New York CITY

A Nerd’s Guide to New York City Pt. 2

After loooooong weeks of other posts I finally return to my Nerd’s Guide to New York City with a second part, a post dedicated to Theatre and Theatre activities.

A lot of the time of our NYC trip was occupied by theatre and theatre stuff. Watching performances, seeing theatre related stuff. So I guess I have something to tell you….

Seeing Shows….

I felt like a pro when I booked our tickets to see Pippin just the week before the Tonys because I had a feeling they’d win some awards. They were the first tickets I ever booked to see a Broadway show. Then I booked the tickets to see Big Fish, First Date and by the end of August I had booked our tickets to Matilda as well. For First Date and Big Fish I used discount codes provided by Playbill’s free Playbill Club which gave me the opportunity to book our tickets in advance and at least save a little money….

For the other two shows we got to see, Once and Newsies, we went to two of the three TKTS booths located in NYC, where we got tickets for both shows 50% off on the day of the performance. So we saw Once from brilliant seats in the rear orchestra and Newsies from a not so crowded mezzanine (with the air conditioning working on the highest setting right over our heads…) for an at least pretty resonable price. They also have an app where they post their discounts each day and I sometimes have fun just checking on them here in Germany every now and then.

In addition to that (almost) every show has special rush-, lottery- or student policies – which I never used back in September, but probably will be trying on my next visit to the city (or when I finally maybe will an intern with a theatre company over there one day…).

As I German/European girl every theatre building I knew before I went to see Broadway shows had a (more or less) huge lobby, with the Broadway theatres I saw it was more or less only a small lobby giving pretty much only room for the box office – what causes long lines of theatre goers in front of the theatres before the show. It’s a weird scene to see….so many people lining up in front of theatres every night – weird, but fun. After you enter the theatre you almost imediately stand right in the back of the orchestra seats.

In case someone doesn#t know that already: As soon as you enter the theatre an usher will approach you and show you your seats (or maybe it was our looks…although we weren’t looking THAT touristy) and give you a playbill (or two)with basic information about the show such as the cast and cast changes for the night, running time, a list of songs….Very handy and pretty and I love mine (so does my mother, they are kind of displayed on our coffee table in the living room)

Other Activities

I already wrote about the tour I took with Broadway Up Close in a special blogpost and I’ll just repeat: It was a very, very nice experience (and again, I’m not sponsered or anything…). I loved every second of it. Our guide Tim was so nice explaining everything to my Mom, me and the married couple being on the same tour. Since seeing shows (mostly) is a very immobile activity, you normally hardly move it was nice to have something theatre related requiering some walking – not that my Mom and I didn’t walk all the time, but still. Just after we took our tour in October they established a brand new tour, some kind of second part – and I literally can’t wait to take that once I’ll go back to NYC (and maybe I can make a special arrangement to be able to take my sister with me next time? If I promise to fill her in?).

I also already wrote about 54below….twice or even more (and a little teaser: it will be featured again in this week’s Favourite Friday Post….). I highly recommend that for a little more splurgy evening in style and everything – as soon as I spoke to the doorman over there I became the theatre lady I hide most of the time. 😉

Plus: I regularly got sucked into Barnes&Noble to buy tons of cast recordings because that’s something you don’t find in Germany very often. Cast recordings in regular book- or record shops. I bought like 10 recordings I wanted very badly or I came across and thought “Wow….that Sondheim….you should listen to that….!” – for example the revival recording of Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last 5 Years” (wanted very badly), Sondheim’s “Company” and “Follies” and “Passion” (see the pattern there?), “Once on This Island” and “Ragtime” (after that 54below-concert honouring Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty it was just a logical consequence…) and others.

For our next visit I can’t wait to also visit The Drama Book Shop on West 40th street (did someone just mention books? Drama Books? And I haven’t already been there? Are you kidding me?).

As a fan of NBC’s (cancelled) TV show Smash I needed to eat at the West Way Diner (where Julia and Michael met up twice during the first season….) which was more fun to just be at than to eat there – I really can’t take diner food. 🙂 And there are so many locations yet to try for theatre lovers, I’m eager to have a drink at Joe Allen – does anyone have further recommandations for (after show) drinks or something? I’d be very happy to hear what you like to do before or after shows and how you get your tickets – tell me in the comments or on my facebook page!

