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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
This drink is named after one of their most famous literary customers Dorothy Parker.
Our Beautiful matinee was over about 5 p.m. and our next play did not start until 8:00 p.m. I got out my trusty Google maps and looked at what was close by. The Algonquin Hotel! I stayed here a number of years ago and remembered that they lovingly maintained the historic bar and lounge in the lobby. We sat down and ordered a couple of very expensive cocktails.
The Dorothy Parker is tasty gin concoction. Mom had a peach flavored mojito. We both sipped and soaked in the atmosphere. We also used the ladies’ room (this becomes very important in NYC when you are away from your hotel for long stretches of time!)
Soon it was time to go to for a quick bite to eat and then to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It was our only non-musical and highly recommended by Cousin Carrie. I found it fascinating. Mom enjoyed it too, but she much prefers musicals.
I saw a stagehand go in with a “Curious Dogs” polo shirt. Makes sense to shorten the title for staff.
We were in our seats in plenty of time to have fun with the card in the seat’s pocket that challenged us to figure out if our name added up to a prime number. Mine does (163) and I got a button for my effort.
It is difficult to believe this is the lead actor Alex Sharp’s first big break. He recently graduated from Julliard and this is his Broadway debut. He crushes it. Also, stay until you catch his “encore” explanation of how he solved one of the math problems on his A level exam.
Seeing 4 plays in 3 days requires that you see a matinee and an evening performance on Saturday. Beautiful was always in the top 3 shows Mom wanted to see. It is the Carole King life story. We both had great memories of her music. The reviews were also very positive. First we ate at L’Amico, a new restaurant just a few blocks from our hotel that we found through Open Table. Then we cabbed it to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
Chilina Kennedy wows audience as Carole King. (official photo)
Pick up your tickets 30 minutes before the show from a Today Tix representative. The app has many great features. Check it out.
We bought our tickets through Today Tix. We were not sure how it worked. My email said to look for the person in the Today Tix red shirt to the left of the box office 30 minutes before the performance. It all worked just as the emails said it would. Our person was there with our tickets. We signed for them and voila! We had terrific seats every time at a reduced price. The concept is similar to the Bargain Ticket hut on Times Square, except that you purchase through an app on your phone or iPad and you can shop up to a week ahead. We got all of our tickets, except Hamilton, through Today Tix. Not all shows are available because they are helping the theaters sell unsold tickets and ensure theaters are full.
All I knew about Beautiful was that it was the story of Carole King’s life accompanied by the music she wrote or co-wrote. It was delightful. The performances were superb. As Mom says: Music I can relate to…beautifully sung and a lovely plot well told.
During the closing song I started crying and could not stop. Suddenly I had a vivid memory of all the happy hours I spent with my best friend Harriet in her living room listening to Carole King’s Tapestry album over and over again. Good times then and now.
The view from the rooftop restaurant at the Hyatt on Herald Square
Our plan was to meet Cousin Carrie at the Den restaurant at the Hyatt on Herald Square. We were going to enjoy dinner and then walk to the play. Mom and I walked from our hotel to the lobby bar at the Hyatt. We were enjoying a drink when Jordan, the restaurant manager came down to greet us and offer us a choice of the lobby level restaurant or the rooftop. He asked what we were doing in New York and we explained Mom’s birthday adventure. Then Carrie arrived and agreed that the roof sounded like fun. As Jordan escorted us up to our table, he offered a complimentary bottle of Prosecco to celebrate Mom’s birthday! Woop! Woop!
Cousin Carrie, Mom/Karen, and me on the roof
The view was amazing. The service was impeccable and the food was delicious. The variety of small plates and large plates allowed everyone to get just what they wanted. Mom especially loved her prawn and avocado salad. The atmosphere on the roof was celebratory. When we asked the party next to us to help us take pictures they happily said yes. And one funny guy photo bombed the last few shots. We laughed together and then set off for the theater.
Here’s where my planning broke down. I had now asked my Mom to walk several miles already today. I needed her to walk one more mile in about 40 minutes. She needed to stop and fortunately there are red tables and chairs in the middle of Times Square. We got to the theater just in time. And we already had our tickets. Mom’s knees were wobbly but we got to our seats on the main floor in the last row.
As you can see by Mom’s smile, she was enjoying New York in spite of her tired knees.
Mom’s response to Hamilton:
It was no small feat (for Hamilton) to live up to the hype for this show. But it did and more! I was told I would not like it because it was modern music. I didn’t like it; I LOVED IT!! It is a history lesson in rap and understandable at all times. The author/lead actor who played Alexander Hamilton was GREAT, although it is impossible to think a road show version could be done without him. Aaron Burr was also so well done that one almost felt sorry for him.
Hamilton is the hot ticket on Broadway and for good reason. It was fantastic. Carrie, Mom and me represent three different generations and we all thoroughly enjoyed this musical. The play is based on Ron Chernow’s book Alexander Hamilton. I had started to read it the week before we left for NYC, but the book is a doorstop and I had barely dented Hamilton’s life story. It helped to know a little more about his life, and it was good to be open to learning as the play unfolded.
The cast is amazing. I am so glad we spent the money for the tickets. We bought them from the theater, so no mark up. Still $168 per person is a big night out and, in this case, completely worth it.