Living in the lights of Broadway.
Trip Start Dec 26, 2012
56Trip End Jan 15, 2013
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Where I stayed
Hotel Edison Times Square New York City
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Times Square New York City
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
I left Boston at 9:45 am, and as far as the heat and accommodation was concerned, not an hour too soon. (Wouldn't you know it, the heat wave was due to calm down over the next few days!) Heat wave or not, nothing could have induced me to stay there for another minute longer than I had to
We arrived at Penn Station, 34th street in the heart of Manhattan before 2pm, and I navigated my way though a seeming maze of corridors and thousands of pushing, on a mission people, to the city I've been so looking forward to coming back to : New York.
Taxiing it to 47th street, I had a driver who didn't hesitate to dash for gaps in traffic, and there were precious few of those! Once again I was enveloped into the sights, sounds and smells of New York.
I hadn't been here in summer before, so I knew it would be busier than ever. I got dropped off on the Times Square end of 48th street, as of course traffic is impossible in this area, and it was much quicker to just walk the short distance to 47th.
When I rounded the corner, I couldn't believe how close the hotel was to Times Square, I mean, you may as well say it is IN Times Square
Venturing outside, I headed straight to Times Square
After this I explored all around the area and planned now and future activities. I found the Cake Boss bakery just off 44th
After this, I went and checked at the booth for full price shows. I found out that "Let It Be" (a celebration of 40 of the Beatles most well known songs) was showing that evening, in only 40 minutes! Now, I have virtually every song the Beatles ever recorded and have listened to them often, but nothing else that was showing and available appealed to me, so I decided to risk it...boy was I glad I did!
I didn't really have time to go back to the hotel and change, but the theatre was only a couple of streets away. Before I knew it I was sitting....in the very front row, I couldn't have been any closer to the stage unless I'd climbed onto it! The show was truly fantastic, and played in London's West End before coming here. All of the cast were very talented musicians, and some even bore an uncanny resemblance to the Fab Four, especially the guy who played Paul McCartney. He sounded so much like him too.
As if my seating position wasn't exciting enough, when I walked up the aisle before the show began to ask the usher if I could take a picture of the theatre with the curtain still down, I was told that I was allowed to take photos during the show, even use flash photography, as long as what I was doing didn't disturb others around me
Anyway, back to this one. It started out with their very first hit when they first became a name, and after their days in Liverpool's "The Cavern", She Loves You". They changed costumes as the music moved through the sixties, added facial hair, etc, and while there was occasional dialogue, it was all written as the boys had spoken it at various concerts, live performances and interviews during the years. Mostly, it was all about what we were there to hear, the music.
At times they broke out of scripted words and encouraged the audience to get up and scream and shout, and by the time they got everyone fired up and going, we managed to catch an inkling of what the mania must have been like. They used a clever set of old fashioned t.v screens projected onto the stage curtain while costume changes were happening to show actual footage of the crowds, screaming girls and newscasts from the era, which only added to the vibe building up
I took a few photos, some of which I've included in the blog, but also managed to film part of three of the songs. I wasn't able to load any of them up, unfortunately, so you'll have to catch up with me when I get back if you want to hear how great they sounded. By the end everyone was on their feet, and singing along. It should be noted that the audience was a real cross section of age groups too, something which even the performers acknowledged between songs, so it's great to know their music continues to stand the test of time.
My favourite of all the songs performed would have to be "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be", which they only sang after they'd left the stage amidst a standing ovation and people began crying out "more!" And "come back!" I'm not going to admit whether I was one of them, but those of you who know me would be able to figure it out
Day two saw me hunting out more theatre ticket opportunities before heading down to the Central Park area. I went straight to the box offices this time, and got tickets to Spider-Man on Wednesday, at 1:30 PM, and decided to try out a musical comedy called " First Date" with Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez. I'd seen the big bill board in Times Square advertising it, and didn't know anything about it, but took a bit of a risk and bought the good seats I was offered. I guess "Let It Be" had spoiled me for good seats and now I didn't want to be stuck up in the balcony miles away from the stage!
All I knew about the actors was that Zachary is the guy who did the voice for Flynn Rider in the Disney movie "Tangled", and since I loved that, and his singing in it, then this show would be a chance to hear him sing, what's not to like about that? Krysta I recognized from somewhere but couldn't actually place it. I later found out she's been working on Broadway for years, but recently was in the second season of the T.V show "Smash", which I began watching at my brothers place last year, but haven't been able to see since
I had spent quite a bit of time the night before trying to catch up on my blog, and wasn't in a hurry to get up the next morning after another late night. I hadn't had a decent lie in for weeks, and it was too hot and horrible to bother in Boston!
