and Islam, and involves discussion on 9/11. But not in an overt way. Rather, it explored regular individuals and how they relate to 9/11 in a deeply personal and revealing way, informed by their own faith. It was incredible how relevant and poignant it was, especially sitting in an American audience. It was like being a fly-on-the-wall witness to a dinner party and hearing conversations that people would ordinarily avoid or politely change topic on. It became heated and the playwright threw strong opinions into the mix, provoking characters and audience alike. We shared many gasps with our audience, especially during possibly the most shocking moment which included some stunning fight choreography.
And the lighting was something like we’ve never seen before. It was like the set designer and lighting designer had collaborated in discussion beautifully. It was all set in one room in an apartment but many days passed during the show and the lighting is what showed the passing of time. in a gorgeous subtle way. The set was built with large windows in the apartment, allowing for “daylight” and “moonlight” to stream through at different times. And there were clever small revolves allowing for seamless set and prop changes. The sound design was also wonderful, covering the passing time scene changes but again, not overtly. All elements were intergrated perfectly.
Chels and I left feeling quite emotional and we’ve been talking about it since. Not entirely sure how it would sit with NZ audiences – we feel like we only understood many classic New York references because we’ve been here for nearly a month and perhaps if we hadn’t been here for that time there’s some little gems that would have flown over our heads. But that would be a minor flaw outside of the overall experience of this show. The playwright, Ayad Akhtar, has written a beautiful provoking piece and it was amazing to sit at the end and see how he had woven all of the elements that only revealed themselves in the final moments. The protagonist was disgraced on his journey, another character gives a speech on disgrace at the end, other characters are disgraced by their opinions flying out of their mouths, and in a way, the audience is disgraced by their experience at the end. It was all very clever.
And what a strange and wonderful night to go from that experience, onwards to our final show of the evening..
Broadway Show #27: Rocky Horror Picture Show Where: Chelsea Cleaview Cinema Seats: Side Orchestra Favourite Number: Science Fiction/Double Feature Rating: 8/10
Chelsea here, I am taking over for this review! We met with our wonderful friend Natalie and missioned down to the Clearview cinema in Chelsea for a midnight screening of the RHPS! This show had performers acting out the show in front of the screen in beautifully created costumes and great props! What was fantastic though was the lines that were yelled back to the screen during the movie, which is something that has spawned out of the cult following from when the midnight screenings started in 1976 because the content of the show wasn’t widely accepted –these days everyone has relaxed their moral code a bit but at this cinema EVERY Friday and Saturday night this group of performers perform to/with a full cinema.
Some examples of the screen responses:
In the back row: [front row: “Screw the back row!” while standing] [back row: “Screw the Front Row!” while standing]
Brad: I’ve got something to say. [“It’s a musical, sing it a**hole”]
Brad: Hi, my name is Brad Majors, and this is my fiancée, Janet Weiss. [“Brad, spell ‘urinate’ in shorthand.”] you are… [“Close enough.”]
Brad: Hospitality!? [echo “Horse brutality!?”] All we asked was to use your telephone.
There were also great physical moments – a crew member in the opening credits of the film had the last name Pointing, so a group ran down to the screen and pointed at it; there was a camera tilt upwards for a tie climbing moment; and there is a Crew Member called ‘Sue Blaine’ so throughout the whole show whenever anyone said “Who’s to blame?” everyone yelled “Sue’s to Blame!”.
Also, Natalie added us to the Virgin line (Virgin’s referring to the fact that it was our first time seeing the show) so we all were branded with big lipstick V’s resulting in friendly torment and some rather awkward audience participation. Thanks Natalie. I laughed until I cried and got the hiccups – in summary, extremely hard to explain but BRILLIANT night!!
The last couple of days have been filled with adventure and two fantastic shows!
We began by continuing with the Great American Carousel Tour of 2014 with #5 at Central Park!
In fact on Thursday we spent the whole day at Central Park and it was truly wonderful. We hired a couple of bikes down the road from the park and cycled around all day, stopping at the carousel, the John Lennon Imagine memorial and the Alice statue and then we parked up opposite the Belvedere Castle and had a picnic on our Derek Jeter yankee blanket. We sat there by the turtle pond, gazing at the view around us, with New York City in the background and we thought “who does this?!”. We just can’t get over the fact that we’re in our dream city, spending time together with no work to distract us. It’s pretty special and we’re feeling very lucky! After we delivered our bikes back on the way into town, we found the LOVE statue and made friends with a couple of tourists who took our photo with it.
Then it was on to our next show..
