Harry Potter Play Anything But Cursed

IMG_7094Our Harry Potter holiday was planned around the Wednesday performances of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One & Two.  The tickets said Part One starts at 2:00 p.m. and to arrive an hour early to get through security.  We met up at my hotel, Mimi’s Hotel Soho. We had a short walk to the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. We didn’t know what to expect but we thought it might be best to eat a light lunch to avoid feeling sleepy or hungry. I suggested the cafe at Foyle’s Books and we had a yummy kabab with salad. When we arrived at the theater it took a few minutes for us to realize the line to get in already wrapped round the building. Good thing we had assigned seats!

The play is based on JK Rowling’s story. I’d read the script when it first came out and didn’t remember the plot. UK Sarah had just read it. We both were most curious about the staging and how the director will portray the magic.

IMG_7100The play is now in New York City as well. The Palace Theatre is a beautiful older stage with steep rows in the balcony. We got to know our neighbors well as we helped each other navigate to our seats. In our row everyone was committed to both parts on this day. We all bought our tickets for March 13 at the end of November.

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so I’ll just say that it was a hugely satisfying experience. We loved the staging and the special effects. The play was well-acted and much more entertaining when performed (than when read as a script).

Some actors stole their scenes–Ron and Moaning Myrtle–overall it was very entertaining. The break in the middle was about 2.5 hours, and again we had to return an hour early to go through security again. We had about 1.5 hours to sort out dinner.

IMG_7104UK Sarah was craving soup so we walked 15 minutes to Shoop Soup. We had a lots of choice and we were able to score two seats on the limited bar seating at front. There is also outdoor seating for fair weather. The soup was yummy and the sourdough bread just right. We enjoyed a conversation with a taxi cab driver who regularly stops here for dinner.

We returned for the second half and cheered for the performers at the end. The walk to our hotel was easy and we were full of happy chat over Harry Potter characters.

I recommend this play for any fans of Harry Potter. I am not sure how it’d go down if you had not read the books. I also am not sure if children under 11 would find it too scary. We were frightened a couple of times ourselves (and we are too old to politely ask our age.)

It was an excellent start to our Harry Potter holiday.

Los Angeles in less than 24 Hours

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Southwest Airlines provided props to celebrate 2019.

Most people visit Los Angeles for longer than 24 hours, unless they are going for business. I have flown down and back many times for a business meeting from Sacramento. Southwest Airlines makes it possible to say yes to attending a meeting in person. Southwest Airlines also makes it possible to say yes to welcoming the New Year with a show at Largo.

Sarah Harriet and I flew to LAX on the 11:55 a.m. flight. We had a relaxed morning and good night’s sleep. The flight was full-ish but all of the Rose Bowl fans would have flown the day before or earlier. We grabbed a Lyft to our hotel. While we took surface streets to The Elan, the traffic was light for Los Angeles.

Sarah Harriet gifted the tickets to see Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert at Largo for Christmas, so I gifted the hotel room. On this visit The Elan was a let down. Small room with light pouring in no matter how you close the curtains. It was a great location though. We were able to walk every where until the following morning when we headed back to LAX.

We walked to eat Plancha Tacos. This taco joint in a strip mall (some of the best food in LA is in a strip mall). We tucked in to a yummy Mexican feast. Then we walked past mostly closed shops (good on these merchants for taking a holiday and giving their employees the day off). We checked out a bakery and decided everything looked too sweet. If they had a fruit pie or a bun with a little bit of icing they’d have had a sale.

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The view of Los Angeles from the elevator banks in Beverly Center..

We walked on to the Beverly Center. At first we weren’t sure if it was a parking garage or a shopping mall. We rode escalator after escalator and then found the mall. This was unlike any mall in Sacramento as it had all high end designer shops like those on Rodeo Drive. We window shopped and then returned to the hotel.

Although we didn’t feel that hungry we wanted to eat before the 8 p.m. show because neither of us enjoys eating late at night. We used Trip Advisor and Open Table to decide to try Taste on Melrose.

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Courtyard tree at Taste on Melrose.

We had the choice of the courtyard (outside with heaters) or inside. Although it was January it was still more than 10 degrees warmer than home, so we said “Courtyard!” The service was slow but the food was really delicious. Just right was the Melrose vibe.