So, now that I had another two shows to look forward to, I continued walking down to Columbus Circle. First stop was the Northwest corner of Central Park, to visit the Apple Store. My iPad has had a few adventures over the last few months, and the cover was looking a little the worse for wear. I totally confess that I could have bought one in any number of places, but wanted to be able to say where I bought it if ever asked, how consumeristic and name drop tragic does that sound! So feel free to punish my shallowness by not asking me if you happen to see it, ha ha!
I then went only a few metres away to another one of my favourite places from last time I was here, F.A.O Schwarz
After this I took a walk through part of Central Park, thoroughly explored a number of times I was last there, to see the differences summer bring. You really need to allow a whole day for the place, if you want to begin to fully appreciate it. I walked all the way back to Times Square again, checking shows and seeing if there was one I could squeeze in, a choice between Mamma Mia and Rock Of Ages was before me. Since I'd already seen the first in London several years ago, I opted for the second.
I then treated myself to a leisurely dinner at Olive Garden, the one literally in the heart of Times Square
Rock of Ages was great fun, and you could tell the actors were having at least as much fun as the audience. The plot was all a bit contrived, but funny dialogue made up for any gaps in that, and the music was classic 80's rock. It took me right back to high school, which was a good thing, apart from serving to remind me of my age! Once again they were unfailing strict about the use of photography, with the number of smart phones around it keeps the ushers on their toes
I slowly walked back to the hotel, and determined that I'd go downtown the next day to see the 911 memorial site, and the new skyscraper that now stands where there was only a massive construction site going on in 2008. The Square was swarming with tourists once again, but not quite as crazy as it was on the Sunday night, when locals were also Broadway bound and making the most of their weekend. There seemed to be triple or more the number of people dressed in costumes, compared to five years ago. I'd seen one person dressed in an Elmo costume then, now it seemed there was one every direction you turned! They do this to earn money, as it's not free to pose with them, unless you get in a sneaky shot, as I managed to do a few times. This one guy running around in a Spider-Man outfit was pretty popular, especially when he kept hanging off of street signs upside down.
At one intersection there were almost more "characters" than "normal" people, and it was a bit comical to see one Minny Mouse pull out a cell phone and begin chatting away
A Starbucks just on the corner of 47th saw me visit most nights, as I used the free Wi Fi, and even received a Skype call from my best pal (shout out to Rose!) one night. I could have used it at the hotel but it wasn't free, as is the case with most places in America. I decided I'd rather spend my hard earned cash on Broadway.
Parts of the streets are pretty dirty, and bags of garbage and cardboard boxes pile up rapidly on the curbs come nightfall, waiting for pick up
Tuesday dawned, my second full day, and I decided it was time to do something a bit more meaningful than scout out Broadway shows, besides, with tickets to three future ones already purchased, I didn't have time to see more!
Catching the subway downtown, I ended up getting off a bit too early, but exercise is a good thing, so it was a chance to see more of Lower Manhattan. The weather was warm and sunny, but not humid like Boston. I kept glimpsing the freedom tower through gaps in the buildings, a dark blue shard rising up and looking starkly new in its surroundings. It certainly is much more aesthetically pleasing to look at compared to the twin towers.
Eventually I found it rising up in front of me, with a huge gap still where the twin towers once stood, of course it was not built on their foundation, as doing do would be akin to disturbing a graveyard of hundreds of people, and to many families that is exactly what this place has become. Fittingly, the foundations of the buildings, which also went many levels underground, are now two huge square fountains. Around the edges are plaques with the inscriptions of the name of each victim of the tragedy, deep enough for the stems of flowers to be placed in them, which many people have. They have grouped crews and rescue workers together under titles of their company or precinct, and put names of those related close as well, upon families requests. The water pours down black marble walls toward the centre, where it drains into a smaller, deeper square, seeming to disappear into the depths. In a way it is symbolic of what happened when they collapsed.
It was all deeply moving and sad to see, but I'm glad that the effort is being made to remember those who died and those who sacrificed their lives trying to save others. I only saw all of this over an hour after I arrived at the site, however, as the whole area is still surrounded by high construction fencing
After getting through all this, it's another long walk around the boundary fence before you're finally in sight of the memorial fountains. They are still in the process of building a museum to document the event, but the ticket centres offer panels with photos showing how it all unfolded.