Merry Christmas, my dear readers!

A nerd’s guide to New York City Pt. 1

When I returned from NYC I promised a more general post about my trip and what I did in the city because when I was prepping for the trip I couldn’t find much information that suited my needs. (I’m not saying that there are many people with needs and interests as complex and random as mine, but…)

Location, Location, Location
Somehow I hadn’t much knowledge about how big Manhattan was – and I mean the more touristy things up to 82th street or something. When I’m saying it’s not that huge I definitely don’t talk about everything north of 82nd street. That actually is HUGE (we did a full circle cruise and it took almost 3.5 hours). But south of that and especially south of central park you can pretty much walk everywhere (given enough time). We did some crazy ammount of walking and my mom’s feet didn’t look too pretty from time to time, but not only did it save us a lot of money we otherwise would’ve spend on the subway, but also we got to see the city (the thing with subways is that they are below the surface, right?). And as a runner/work-out-lover I loved to walking from a fitness perspektive, too. Nevertheless we stayed in a hotel at West 45th Street between 6th and 7th Av. The Room Mate Grace Hotel was a nice small (mostly Spanish speaking) hotel with a pool almost right in the lobby – it’s a shame we didn’t use it, but we simply didn’t. 😉 With that location we had like the shortest walks to the Broadway theatres (maximum distance: 7 blocks to Neil Simon, and 9 to 54below.) and we were very close to our beds after the shows. And I really learned to love Times Square. I mean it’s packed with tourists and lights and sounds and I’m usually not a person liking thoses kinds of things, but with Times Square is somehow was different. And we don’t really have to talk about the theatre district “magic”. When we first came to Manhattan from the airport after a whole day of travelling, we got off the subway and when we first set our feet on 44th street between 7th and 8th the first person I saw was so clearly a Broadway actor and I was like: Yay, I’m there!

Eating
Since this is a theatre blog not many of you (not many of the 5 of you reading that…) might know of my weird eating habits. I like salad and smoothies and coffee and fruit. I’m a vegetarian, almost egg-free and dairy free exept for milk (I can’t even imagine putting soy milk in my coffee ever again). When I travel I know I have to change my habits to match the offer at my destination. We had breakfast at a deli like next door from our hotel. They offered oat meal (with sugar and whole milk, without sugar and with skim milk and finally sugar- and milk-free) and smoothies which were actually made with milk and joghurt but not that much and they were tasty. That usually was our breakfast, most of the days we’d have a coffee going with that and we paid about 17 dollars for both of us. In the afternoon we usually (there were few eceptions like when we were still getting used to the location and forgot to get something to eat in time and a ‘trip’ to the Westway Diner and our Downton-Day) hit Whole Foods. I’m very much into that organic thing and I read about the prepared food section at Whole Foods stores. And YES. OH. MY. GOD! I usually had a salad made of baby spinach, roasted tomatos, mushrooms, avocado and carrots. And it was sooo yummy. We usually would get a box of fruit and a dessert as well (the tiramisu is AMAZING) and couldn’t eat everything for a late lunch/early pre-theatre dinner, so we usually ate the left-overs for a after theatre snack.
For our special splurge-dinner we went to 54below on our third night (Thursday) and it was amazing, as you can read in my special blogpost about our visit there.

Newsies on Broadway

ImageWe saw Newsies on Sept. 30th which was a Monday. And most of the Broadway shows don’t do Monday. So we were rather happy when we got tickets, 50% off, but right mezzanine, but okay.

Our seats we nice, and up where they were it wasn’t very crowded (yes, I had room for my legs!), sad thing was that we saw everything from a different angle than ‘planned’ by the creators.

Beforehand I wasn’t too excited to see Newsies, I’ve listened to the recording a couple of times and some of the songs are quite catchy, but I’m not a huge fan of Disney’s musicals per se, so I expected a show good for families and children and some nice music.

And that was totally what I got! I mean okay, some parts I really didn’t like – but not because they were ‘bad’ or ‘not good’, but because I was slightly bored and it wasn’t really my kind of thing.