To get to the show at Largo we had to walk just a few blocks back towards our hotel. Largo is a club that seats 300 people and the posters gave us the impression it is where Sarah Silverman and other comics try out material. We asked for our tickets at Will Call and couldn’t believe our luck! We had front row seats!

We  didn’t know what to expect from Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert–two of our favorite authors who are friends–certainly not dancing for more than 5 minutes to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop (I always thought it was called Shindig). We laughed and laughed because they fully committed. I kept thinking “Don’t they realize how long this song goes on?” It helped to set the tone of vulnerability and fun.

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No photos allowed during the performance. 

You can hear the resulting conversation between Bell and Gilbert on The RobCast podcast. There are two episodes. I won’t spoil any of the good stuff, except to say that it was so much fun. One weird part of our experience was the woman sitting next to Sarah Harriet who must suffer from sleep apnea. First she was all into the show, then she got up and sort of tried to sneak out about 15 minutes in. Then 30 minutes later she comes back with coffee and noisily adds cream and sugar and chugs it down. Ten minutes later she is snoring loudly in spite of Bell and Gilbert talking no more than 10 feet in front of us and lots of audience response. The person next to me was frustrated and said, “Nudge her!” Sarah responded that she had several times. Afterward I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Sarah said that when she elbowed the woman, the woman elbowed her back without a pause in her snore. It takes all kinds of people in the world. We’d go again in a heartbeat to hear Bell and Gilbert (preferably in Sacramento–we have the Crest Theater!)

After a restless nights sleep, which often happens when you are nervous about getting up in time for a 6:50 a.m. flight out of LAX. Southwest delivered again.  This time there were many elated Ohio State and disappointed Washington University fans in the airport. We were home by 9:30 a.m., before we left the house the previous day.  Kind of amazing when you think about it.

 

 

 

Travel in Imagination with Capital Stage

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This afternoon my mother and I enjoyed the final performance at the Capital Stage in Sacramento, California. The cast members of Mary Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley were each so suited to their characters and the dialogue was lively and fun. We found the performance of Mary and Lord de Bourgh especially charming. A Christmas romance with the Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice is a delightful play by Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon.

IMG_6651It is a small theater and there isn’t a bad view. I have not ever been to the Capital Stage together.

IMG_6647We ate lunch at the Drunken Noodle Midtown and then walked to the Capital Stage. We arrived early and enjoyed the outdoor courtyard. The toastie warm bathrooms are worth a special commendation.

Going to see a performance at the theater is a way to travel in space and time, such as England in 1815.  This particular venue is in Midtown at 2215 J Street, Sacramento 95816.

Library for Fans of Performing Arts

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This is the entrance from inner Lincoln Plaza. 

I didn’t know the New York City Public Library system had a Performing Arts library until my cousin Carrie got a job there. I was curious to see it.

I met Carrie in the lobby and she gave me a behind the scenes tour where she works helping to digitize the card catalog. The library has an amazing collection of video of Broadway shows, Playbills, and miniature scene models. I have no idea what else they have but I was thrilled to know that someone is keeping all of this in good order.

IMG_2277The Library also has special exhibits. I saw a portion of the Hilary Knight tribute and then in the gallery, “Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer California and New York.”  I am not a huge fan of the theater, but I LOVE libraries and this is a fine one.IMG_2283

 

Night Out on Broadway: War Paint

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My son surprised me by requesting to go to a Broadway show, preferably a musical, on the first night he joined me in the City. My cousin Carrie is my go-to on all things Broadway and the theater. First I looked up what was playing in the New Yorker magazine and what tickets were on sale on TodayTix. I came up with a short list of possible shows that I had not yet seen: The Play That Goes Wrong, War Paint, and Waitress. Carrie had already seen Waitress and wasn’t bowled over. She had friends who said pass on The Play That Goes Wrong. She could get discount tickets to War Paint through her theater union. We were set.

Carrie has a go to before the Theater dinner place that is in the district. We met up at the Hourglass and had a delicious meal at a reasonable price for New York City. The service ws speedy and luckily the cousins Tevis and Carrie and slight enough to share the tiny table with me.

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We got to the theater in plenty of time to use the restroom and find our seats on the first level. The Nederlander Theatre on West 41st Street is large enough to be called a Broadway venue and have the musical considered for Tony awards–just big enough.