Broadway Show #23: Cabaret Where: Studio 54 Seats: Centre Mezzanine Favourite Number: Wilkommen Rating: 9/10
Tickets purchased with contributions from: A. Nony. Mouse
We got to meet up with our friend Natalie for this show and we had such a fantastic night! Before the show even started the usher of the theatre moved our row from the cheapest seats at the back of the house to the centre of the mid-Mez so that was the first bonus! We ended up with amazing seats. And then the show… I have so much I want to say about this that I’m going to have to choose otherwise I’ll rant for years. But it was AMAZING. I loved it so much. Firstly, being in Studio 54 was pretty great and what they’ve done to the space is really cool. I have managed to find a time lapse of how they built the stage to make it look magical (including THE biggest mirror ball we’ve ever seen in our lives. I don’t even think this clip shows just how big it was but it might give you an idea) and the camera just happens to be about where we were sitting for the night:
And then, what can I say? Just… Alan Cumming. He is incredible. And was more than incredible on the night! I keep trying to find clips on YouTube to give you an idea of just how great he was and how great the show was but I keep finding the original season when he first played the role. Which apparently was amazing too but it doesn’t seem to do justice to our experience. Basically, the show was sexy and sassy (everything Chicago should have been) and epic and intimate and heartbreaking and beautiful and funny. The choreo was really awesome (there’s even a number where the six dancers are smoking cigars around Alan C – I bet that would hurt the lungs after a while!) and they utilised the spaces around the stage really well. The band was awesome and very much a part of the action – some of them were ensemble dancers, singers AND players in the band. I mean, come on, some people just have too much talent in one body!! But seriously, the band were great. And very much a feature of the show. And most of the time they played around the stage without any music in front of them. The conductor was playing the piano as well so she conducted/played with one hand (as you do!). [And actually, on a side note, it was really cool seeing a female conductor.] And the rest of the cast were awesome too – the older couple in particular (played by Linda Emond and Danny Burstein) were so beautiful and funny and their story was truly heartbreaking in the end. And the ensemble were multi-talented amazing individuals. We had the understudy for Sally Bowles, so no Michelle Williams for us (not sure what she would have been like) and it was the first time we weren’t taken by a cover. I mean, she did the job fine but she wasn’t great and we concluded (together with Natalie who actually saw the Auckland version in 2011) that our friend Mandy, who played Sally Bowles in Auckland, would be amazing and then we pictured her opposite Alan Cumming and thought that would just be magical (one day Mandy!). So…yes. In conclusion I was excited and moved and inspired by this show. It’s so hard to put into words just how fantastic it was but I’m sure you get the idea. Now, there’s plenty of stuff on YouTube for this show (in fact, there’s an entire Sam Mendes directed film of the original season but it looks like it’s quite different, although I’m sure it would give a fairly good idea of the show and the theatre stage looks the same from what I can tell) but I can’t really find a decent clip of the current season except for this short montage but hoping that it gives you some idea and if you want more, go exploring on YouTube..
Oh yes, and I forgot to mention that the three of us managed to meet Alan Cumming afterwards and he autographed our playbills! So that was a pretty awesome fan girl moment for us all..
So! Moving on to Friday (realising this is going to be a long blog again.. whoopsie.. excitement rants take up space!) and we went exploring in Brooklyn this time..
..adding carousel #6 to the tour! This one was pretty special because we had a great view of Manhatten while we were riding.
We then went for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge which was really cool and the sun was setting so we got amazing views of Lady Liberty and the East River and Manhatten. We also took a padlock and added our “lovelock” to the bridge, following the footsteps of many before us (although not as many as the time we added a lock to the tower gate in Busan)..
We got to the other side of the bridge and got a New York hot dog for dinner (as recommended by our tour bus guide on the “how to go on a classic New York date” advice) and then headed to meet our friend Jess for our next show..
Broadway Show #24: On the Town Where: Lyric Theatre Seats: Centre Balcony Favourite Number: Carried Away Rating: 8.769253*/10
Tickets purchased with contributions from: Jess Gerz, Lauren Law
*As a side note, we weren’t going to add decimals beyond .5’s, to keep our scores clean and easy. But I promised Jess that his rating would go on our blog exactly as he said it. We agreed that the show should get at least an 8.5 but he wanted to push it up closer to 9 (but we agreed not quite a 9 because other shows have been more of a 9) and so we did. The End.