But let’s talk about the thing being the real deal about Newsies. The dancing. My very first encounter with Newsies was watching the cast appearing on some TV show performing “Kings of New York” – the number where you don’t know if there’s a dance break or a singing break (giving them a break from dancing….) and I was amazed by the pure technical perfection I saw there. And I’d say: If you like dancing and watching people dance in a very acrobatical way Newsies is worth every cent you pay (at least wehn buying discounted tickets…). If we had sat down in the orchestra I definetely would have enjoyed it more than I did though, I really suggest getting orchestra seats for that show because as soon as your point of view changes in comoparison with the ‘optimal’ point of view – which mostly is located somewhere in mid-orchestra – all of the dancing gets a lot less fascinating. Of course we saw everything, but seeing people dance from slightly (or actually: a lot) above is a lot less fun. 

But still, the dancing was (technically) really amazing and I enjoyed watching it – even from slightly above.

First Date on Broadway

ImageAs those of you who’ve read the last blogposts already know seeing First Date (“Broadway’s Musical Comedy”) was not my actual first date with Broadway. In fact I realize only now how great that would’ve been. But on the other hand they have a two show day on Sundays what makes First Date one of the few shows with a Sunday evening show and that gave us the opportunity to somehow make a use of our Sunday evening.

Regarding the show itself, it contains some stuff I really like about theatre and some I really dislike about theatre.

For the things I like: no intermission, only 90 minutes, actors playing different parts and staying on stage all the time. And those I know me as a ‘serious’ theatre studies-girl/researcher just, please don’t read the following: Yes, there are rather attractive people on stage. (a dramaturg I knew a few years back actually once said: Well, you know, we all like to watch pretty people. And he’s right. He always is because I think he’s a great dramaturg.)
Things I don’t like: Comedy. I don’t really like laughing in theatre. I’m more into quiet, slightly sad stuff, most of the times I really hate people laughing in theatre. I had a hard time when I watched the three productions directed by Herbert Fritsch at Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin because everyone was too caught up in their brainless laughing… for the second one I got a friend of mine to accompany me while I was drinking a glass of wine before the performance. Right. I’m that kind of person.

So, some of you might want to ask: Why did she even chose to see First Date if she hates comedy on stage so much?
I can easily answer that question – I really like the idea that it was an original musical, no film, book, series, opera, no photo exhibition, no ‘bio-pic’ on stage, no jukebox-musical and no revival. You don’t see that too often these days, do you?
The setting is rather easily explained: A blind date. Two people go on a date set up by the sister of the female part and her husband (who works with the male part). They don’t know each other exept for some things the arrengers told them: Aaron could be the man of Casey’s life, Casey is very cute. That’s what we learn they were told. They go to a kind of cliché bar which seems to be popular with people in ‘dating business’: The five other performers play two other date-parties and the waiter for the most time. They talk, they kind of fight and they kind of fall in love with each other. (Dating) Business as usual.

While the date of Aaron and Casey goes on the other performers play a variety of other characters being mostly in their heads: Casey’s stuffy sister, Aarons best friend, Aarons dead mother, his dead (and very Jewish) grandmother, Casey’s not to sensitive ex-boyfriends and (very real, but not in the same place as they are) Casey’s gay best friends who’s calling to “bail her out” as he claims in his song – which my mother loved. She loved Kristoffer Cusick playing the gay best friend (as much as she loves my very own one…). So we actually go on a “real time date” with Aaron and Casey and we get to see and hear all of their thoughts. And why not laugh on a date?

Here again the dramaturg I already mentioned above kicks in: You like to watch attractive people on stage. And damn, they are! And everyone makes the audience fall in love with them. Especially Zachary Levi playing Aaron who everyone is raving about (and yes, he’s THAT good. And boy! He can move! His song “In Love With You” is something to see!) but also Krysta Rodriguez playing Casey is great. Her character seems a little less likable than Levi’s, Casey just needs a little more time to ‘develop’ towards likability I’d say (while the audience’s relationship with Aaron is more love at first sight, Casey needs some time to make her way to our hearts). Both got incredible voices that match the music very well.
The music is a catchy pop-score which I have to admit pretty much dominates  together with mostly one song from Ragtime my iPod since I bought the CD. (I’m a nerd, we all know that.) And I’m obsessed with the harmony in one bar from the last song.