We didn’t tell Tevis that the plot was about two make-up mavens who defined 20th Century beauty for women. He gave us a hard time about it at intermission and admitted that there was enough fireworks over their business rivalry to make it interesting to all.

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden has the first big number and her voice is strong and assured. I settled back in my chair knowing that once again the raised bar of Broadway was going to be met. This was confirmed with each subsequent performance and especially Arden’s nemesis Helena Rubenstein played by Patti LuPone.

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Reminded of Steve Martin’s short story “Cruel Shoes”

Ironically, at my age you’d think I’d know the dangers of placing beauty above comfort. Alas I wore new shoes rather than ones that might clash with my outfit and paid the price. After walking to dinner and the theater from our hotel on 50th and Lexington I was in some pain. We took a cab back to the hotel. The rest of the trip I was reminded of the lessons I took away from War Paint: don’t accept unquestioningly society’s idea of beauty–look with your own eyes; don’t fall for marketing gimmicks that get you to pay three times more for “horse liniment” because it’s in a pretty package; and make peace with aging and change because it happens to everyone. And don’t wear uncomfortable clothing just to look good.

 

Energizing Leadership Discussion with Up With People

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The Journey, Up With People performance, last night was excellent. It made it even more fun to have met the cast beforehand. Their energy and enthusiasm is inspiring. I loved the original songs especially Peace Party and Won’t be Afraid. If you have the opportunity to go, do. And if you have the opportunity to be a host family, volunteer. Your faith in the next generation–from around the world–will be reaffirmed.

am taking my Mom to our first Up With People performance. This program is celebrating 50 years of youth leadership. Originally posted on LeadersCompass.org.

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Up With People is in Sacramento this week. The program participants exercise their leadership by organizing various events including a leadership round table. Fourteen local leaders, including me, joined the 100 cast members to talk about leadership. In each group of about 6 people, we could ask each other anything, follow any aspect of leadership. We talked for about 10 minutes and then moved on to the next circle.

I was very impressed by the young people from around the world who are a part of the program. They are a terrific reminder that many 20 somethings are ready to take on leadership and make our world a better place.

They also sing and dance. If you are in the Sacramento area, please support this terrific program by attending their performance on Friday September 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium. Tickets available on-line or at the box office. $25…

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Kicky Time at Kinky Boots

The plot is fairly predictable...spiced up with cross-dressing actors who can really do a high kick!
The plot is fairly predictable…spiced up with cross-dressing actors who can really do a high kick!

Our last full day in New York City and we had one more Broadway Show. We were tired and so we took the morning easy and and then had the bellman hail a cab to Amy’s Bread in Hells Kitchen on 9th Street. This is where Cousin Carrie works and also where you can get an amazing chicken salad sandwich and a pastry. We also had our first opportunity to do a bit of shopping in the neighborhood. It was the first time I had spent so much time in New York City without the challenge of lugging shopping bags home. I was packing lots of great memories though.

We arrived at the theater in plenty of time to get our tickets from Today’s Tix and get in the lengthening line. Mom really wanted to see Kinky Boots because the music was by Cyndi Lauper and she had seen “numbers” done on television and like it. Apparently lots of groups of women who were in the City for a girls weekend or day had the same idea. The line moved quickly and we had great seats. Today Tix was able to buy them for less than originally quoted so we received a voucher towards our next purchase. It is only good for 60 days, so I passed it on to Carrie.

We were excited to see Kinky Boots at the Sunday matinee.
We were excited to see Kinky Boots at the Sunday matinee.

Mom’s review:  Of all the shows we saw (all fantastic), this one was what I would expect from a Broadway show: singing, dancing and big production numbers. All extremely well done. Lola was a delight–funny and sympathetically played.

We really enjoyed the enthusiastic performance and I am once again impressed with how open-minded my 80 year old mom is. She did not bat an eye at the unconventional plot details.

Even though our next stop at Ray and Jim’s was about three quarters of a mile, we caught a cab and went to my friends’ for a great conversation and Thai delivery.

We ended the evening with a Lyft to the hotel. Both Mom and I were completely satisfied with our theater experience and our time together in New York. We were also tired and the bed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Chelsea felt marvelous.

The next day we just had to get up, walk a half block to get an egg McMuffin and be back to meet Lincoln Limousine for our ride to Newark airport. God willing we will do it again in a few years only we will stay in the Theater District and save money on cabs.