Lobby Hero

This play opens TONIGHT but I was able to see it last week in previews… what a treat!

It is in the beautifully renovated Hayes Second Stage Theater (formerly the Helen Hayes Theater) which is a small house, every seat is fantastic!

It is so well cast… Chris Evans (yes, Captain America) plays the guy you love to hate… and Michael Cera, well, his comedic timing and awkward perfection have never been better. I laughed throughout the entire play.

I honestly did not expect it to have much substance, but it addressed some big ticket items… race, sexual harassment, and the crushing of dreams with perfect direction.

This is a must see… I am glad I made the last minute decision to go, and am excited for what this house brings to us in the coming months! 

Angels in America – again

This is not a new story. Tony Kushner won the Pulitzer in 1993 for writing Angels In America, which was later made into a mini-series on HBO (2003) and now it has spread its wings back on Broadway.

Knowing this history, the audience is prepared for the length of this production, which is told in two-parts…  you can see it on consecutive nights, or part one at the matinee, part two in the evening… I chose the latter.

Those around me all had a game plan, after all, we would be in our seats for close to 8 hours that day, with the first play just over three and a half hours… (1-4:45) a few hour break, and then back for the second play for just over 4 hours (7-11:15).

I was excited about this; and it felt like now was the perfect time to revisit this story. The cast was compelling, with Nathan Lane playing Roy Cohn and Andrew Garfield playing Pryor Walter; roles they had both played at its run at the National Theater in London.

Throughout the first show, set in three acts, I was amazed at how quickly it was going. There were two intermissions, 17 minutes each, after each act. The Neil Simon theater has restrooms downstairs with steps on the right and left sides. I was happy with my decision to get a seat in the last row of the Orchestra. As the lights dimmed after each act, I was first in line for the restrooms. An important note, this theater has only these facilities – so those in the front of the orchestra and everyone in the mezzanine found the lines quite long by the time they could get there.

Another tip – bring an empty water bottle. There are filtered coolers downstairs that you can refill it with – saving yourself $5 a bottle at concessions. 

Between acts, I had my food plan nailed down. I didn’t want to search for a place to eat with my limited window, plus, it was St. Patrick’s Day. So I made my way to SPOONFED NYC, a decision that turned out to bring me one of my best meals this trip. 

I had a cocktail, some amazing mac-n-cheese… and these chicken tenders which I will say, were the best chicken tenders I have ever had. 

In addition to amazing southern food (there are so many things on the menu I want to go back and try on my next visit… including that bacon wrapped meatloaf on their sandwich board outside… but I wasn’t sure that was the best idea before heading back into the theater for another four hours! I will say, on this evening that I was again exploring this story that dives head first into race, class, and sexuality… it was nice to support an establishment that proudly posted that they are minority, veteran and gay owned. While I was there, both the chef and the owner came by to tell me there story, please take the time to go visit them on your next Broadway visit! 

My heart and stomach full, I went back into the theater for the even longer second half – which also had two intermissions, this time each 22 minutes long.

I left thinking how relevant this play, set in the 90’s AIDS crisis, echoed so many issues that we struggle with today. How much progress we have made, and how much more fighting there is to do. I planned to make the journey to The Bethesda Fountain the next day… a place I have felt inspired so many times, and certainly Mr. Kushner was as well. 

Three Tall Women

A week has passes, and I still don’t think I have fully processed how I feel about this play. My immediate reaction when I was left the theater was sadness. Reflection. Contemplation about what I was doing with my life. Contemplation about what I had done, and how I would remember the intersection of those things.

This is the journey of THREE TALL WOMEN. 

These women that play these three roles, they are remarkable. The immediate draw for me was Laurie Metcalf – who I love and was fresh off her 2017 win for A Doll’s House, Part 2. She even made Misery less miserable the previous season. Her resume is impressive, and her performance in this play lived up to what I have grown to expect from her: impeccable comedic timing and the perfect verbal and nonverbal delivery of dark humor in the face of tragedy.

But Glenda Jackson, she was not on my radar, and should have been. After all in addition to her extensive resume, she was a member of Parliament for 23 years. (I admit, I learned that from her Playbill Bio). She does something in this play that is hard to imagine.

She makes it OK to laugh at the process of Dementia and the physical Pains of aging.

As she shuffles and screams… cries and tells scandalous stories from her early years of marriage… she shows us a mirror of the journey we all may take, until the end of the first scene (the play is performed without intermission) when we are introduced to the true identity of these three women; who are simply listed as A, B, and C in the playbill.

Shortly into that second scene, the audience understands. And there is a collective sigh. you can almost hear people processing their own journey on the mirrors that now fill the stage, reflecting their futures against their own pasts. I won’t give it away, you should experience it for yourself. But, I suggest making a reservation at Dutch Fred’s and ordering a “Working Class Hero” when it is over. That is what I did.

Carousel on Broadway

The story itself is a classic. I went to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL knowing what to expect and then, the opening number. The choreography went on for a long time, beautiful, detailed, exquisite… long. I glanced at my watch… 8 minutes. There was something different about this; and then I remembered. I held my playbill to the light from the edge of my seat – yes, Justin Peck, making his Broadway debut as a Choreographer. This explained what I was seeing.