One of the things that really amazed me was this "survivors tree" that kept being referenced. I didn't realize exactly what it was until I came across it. The tree stands right in the middle of the space between the two towers, and somehow miraculously wasn't totally destroyed when they fell. Burned, broken and smouldering, the pear tree still stood, when all else around it was ruin. The tree became a symbol of survival and resilience in the midst of all that horror. It was removed by the city and began to recover, while the site was slowly excavated
Before walking to the site I'd also spent time in the nearby St Paul's chapel, the oldest public building in Manhattan in continuous use since 1766. It's a beautiful building only a stones throw from ground zero, that also stood when most around it crumbled and burned. It became a place where rescuers and everyone else came to rest, eat, pray, sleep, or seek comfort, counselling and an escape from the horrors, heat and heartbreaking work at the site. They have a display set up there around the edges, including a set of one of the firefighters clothes, melted bottoms of his boots and all. The firefighters used to stumble in for a few hours rest when they could stand no longer, and at first slept on the pews, fully dressed. A few remain on display, with the scratches and marks left by the firefighters gear and boots still in evidence. Eventually they took the pews out, and placed cots around the edge for shifts of rescue workers. They were never replaced, and the interior of this historic building has forever changed. Now, individual chairs sit facing each other in the centre, which makes the place seem one of greater intimacy and fellowship, and worship services happen as before. George Washington's inauguration was held here, and the pew he sat upon is on display here
After this sobering experience it was well into the evening, and time to head back into the heart of Manhattan for the musical "Annie". You could hardly fail to cheer up watching this! The music is just toe tappingly, infectiously happy, and it was just the perfect way to end the day.
The young girl who played Annie, Lilla Crawford, was only twelve years old, and she was the only one playing the lead role. It wasn't as if there were a few kids that they rotated, as often happens with other shows with children in the main roles. She had an understudy, of course, but eight shows a week, that's demanding for even a seasoned adult. She was a revelation, and played the role with just the right combination of charm and spunk, and had a fantastic singing voice to boot
Another full day in New York, city of excitement, and only my last full day was ahead. How had it gone so fast? Why didn't I spring for another couple of nights? And how much could I pack into my last day tomorrow? Only time would tell.
Day four saw me decide to stay around the general area since I had a matinee show at 1:30, "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark"
A New York cut steak was next on the agenda at an Applebee's restaurant, then it was Spider-Man time
I spent what remained of the afternoon store hopping in Times Square, finding some cool stuff in the Disney store for my niece, and browsing the Hard Rock Cafe and Hershey's. The number of souvenir stores in the area has to be seen to be believed. On top of this are the stalls that crowd all along the main sidewalks hawking everything from prints to t-shirts to handbags. It makes me wonder how they can possibly make a profit with the amount of competition
I went back to the Edison and got ready for my final show, having very little idea of what to expect. The seats I had were great, only four rows back from centre stage. "First Date" is billed as a musical comedy that deals with the perils and pitfalls of a blind date. The storyline centres on two opposites, a tightly wound, slightly straight laced Aaron, who's never dated a stranger before, and cool "artsy" Casey, (billed a "relationship assassin" by the sister who's set them up,) unlucky in love, and with so many experiences of bad first dates she's organised a friend to call and "bail her out" after a certain amount of time just in case it's a bust.
The story unfolds in an excruciatingly hilarious series of conversations, flashbacks and songs, which reveal all the things the characters are thinking about each other to the audience
At first when Zachary Levi spoke, I kept picturing Flynn Rider, the character he voiced in Tangled! The cast got the best and longest standing ovation of all the shows I saw, and it was well deserved. Outside of the theatre afterwards, a huge crowd of show goers milled around, and I wondered why they were not dispersing faster, as is usually the case. Then I realized that the stage door was right next to the front of the theatre, and they were waiting for the cast to come out, armed with programs and ready for autographs.
I decided to hang around, even though I could see very little with seven rows of people in front of me
What a great way to end my experiences of Broadway and New York! As is often the way, it's the things you don't plan or have no idea are going to happen that turn out to be the most memorable.
One last stroll around Times Square, taking it all in, buying some cool personalized posters for my niece and nephew, and it was time to head back and pack up my gear. The train I was to catch left Penn Station at 10:25 the following morning.
My time in New York was over, and it had been like returning to see an old friend, one you didn't necessarily want to live with, but had a ball hanging out with! I guess it's better to leave a place wishing you could have stayed longer, than feeling you can't wait to get out of there.
Until next time...farewell to the lights of Broadway
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