Well this show was really great! Finally Chels and I have seen what we call “old-school” Broadway. There is so much dancing in this show and they’ve kept it very much in the older style of musical theatre. It’s the first time (and probably the last in NYC) that we’ve seen this much dancing on the stage and the classic style of let’s tell the story, now let’s stop to do a big dance number, now let’s continue to tell the story (instead of the integrated musicals we see these days). And the dancing was awesome! Huge ballet numbers with muscly guys and beautiful girls (one of the leading ladies has actually come from the New York City ballet company!) and huge flips and spins and lifts and twirls and running all over the stage.. it was really great. The cast was huge and the orchestra is currently the largest on Broadway – apparently a good reason why we don’t see these classic shows on stage anymore, because they cost too much. We had been thinking that this show might finally show us some decent tap but it turns out (Jess informed us) that the tap dancing was only added to the film because the leading lady was a tap star and would only do the film if she was able to dance (and it totally works for Gene Kelly too right?!). So no tap for us. Apparently it’s quite out of fashion on Broadway currently so possibly The Book of Mormon is about what we will get on this trip. But the ballet was just as incredible to tell the truth. And we had such a great time watching the classic style and feeling like we were seeing Gene Kelly on the stage! Our favourite number, ‘Carried Away’, had a dancing dinosaur (yes, Kirsty, you read that right!) and was definitely a highlight! But I think the best thing of all had to be the dancing and the sheer physicality of the performers. They were amazing! Now, I can’t actually find a decent YouTube clip for you to see the show as we did (not even a good trailer!) and there’s lots of clips of the first time they staged this show before it moved to Broadway. But I promise our version was bigger and better. What I did find though was a sort of preview clip from their rehearsals that give you an idea of the variation in song and dance that we saw. Pretty old school and pretty awesome. Love it.
So! Tuesday! We went on a tour of Upper Manhattan, Harlem and the Bronx. It was great and it officially means we have done a bit of exploring of all five boroughs during this trip – win. Now, I could give you a blog full of pictures of historic buildings and all the history around them because I am a big history nerd but I’m not going to. Instead, I am going to put up a few pictures that I took during the tour of normal buildings that I just liked the look of. Much more interesting:
Tuesday night we went and saw Cinderella. To be honest it was originally on our B list… maybe even our C list… but we have had great reviews on it from some of our industry buddies and there was a great deal on tickets so we thought, well, why not?
Broadway Show #21: Cinderella Where: Broadway Theatre Seats: Centre Mezzanine Favourite Number: Do I Love You Because You Are Beautiful? Rating: 8/10
This was surprisingly good. Unexpectedly good. It was actually the first time we’ve sat in a theatre that isn’t jam packed full, so that was new. But there was a good energy in the audience despite numbers and the show filled the room with RnH (Rodgers & Hammerstein) happiness all evening. The music reminded us a bit of The Sound of Music (funny that) and had a real bounce to it throughout, with lots of catchy tunes and numbers.
We were actually a part of something recent to Broadway as well – they’ve changed the cast to an African-American Cinderella (Keke Palmer) and stepmother (Sherri Shepherd), to mix it up for all the little princesses out there (and there were a lot there in their dresses and crowns! Cute!) And the Cinderella is only 21! She’s apparently a bit of a TV star and we noticed that she wasn’t as well-trained as the other performers on stage in voice or performing, which made for an interesting difference and we enjoyed seeing someone a little less “Broadway” on the stage and it suited the character not to be as refined as the other performers.
The show has an updated book and the script was actually really funny in some parts – modernised in a similar fashion to Aladdin. But above all the highlight had to be the incredible costume changes – three times we saw a character transformed from rags to riches right in front of our eyes and each time was more amazing than the previous. It was really cool and after the show we spent all night watching YouTube clips, trying to figure out just how they did it! This show put us on a little bit of a high, after enjoying ourselves much more than we expected!
Yesterday it was raining – not that it got us down! We went and joined the (surprisingly short) queue to go into the pop-up Friends replica café! We are huge fans of the TV show (I mean really, who isn’t?) and it was great!
We made friends with all the security guards, saw the collection of costumes and props (we have lots of photos for other fans who want more!) and got our photo taken on the infamous Central Perk couch. Very cool.
From there we decided to stay in theme and missioned back to Greenwich to find the building they used for the exterior of the apartment building in the show on the corner of Bedford and Grove. Then because I had done my research, we were able to find the exterior of Ross (and Ugly Naked Guy)’s apartment exterior. And because we were in the area we popped into the Stonewall Inn for a beer and to check out the ‘Birthplace of Gay Pride’. Love it. Oh and we found the Big Gay Ice Cream Store. Brilliant.
We had a lovely catchup with our friend Julia from home who has moved over to study in NYC before dashing to our next show..