Peck, making his Broadway debut, is not new to the stage in New York City. At Resident Choreographer of the New York City Ballet, he has created over 30 new works here, as well as in Paris, San Francisco, and Miami just to name a few. He was the subject of the documentary Ballet 422 in 2014, and has received the Bessie Award for Outstanding Production. The stage is his playground, and we were invited to visit.

But Peck created the movement for a vocal trio that could bring down the house; any house.

Joshua Henry: from Shuffle Along, In the Heights, and the tour of Hamilton.

Jessie Mueller: The current Belle of Broadway with her recent hits in Beautiful and The Waitress.

Renee Flemming: An internationally acclaimed soprano, winner of four Grammy awards.

Honestly Renee’s Role as Nettie Fowler did not showcase her vocal prowess for most of the show, and then it did… In Act 2 Scene 2 when she sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” she gives a performance that brings down.

There are moments in Carousel that move slowly, but that is the way this story is written. Outside of the beautiful dance and outstanding vocals, my pleasant surprise of the evening came from Amar Ramasar, also making his Broadway debut as Jigger Craigin. Like Peck, it is the Broadway stage that is new to him – as the Ballet has been his home. I imagine we will see him again on the Great white way, his acting performance rivaled his dance.

Mean Girls the Musical

This show was one of my most anticipated of the spring, and the line outside hoping for cancellations at this SOLD OUT show during previews proved it was not just me!

There was a decent line at the merchandise counter, but where else can you get a hat that says FETCH on it…. 

It took me a minute to visually adjust to the leads, the performances in the film are SO iconic, I had to adjust, however….  in writing the book, Tina Fey did a brilliant job of keeping the cult loved mainstays of the movie (the burn book, the slow roll of the car after the art show, the unique characterizations of each of “the plastics”) while updating it with both contemporary language and technology. It is easy to forget that when this movie came out… Instagram and twitter did not exist! 

There are a few well placed political jabs that the audience responded to well… and Kerry Butlers (who takes the roll of Ms. Norbury, originally played by Ms. Fey) delivers them just as we imagine she should… without doing a Tina Fey impression. 

For me, the standout was KYLE SELIG who played the important role of Aaron Samuels. He took a favorite character from the film and made you love him even more. You might know SELIG from his work at Elder Prince in THE BOOK OF MORMON – but this performance highlighted his talent in a fresh new way! 

 

The branding from this show went all the way to the restrooms, where everyone who entered was reminded that “You’re like, really pretty”…. 

If you are a fan of the film, or Broadway, or Tina Fay, or just having a good time… you will want to make your way to MEAN GIRLS, it is a hot ticket now, but I suspect it might be even harder to get after the TONYS are handed out. 

Frozen on broadway

The weather was perfect for FROZEN, as New York City was finding itself for the third time in weeks, blanketed in snow as winter winds filled the March air. 

In true Disney fashion the merchandising was on point… with themed drinks and ice blue glasses for the adults, and plush toys and dolls for the kids… staff wore winter coats and for a second, I could forget I was in a Broadway theater and think I was in a Disney store. 

The show itself was spectacular. The classic songs were perfectly executed (Patty Murin and Caissee Levy are getting high praise from the critics for their Ana and Elsa) and the original songs become fast favorites. But before we meet the grown up princesses, we are given the gift of the young Anna and Elsa who are simply fantastic. There are two actresses for each, and on the day I visited it was Audrey Bennett’s turn to play Anna, and Brooklyn Nelson for Elsa. Bennett had wonderful timing and commanded the stage, the audience reaction to her roaming the castle halls was positive and laughter hit on point. 

I was curious about the effects which would be used and I was pleased to see that the Disney magic was alive and well on the stage, creating ice and castles in perfect splendor. There was wonderful use of newer tech without the feeling of modernization in this period story. 

There was a dark subtext, but nothing too scary, and some playful banter for the adults in the audience most of which went over the kids heads, although there were some gasps from the “tweens” near me at some of the less subtle risque innuendo. 

I was pleased that Disney used race blind casting. This was anything but a Nordic cast… a tone set by Hamilton, and the audience seemed more than willing to accept the diverse company – all of whom played their roles brilliantly. 

The only problem I had with the show, was not with the production itself. It was with the number of babies in the audience. I don’t mean toddlers, I mean babies, in their car seats and crying frequently – babies. Now in fairness, this was a Wednesday matinee. If I were to return on a Tuesday night, I might find an older crowd.

I confirmed with the house manager that every single child, no matter the age, was ticketed at full price. This show, unlike some Disney productions in the past, did not have a minimum age set for admittance. If that continues, they might need to consider a guardians room with the show broadcast for those that need to leave the theater, because as it was, there was a lot of crying going on, and no one was asked to leave. img_3945

Jelani Alladin, who plays Kristoff. The cast signed playbills for a large crown of enthusiastic princesses. 