A critic for a German musical magazine stated that the book was a whole cliché and unlikely to happen that way (like: talking about beliefs, religion and other ‘personal stuff’ on a (first) date. He’s obviously never been to a first date between two artists….). Okay then, we can play that game: Romeo and Juliet – unlikely to happen that way. Annie? Tell me about that! The German operetta “Frau Luna” in which people from the 1920ies travel to the moon by a hot air balloon? Well……Just because First Date is set in today’s time we’re not allowed to have some fluff? And that’s what First Date is for the bigger part: Fluff. But why not have some fluffiness once in a while?

Plus (and now we’re getting to the point where I even as a theatre studies-girl and aspiring dramaturg get to like it): First Date really takes the audience along while those to characters fall in love because of its real time-character. It’s not like they see each other, they sing a song and….BOOM!….they’re in love. It’s really about falling in love and of course: Because they simply cannot go on three real time dates in one performance everything has to happen on that very first date. Seems legit, right? (and if I remember correctly: most of the audience members were pretty happy when the kiss finally happened….oh, I didn’t just spoil it, right?)

And since dating basically is the same everywhere at least in western societies (and that is why it’s so likable, too) I really hope someone will have to guts to bring it over to Germany. It is very likely that it will have its fans over here, too.

My Week #9 Sept 30th – Oct 6th.

what I saw 
Newsies. Very spontaneous because it was Monday night and we hadn’t anything to do. This dancing!
Pippin. Oh Lord! These Bob Fosse-style choreography just killed me. And these circus tricks – I’m sure I’ve had more than one heart attack.
Fetch Clay, Make Man. Visiting the New York Theatre Workshop seeing a play. Nice work, although I’m not into boxing at all plus I don’t know anything about Mohammad Ali.
Matilda. These children are talented, the show where the only diffrence between the child-actors/dancers and the adult-actors/dancers is the difference in height.
The season premiere of Homeland‘s 3rd season. Well. Let’s see what happens next.

what I read    
the American Instyle. The New Yorker. Blogs.

what I listened to
on the plane I finally had the time to do some music listening. Matilda (Stratford), Parade (OBC), Addams Family (OBC). At home I listened to my recently purchased First Date-recording and Ragtime. A lot. And the revival recording of The Last 5 Years, my all time favourite musical.

what I bought 
I went a little clothes shopping, nothing too special except for a cap/hat-thingy looking rather 20ies.

what I did  
NYC stuff. Met two friends, firstly Victoria I met in Israel last summer when we were in the same class (thanks again for lunch, Michael!), and Sarah a friend from university back in Germany (who came over with her mom and her sister) and we shared a fabulous Whole Foods lunch in Union Square Park!
Flew home, had coffee with my loveliest friend – by the way he’s fabulous.

where I travelled
home. 5’11” (180cm) in a plane for eight hours straight. Overnight. And yes, it was as fetching as it sounds.

My Week #8 Sept 24th – 29th.

what I saw 
Flora’s Dance. A 45 minute long (short) play with puppets performed by three Israeli puppet-players/actresses. Very nice. I totally remembered that somehow puppets are ‘allowed’ to do stuff that you would think as rather cheesy when performed by ‘real’ performers.
Nice fighting you. The concert at New Yorks 54below I wrote a about. Still: One of the best nights of my life.
Once. O to the M to the G. There will be another blogpost about that. I can only say: I cried all through second act.
Big Fish. Again. Blog post. Again. Cried.
First Date. Another nice Broadwayexperience. Another Blogpost, sooner rather than later. And: a totally original story (hasn’t been a book or a movie or a picture, an exhibition or whatsoever before)

what I read    
mostly playbills. although I did some magazine as well as novel-reading (Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom) on the plane.

what I listened to
Sadly not much. From time to time I listened to songs from the shows we saw at night before bed.

what I bought 
I did some major damage at Barnes & Noble where they actually do have musical recordings. Oh Lord, I bought some. A few. Well….that ‘few’ was actually a lie.

what I did  
Does anyone want to have a “What I did in NYC”-Post? I could do that. A “what a nerd does in that city”-kinda thing. Tell me. 🙂

where I travelled
Well, where am I now? Right: New York City. To be precise: Times Square, Manhattan.