Broadway Show #22: Avenue Q Where: New World Stages Seats: Centre Orchestra Favourite Number: If You Were Gay Rating: 8/10
I was fortunate enough to see this show when I was in the UK, so I am going to hand it over to Theresa for this review as it was her first time:
This is funny and naughty and puppets and musical all rolled into one – who wouldn’t have a good time?! It’s like Sesame Street on drugs, or drunk, and just being honest about life and all it’s fun and foibles. The guy (Michael Liscio, Jr) who played the main male puppets – Princeton & Rod – worked his butt off and was really amazing. He was sweating up a storm in the first act as he ran around the stage switching between his different characters. Awesome. And the actress (Veronica J. Kuehn) who played Kate Monster and Lucy was amazing and definitely our highlight for the evening.
I find it hard to choose between them all. Especially because in actual Sesame Street I love the voice of the Cookie Monster and there’s a character based on him called Trekkie Monster and the actor playing him (Jason Jacoby) does the voice perfectly! In fact, they were all great. Six actors on stage running around like crazy between different scenes and puppets and they were all fantastic. We had a thoroughly great time!
Sunday we had an easy day, slept in, blogged, missioned to Union Square and had dinner at a Chocolate Restaurant (yum) before heading to what we consider an ‘experience’ show.
Broadway Show #20: Wayra Fuerza Bruta Where: Daryl Roth Theatre Seats: GA Favourite moment: The Overhead Pool Rating:8/10
This clip essentially covers the whole show:
This show was like a surrealist circus dance rave party. This Argentinian company is an offshoot from the infamous De La Guarda performance theatre company and consists of a live band, an overhead swimming pool and a LOT of aerial work.
I really enjoyed the show. There was no storyline or connecting features, it was more a bunch of different acts pieced together. The audience stood in a circle in the middle of the theatre and everything was visible – the set pieces, the rigging and my favourite, the crew. It was the first production we have been to where the crew were very visible, were dressed formally and were a big factor of the show. It was very Brechtian in the way the crew ran the show – they moved the audience, spotted performances and gave very clear safety checks – and I loved it. When the performers or the band were distracting the audience in one direction, I was turning around to see what the crew were setting up behind us. The crew also got a big acknowledgment during the curtain call and rightfully so with 5 Stage Managers, 5 Riggers, 4 operators and a huge crew looking after the audience – they deserved it.
At the end of the night they dumped water over the audience. We were prepared with our electronics in ziplock bags (it was no secret that it was going to happen – they sell rain ponchos, towels and dressing gowns before you go in) but we were lucky enough to be out of the main splash zone. We were just blasted by giant fans and confetti. FUN.
Yesterday we went on a mission out to Coney Island for a look around. Being off-season, everything was closed and it felt like a grimy ghost town. The trip wasn’t a waste though, we managed to find some Bertie Botts every flavour beans! I wasn’t game enough to try the vomit flavour but I did try soap = bleugh.
Last night we went on a night tour of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, which was great to see everything from up high!
Apologies for the amount of photos, my joining software is glitchy. Hopefully I will get it sorted before our next update! No collection would be complete without the classic…
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 Rating: 8.5/10
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 Rating: 7/10
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 Rating: 9/10
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 Where: AxisTheatre Seats: General Seating Favourite number: Firefly Rating: 7/10
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…
Well it’s been a busy couple of days over here in NYC (we keep pinching ourselves to remind us that we are in New York – NEW YORK. Crazy. So incredible that we’re here, living here for the month, and watching a show every night. Like, who does this?! It’s the most amazing trip of our lives and wouldn’t be possible without all of you contributing to it, so thank you so much!) *gush over*.
So, it’s been a busy couple of days. Tuesday we headed back to the City Clerk’s office to get our marriage documents all signed off and stamped! We are now the proud owners of a certificate stating that we are legally MARRIED. So that’s pretty cool!
Then we headed over to Chinatown and Chels got all of her hair cut off! She’s been planning this for months because after growing her hair for the last three years for our wedding, she’s been going a little crazy. And she found out that in America it’s quite easy to donate your long hair to a charity that creates wigs for children with cancer. So she’s posting her ponytail to them. She’s much happier now that her head is a lot lighter and I think it’s a cute cut!