Escape to Margaritaville: The Musical

I was admittedly skeptical. I mean, I really do enjoy Jimmy Buffets music…. it’s fun, breezy, freeing…. but a musical? Would there be any substance or story? How much of this would be the music we know and love and how much would be original? I got my answer quickly looking at the list of musical numbers… but I noted that these were in alphabetical order… it was not the set list… so as I sat imagining the story…. all I knew was that it was set on an island… and in Ohio.

The atmosphere was set for this island adventure from the moment you entered the Marriott lobby where the entrance to the Marquise Theater is.

Attendants at the concession stands offered numerous themed drinks – and the feeling in the air was light… and warm; a stark contrast to the news of the day and the actual temperature outside.

So I settled in to this imaginary island and as the story unfolded…. a wedding, a girl, a volcano island and shaker of salt that just kept getting lost… cheeseburgers and carrot juice…. trips to Paris and memories of love and loss; I realized what a truly brilliant songwriter Jimmy Buffet is. I had missed some of the depth in his his music… but I had always felt the warmth of the words.

The audience responded willingly to the less than subtle request to fill in certain words and sing along on cue.

The book was written brilliantly with humor and a well woven plot to string a story pulled from Buffets lyrics.

At the end – hundreds of beach balls fell from the rafters and bounced around the audience. A standing ovation was given before the lead characters took their bow.

As I left this island and ventured out into the cold night air I smiled as I listened to young girls singing about cheeseburgers in paradise – beach balls in hand.

I know the show has received some negative reviews – however when reading them, it seems they are negative for exactly what the show intends to be… a few hours of fun and loosing yourself in fantasy… I, for one, would see this show again…

Kissing 12

I have been flirting with it for days… seven weeks into training for the New York City Marathon, after a long year of running injured and then months of rest and recovery… I had been flirting with 12.

My last few runs had been right there… with my first mile around 13:10 – so when I laced up my shoes this morning I thought “today is the day”. There were many reasons my it shouldn’t be. It was a big time jump I was looking for. The weather was off…. 79 degrees with 85% humidity and a decent head wind. I was home, after all, because this weather had kept me from my planned race. It was later than I normally run, and I had already had breakfast a few hours before.

But here is was, a break in the rain, so I strapped on my Garmin and marched out the front door… the warm wet air slapping me in the face when I took that first breath.

My route was fairly flat… and I knew that the hardest part would be the last half mile of this 5K, because I would be running north, into 15-20 mph winds kicked up by this storm.

As I closed in on the end of my first mile, I was feeling good… almost afraid to look. My Garmin 620 vibrated on my wrist and I saw it: 12:37… After weeks of flirting, I had kissed 12.

Mile two. Would I lose steam? I thought about my steps; my cadence and my gait. I thought about my breathing…. consciously held my head high and my shoulders back, my arms relaxed at my sides… my watch buzzed again –  12:43. I wasn’t just kissing 12, this was a full on embrace.

Mile three. I had already turned to the west, the wind on my side. A few times with the wind on my back I saw it…. 11… for a few steps some fleeting seconds but I knew, not yet. I can’t manage a relationship with you 11… I am not ready. The hardest part was coming…. turning north the wind was right in my face… and I fell for pockets of time back into the comfort of 13… but it felt strangely manageable. My watch buzzed again – 13:08.

Yesterday, that would have been my fastest mile in these 7 weeks of training.

I let myself have a little burst for that final .1 – and when I pressed pause I saw it- 12:46 average pace.

I looked at the lap times…. I had not been dreaming this – there is was in black and white.

I thought to myself… If this were the marathon, I would be over the Verrazano Bridge, a mile into Brooklyn – turning left onto Bay Ridge… I would be thrilled with a 12:46 pace 3 miles into the race… and I have 9 weeks left to train.

For the first time, in a long time, I am feeling like I am ready to race again.

 

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Project Awareness

In my Interpersonal Communication Class, students complete an individual project centered around developing personal awareness.

The project is composed of three parts:

  • Strengthening a relationship
  • Building self-awareness
  • Facing fears / personal challenges

I decided that this semester I am going to do the project with my students, only I will blog about it.

The relationship I am going to work on is the one with myself. I have a tendency to put the needs of everyone else first, and my own goals and needs get pushed back. To begin, I am going to have two goals:

  • Build boundaries around my work schedule, I tend to be available 24/7 – this is complicated by much of my work being online!
  • Focus on sleep. I do not get enough, and everything suffers.

I am already very self-aware… but there is always room to grow! I am going to start this process through reading and reflection, as well as exploring a radical change in my diet to see how I feel… that change is to give up meat for at least 21 days... something I have been wanting to do for awhile but never have pulled the trigger… I am not sure how my body will react but we are about to find out!

For facing my fears…. I am going to confront issues of gravity… Box Jumps… Pull-ups… if it requires both feet leaving the ground at the same time…. I tend to run from it! I don’t know why I have this mental block, but I do! So, I am going to work on it… and see what progress can be made. The first step was admitting it!

I will be posting weekly updates of my progress in these three areas… I am ready to practice what I preach, and see where I stand in sixteen weeks at the end of the semester!