After leaving Chinatown, we had dinner in a really beautiful restaurant in Little Italy (just next door to Chinatown – who would’ve thought?!) and then headed out to Chelsea (the place, not the person) to see our next show…
Broadway Show #14: Sleep No More Where: McKittrick Hotel Seats: General Admission Rating: 7.5/10
Tickets purchased with contributions from:A. Nony. Mouse
This was the craziest theatrical experience I’ve ever had. It was exhilarating and confusing all at the same time. To start, you arrive at a random building, they get you to check in your bag and then “check-in” to the Hotel and you’re handed a playing card as your “room key”. Then you’re sent to a bar (beautiful, smokey, 1920’s themed) to mingle before your playing card is called out and at that point you’re led into a dark room and handed a mask that you must wear for the whole evening. You have to remain silent for the full three hours as well – and therefore remain anonymous for the whole experience. And then it all begins – you’re led into a dark elevator with a large group of other masked people and an actor stops the lift on various levels of the Hotel and lets different groups and individuals out to begin their experience (he split people up deliberately).
Chels and I were separated by our playing cards and we agreed that experiencing the Hotel alone was a great idea because then we could navigate as our instincts took us. The Hotel was created over five levels of the building and was super dark everywhere you went. The programme has notes from the directors describing that they were influenced by film noir in the lighting design and that’s exactly how it felt. From bedrooms, to insane asylum rooms, to graveyards, to forests, to a ballroom and banquet hall, (to name just a FEW of the spaces) this show had the most incredible production design I’ve ever seen. From the tiniest details to the grandest scale, all thought through and constructed to perfection. And you could interact with everything and anything, including the performers. The directors write that they chose to give the masks to the audience to encourage them to be bold with their exploration and perhaps be more voyeuristic than they would be without them. And that’s exactly what happened with everyone in the audience. Best moments for me: I saw a dance with two actors and a door between them (off it’s hinges) = amazing; a fight choreography between two men battling around a pool table; a solo dance by a nurse who had a body full of intense tics; and the most incredible slow motion scene playing out with all of the characters at a banquet.
Oh and I forgot to mention that the show is based on Macbeth, with hotel characters and story characters intermingling and on every level of the Hotel there were different scenes playing out between characters and you were free to stay for a scene and watch or you could just explore all of the spaces in the Hotel (Chels and I both clocked the whole building) and you could watch a scene play out and then follow an actor when they left a room to move to another space in the building. Fascinating. And the company running the whole ship is Punchdrunk, famous for their physical theatre, so no words used in this show, only dance. And the movement of the performers was extraordinary. So precise and deliberate and infinitesimal and grandiose. Amazing. Gush, gush, gush.
I’ve blabbed for too long now.. sorry. But on a final point. The reason this only receives a 7.5/10 is because although we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Hotel and experiencing something completely different, we only managed to see a couple of scenes from the story and had we not known Macbeth already, we would have no idea what was happening. But other than that, amazing. Oh and not only did they turn a large warehouse into the most incredible theatrical set, they also built a gorgeous garden bar on the roof that we had a post-show drink in. Amazing what money can provide..
Yesterday we had a rest day (because we’ve both got post-Wedding colds – blergh!) and we wrapped the day with another show..
Broadway Show #15: The Lion King Where: Minskoff Theatre Seats: Mid Mezzanine Favourite number: He Lives in You Rating: 8/10
Tickets purchased with contributions from: Therese & John Clarke, Kjersti Engeland-Fors, Michelle & Bruce Commerer (and the whole Commerer clan!)
I studied the director of this show, Julie Taymor, when I was doing my Masters so I’ve waited a long time to see it in the flesh. And it was great! The puppetry mechanics are amazing and the dancing is beautiful and the direction is so subtle and so clever. I was actually expecting the show to be much more razzle dazzle Disney, with proof of all the cash they’ve spent on it. But actually it was beautifully theatrical. They really went for simplicity on this show and I loved that. I think that has everything to do with the director. There was one moment in particular that stuck with us which is when Mufasa dies and the lioness’ come out to grieve. The way Taymor showed their crying was the performers pulled blue ribbons down from the eyes of the lioness masks on their heads. It was so simple but so beautiful and moving. It really made me think a lot about Red Leap Theatre, the company I produce for at home, and how a lot of the work they create has similarities to the theatricality we experienced with this show. Amazing that despite huge differences in budget, Kiwi companies can create theatre just as beautiful as Disney.
Chels and I loved Timon and Pumba the best – they were definitely the life of the show! And the show adapted them a little like when they return to help Simba save Pride Rock and he needs them to be bait for the hyenas, instead of Timon dressing in drag and dancing the hula, like he does in the movie, he instead dressed in drag and danced the Charleston. Very cool! I loved Pumba’s puppet the best as well. The way they’ve designed the characters is really clever because the actor and puppet are integrated together – human and mechanics all in one. All in all, this one was a goodie.